Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. V. Nature
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume V. Nature.  1904.
 
V. Trees: Flowers: Plants
The Holly-Tree
Robert Southey (1774–1843)
 
O READER! hast thou ever stood to see
          The holly-tree?
The eye that contemplates it well perceives
          Its glossy leaves
Ordered by an intelligence so wise        5
As might confound the atheist’s sophistries.
 
Below, a circling fence, its leaves are seen
          Wrinkled and keen;
No grazing cattle, through their prickly round,
          Can reach to wound;        10
But as they grow where nothing is to fear,
Smooth and unarmed the pointless leaves appear.
 
I love to view these things with curious eyes,
          And moralize;
And in this wisdom of the holly-tree        15
          Can emblems see
Wherewith, perchance, to make a pleasant rhyme,
One which may profit in the after-time.
 
Thus, though abroad, perchance, I might appear
          Harsh and austere;        20
To those who on my leisure would intrude,
          Reserved and rude;
Gentle at home amid my friends I ’d be,
Like the high leaves upon the holly-tree.
 
And should my youth—as youth is apt, I know—        25
          Some harshness show,
All vain asperities I, day by day,
          Would wear away,
Till the smooth temper of my age should be
Like the high leaves upon the holly-tree.        30
 
And as, when all the summer trees are seen
          So bright and green,
The holly-leaves their fadeless hues display
          Less bright than they;
But when the bare and wintry woods we see,        35
What then so cheerful as the holly-tree?
 
So, serious should my youth appear among
          The thoughtless throng;
So would I seem, amid the young and gay,
          More grave than they;        40
That in my age as cheerful I might be
As the green winter of the holly-tree.
 
 
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