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The Vine & Oak, A Fable

Major Henry Livingston Jr. 1748 (Poughkeepsie, Province of New York) – 1828 (Poughkeepsie, New York)

A vine from noblest lineage sprung
And with the choicest clusters hung,
In purple rob'd, reclining lay,
And catch'd the noontide's fervid ray;
The num'rous plants that deck the field
Did all the palm of beauty yield;
Pronounc'd her fairest of their train
And hail'd her empress of the plain.
A neighb'ring oak whose spiry height
In low-hung clouds was hid from sight,
Who dar'd a thousand howling storms;
Conscious of worth, sublimely stood,
The pride and glory of the wood.

He saw her all defenseless lay
To each invading beast a prey,
And wish'd to clasp her in his arms
And bear her far away from harms.
'Twas love -- 'twas tenderness -- 'twas all
That men the tender passion call.

He urg'd his suit but urg'd in vain,
The vine regardless of his pain
Still flirted with each flippant green
With seeing pleas'd, & being seen;
And as the syren Flattery sang
Would o'er the strains ecstatic hang;
Enjoy'd the minutes as they rose
Nor fears her bosom discompose.

But now the boding clouds arise
And scowling darkness veils the skies;
Harsh thunders roar -- red lightnings gleam,
And rushing torrents close the scene.

The fawning, adulating crowd
Who late in thronged xx bow'd
Now left their goddess of a day
To the O'erwhelming flood a prey,
which swell'd a deluge poured around
& tore her helpless from the ground;
Her rifled foliage floated wide
And ruby nectar ting'd the tide.

With eager eyes and heart dismayed
She look'd but look'd in vain for aid.
"And are my lovers fled," she cry'd,
"Who at my feet this morning sigh'd,
"And swore my reign would never end
"While youth and beauty had a friend?
"I am unhappy who believ'd!
"And they detested who deceived!
"Curse on that whim call'd maiden pride
"Which made me shun the name of bride
"When yonder oak confessed his flame
"And woo'd me in fair honor's name.
"But now repentance comes too late
"And all forlorn, I meet my fate."

The oak who safely wav'd above
Look'd down once more with eyes of love
(Love higher wrought with pity join'd
True mark of an exalted mind,)
Declared her coldness could suspend
But not his gen'rous passion end.
Beg'd to renew his am'rous plea,
As warm for union now as he,
To his embraces quick she flew
And felt & gave sensations new.

Enrich'd & graced by the sweet prise
He lifts her tendrils to the skies;
Whilst she, protected and carest,
Sinks in his arms completely blest.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:17 min read
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Major Henry Livingston Jr.

Henry Beekman Livingston Jr. has been proposed as being the uncredited author of the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, more popularly known (after its first line) as The Night Before Christmas. more…

All Major Henry Livingston Jr. poems | Major Henry Livingston Jr. Books

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