Edward Shanks

A Hollow Elm

Edward Richard Buxton Shanks was an English writer, known as a war poet of World War I, then as an academic and journalist, and literary critic and biographer. He also wrote some science fiction. He was born in London, and educated at Merchant Taylors' School and Trinity College, Cambridge. He pass…

What hast thou not withstood,
Tempest-despising tree,
Whose bloat and riven wood
Gapes now so hollowly,
What rains have beaten thee through many years,
What snows from off thy branches dripped like tears?
Calmly thou standest now
Upon thy sunny mound;
The first spring breezes flow
Past with sweet dizzy sound;
Yet on thy pollard top the branches few
Stand stiffly out, disdain to murmur too.
The children at thy foot
Open new-lighted eyes,
Where, on gnarled bark and root,
The soft warm sunshine lies -
Dost thou, upon thine ancient sides, resent
The touch of youth, quick and impermanent?
These at the beck of spring
Live in the moment still:
Thy boughs unquivering,
Remembering winter's chill,
And many other winters past and gone,
Are mocked, not cheated, by the transient sun.
Hast thou so much withstood,
Tempest-despising tree,
That now thy hollow wood
Stiffens disdainfully
Against the soft spring airs and soft spring rain,
Knowing too well that winter comes again?

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