I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
on the Poet: Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918) led a quiet life working as a literary editor, and later as a staff member of The New York Times. In 1917, when the U.S. declared war on Germany, he enlisted, and quickly rose in the ranks serving in the intelligence gathering division, where he played a vital role. He died in battle at the age of thirty-one, and was awarded France’s croix-de-guerre for his military service.
on this poem: Today, Kilmer is known primarily for this poem, published in 1914.
on a personal note: For me, rather than the blooming of tulips, or the early daffodils, I’ve always associated that nascent, tender greening of trees as the first, true sign of Spring. They remind me of a time in my life that was both sweet and painful, and infinitely full of promise. Even now, I feel a catch in my throat, when I see those first leaf buds braving the lingering chill in the air.