The Voice of the Sequoia

by John Vance Cheney

John Vance Cheney

I thought it spoke to me,

The lingering spirit of the giant tree

Fallen on the western shore,—

The redwood Saul with fourteen centuries hoar:

"In this huge husk I yet

Abide—Who may the old home soon forget?—

"Abide long as I may,

Dreaming my dreams until they fade away.

"The morning I did push

My twigs the little height of yonder bush,

"Ruddy Justinian saw,

Busied betwixt the bishops and his Law;

"Mahomet knew those skies,

Lithe-limbed, the fire of prophets in his eyes.

"I can recall the day

The Frank set forth upon his warrior's way—

"He that could Cæsar be

And Alfred too, the flower of empery;—

"The day great Saladin

Threw open Judah's gate, and entered in,

"When Christian lance and sword

Dealt all that death, nor broke the alien horde.

"But there were happier things

And lovelier mingled in my murmurings:

"The woodland wail divine

Of Dante's grief—Dante, the human pine;

"Spring's earliest, sweetest note

She tossed in air from English Chaucer's throat;

"News of the fateful fleet

Sailing to lead all peoples to my feet;

"Tales of the Titan lone,

Writing his poems in the Roman stone;

"Of him, the wonder-child,

On whom Beauty and all the Muses smiled,

"Whom Nature loved so well

She must her dearest secret to him tell,

"And wish she had yet more

To give; (she did not know her heart before;

"Man knew not his; for when

Her Shakespeare sang the world grew young again;)

"Of him whose symphony,

Rhythmic with swingings of the star and sea,

"Embroiled in blank mid-air

Heaven's host and Hell's, nor did too greatly dare;

"Of Pisa's son who read

The Open Book, undaunted whither led,

"Charting the haughty way

Newton would follow in the broader day.

"Again and yet again

The burdened wind. There dawned a morning when

"It said thy sires cried out

To the free hills; I heard the answering shout—

"Well freed thy land; the sea

Rolls all her waves 'twixt it and tyranny—

"I caught a kindred cry

From France the beautiful; she hung the sky

"With horrors while she thrust

Oppression through and trod him in the dust.

"Now 't was, the Furies ran

And loosed, hawk-beaked and clawed, the Corsican.

"Soon drooped that phantom wing;

But hark! proud Life hears yet her Goethe sing,

"Hears Wordsworth; still does ease

Her heart with those high, wordless melodies

"Beyond the poet's flight,—

Beethoven's measures, music's utter might.

"Again and yet again

The burdened wind. One of the new-time men,

"Goodly and tall and fair

He stood, trusting the hand that planted there;

"He took the upper wind

I knew—Lincoln, the cedar of his kind.

"Those sad new days ye know.

They fade from me; and it is better so."

The voice fell fainter now,

As when on summer eves it fails the bough;

No further did it say,

But, sighing, drifted with the dreams away.

Last updated September 07, 2017