I Vowed that I Would Be a Tree

I vowed that I would be a tree.
      I went up to an oak and said,
“What shall I do that I might be
A beech, an oak, or any tree,
      With branches leafing from my head?”

There was a sound of sap that ran,
      There was a wind of leaves that spoke.
“So you would cease to be a man,
And be a green tree, if you can,
      A pine, a beech, an oak?”

I answered, “I am tired of men,
      As tired as they of me.
I fain would not return again
To the perplexity of men,
      But straightway be a tree.”

There was a sound of winds that went
      To summon every oldest tree,
To hold their austere Parliament
About the thing had craved to be
      Elect of their calm company.

There was a sound of bursting tide,
      There was a wash of clanging foam,
A crumbling shore, a bursting tide.
There came a thunder that outcried,
      “Go, wretched mortal, get thee home!

“Who art thou that would be a tree,
      Least of the weeds that shoot and pass?
Bide till a Wisdom come, and see
Before a mortal be a tree,
      He first must be a blade of grass!”

—Louis Golding (1895–1958), Sorrow of War, 1919

The Prisoner

If you have not a bird inside you,
      You have no reason to sing.
But if a pent bird chide you,
      A beak and a bleeding wing,
      Then you have reason to sing.

If merely you are clever
      With thoughts and rhymes and words,
Then always your poems sever
      The veins of our singing-birds,
      With blades of glinting words.

Yet if a Song, without ending,
      Inside you choke for breath,
And a beak, devouring, rending,
      Tear through your lungs for breath,
      Sing—or you bleed to death.

—Louis Golding (1895–1958), Sorrow of War, 1919