(Poem #146) Trees
I think that I shall never see A poem 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.
This is not, if you think about it, a particularly good poem. The imagery is trite, the phrasing adds nothing to it, and the verse is very hard to read without degenerating into a singsong effect. Yet there's *something* about it - some compelling quality that has made it famous, recited and memorized by generations of schoolchildren, instantly recognizable, and with opening and closing couplets quoted by people who have never even heard of the rest of the poem. I just wish I knew what it was :) m. Biography: Kilmer, (Alfred) Joyce b. Dec. 6, 1886, New Brunswick, N.J., U.S. d. July 30, 1918, near Seringes, Fr. American poet known chiefly for his 12-line verse entitled "Trees." He was educated at Rutgers and Columbia universities. His first volume of verse, Summer of Love (1911), showed the influence of William Butler Yeats and the Irish poets. After his conversion to Catholicism, Kilmer attempted to model his poetry upon that of Coventry Patmore and the 17th-century Metaphysical poets. His most famous poem, "Trees," appeared in Poetry magazine in 1913. Its immediate and continued popularity has been attributed to its combination of sentiment and simple philosophy. His books include Trees and Other Poems (1914); The Circus and Other Essays (1916); Main Street and Other Poems (1917); and Literature in the Making (1917), a series of interviews with writers. Kilmer joined the staff of The New York Times in 1913. In 1917 he edited Dreams and Images, an anthology of modern Catholic poetry. Kilmer was killed in action during World War I and was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre. -- EB