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Survivor sole, and hardly such, of all
birth (Since which I number threescore winters past), A shatter'd veteran, hollow-trunk'd perhaps, As now, and with excoriate forks deform, Relics of ages! Could a mind, imbued With truth from Heaven, created thing adore, , I might with reverence kneel, and worship thee.
It seems idolatry with some excuse,
Thou wast a bauble once; a cup and ball,
So Fancy dreams. Disprove it if ye can, Ye reasoners broad awake, whose busy search Of argument, employ'd too oft amiss, Sifts half the pleasures of short life away!
Thou fell’st mature; and in the loamy clod
By thee I might correct, erroneous oft,
woods; And Time hath made thee what thou art-a cave For owls to roost in. Once thy spreading boughs O’erhung the champaign; and the numerous flocks, That grazed it, stood beneath that ample cope Uncrowded, yet safe-shelter'd from the storm. No flock frequents thee now. Thou hast outlived Thy popularity, and art become (Unless verse rescue thee awhile) a thing Forgotten, as the foliage of thy youth. While thus through all the stages thou hast
Of treeship—first a seedling, hid in grass;
What exhibitions various hath the world
Thought cannot spend itself, comparing still The great and little of thy lot, thy growth From almost nullity into a state Of matchless grandeur, and declension thence, Slow, into such magnificent decay. Time was, when, settling on thy leaf, a fly Could shake thee to the root-and time has been When tempests could not. At thy firmest age Thou hadst within thy bole solid contents,
That might have ribb’d the sides and plank'd the
deck Of some flagg’d admiral; and tortuous arms, The shipwright's darling treasure, didst present To the four-quarter'd winds, robust and bold, Warp'd into tough knee-timber', many a load! But the axe spared thee. In those thriftier days Oaks fell not, hewn by thousands, to supply The bottomless demands of contest, waged For senatorial honours. Thus to Time The task was left to whittle thee away With his sly scythe, whose ever nibbling edge, Noiseless, an atom, and an atom more Disjoining from the rest, has, unobserved, Achieved a labour, which had far and wide, By man perform’d, made all the forest ring.
Embowel'd now, and of thy ancient self Possessing nought but the scoop'd rind, that seems An huge throat, calling to the clouds for drink, Which it would give in rivulets to thy root, Thou temptest none, but rather much forbidd'st The feller's toil, which thou couldst ill requite. Yet is thy root sincere, sound as the rock, A quarry of stout spurs, and knotted fangs, Which, crook'd into a thousand whimseys, clasp The stubborn soil, and hold thee still erect.
So stands a kingdom, whose foundation yet Fails not, in virtue and in wisdom laid, Though all the superstructure, by the tooth Pulverized of venality, a shell
and semblance only of itself! 1 Knee-timber is found in the crooked arms of oak, which, by reason of their distortion, are easily adjusted to the angle formed where the deck and the ship's sides meet.
Thine arms have left thee. Winds have rent
them off Long since, and rovers of the forest wild With bow and shaft have burn'd them. Some
But since, although well qualified by age
One man alone, the father of us all,