The Voice of the Swamp Oak

Charles Harpur

WHO hath lain him underneath
    A lone oak by a lonely stream;
He hath heard an utterance breathe
    Sadder than all else may seen.

Up in its dusk boughs out-tressing,
    Like the hair of a giant’s head,
Mournful things beyond our guessing
    Day and night are uttered.

Even when the waveless air
    May only stir the lightest leaf,
A lowly voice keeps moaning there
    Wordless oracles of grief.

But when nightly blasts are roaming,
    Lowly is that voice no more;
From the streaming branches coming
    Elfin shrieks are heard to pour.

While between the blast on-passing,
    And the blast that comes as oft,
’Mid those boughs, dark intermassing,
    One long low wail pines aloft.

Till the listener surely deems
    That some weird spirit of the air
Hath made those boughs the lute of themes
    Wilder, darker than despair.

Darker than a woe whose morrow
    Must be travelling to an end—
Wilder than the wildest sorrow
    That in death hath still a friend;

Some lonely spirit that hath dwelt
    For ages in one lonely tree—
Some weary spirit that hath felt
    The burthen of eternity.

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