The forests were God's first temples.
Before man learned
To sharpen the lance, lay the harvest,
And spread the roof above them,—
-before he framed
The lofty church, to gather the sound of anthems
In dark woods,
In the cool silence, he knelt down,
And offered the Mighty solemn thanks
And tribute. For his simple heart
Might not resist sacred influences,
Which, from the still twilight,
From old trunks that in heaven
Mingled their mossy boughs, and from the sound
Of invisible breath that swayed at once
All their green tops, rushed over him, and bent
His spirit with the thought of endless power
And unattainable glory.
Should we, in the world's ripe years, neglect
God's ancient sanctuaries, and worship
Only among the crowd, and under roofs,
That our frail hands have raised?
Let me, at least,
Here, in the shadow of ancient wood,
Offer one hymn—
-three times as happy, if it find
Acceptance in His ear.
Father, Your hand
Has raised these venerable columns, You
Did weave this verdant roof.
You did look down
On the naked earth, and, from nothing, rose
All these fair ranks of trees.
They, in Your sun,
Bloomed, and shook their green leaves in the breeze,
And shot toward heaven.
The century-old crow,
Who was born in their tops, grew old and died
Among their branches,
til at last they stood,
Great, tall, and dark,
Shrine for humble vagrant to hold
Communion with his Maker.
These dim vaults,
These winding aisles, of human splendor and pride
Do not portray You.
No fantastic carvings show
The boast of our vain race to change the form
Of Your fair works.
But You are here—
You are in the soft winds
That run along the peaks of these trees
You are in the cool breath
That from the inner darkness of the forest
Comes, scarcely felt;
The bark trunks,
The fresh moist ground, are all instinct with You.
Here is continual worship;—
In the Peace that You so love,
Enjoys Your presence.
From perch to perch, the solitary bird
And in clear spring, that, among its herbs,
Bubbles softly forth and wandering steps the roots
Of the mighty Birch, tells no tale
Of all the good it offers
For the pyres of Men.
You have not left
Earth without a witness, in these shades,
Of Your perfections.
Grandeur, strength, and grace
Are here to speak of You.
This mighty Cypress—-
By whose immovable stem I stand and seem
-not a general,
In all proud Europe beyond the sea,
Ever wore his crown as lofty as He
Wears the green wreath of leaves with which
Your hand has graced Him.
Nestled at His root
Beauty that cannot bloom in the glare
Of the broad sun.
That delicate wildflower
With scented aroma, like a smile,
Seems, as it grows from the shapeless mold,
A visible token of the upholding Love,
That are the soul of this wide universe.
My heart is awed when I think
Of the great miracle that still goes on,
In silence, around me—
-the perpetual work
Of Your creation, finished, yet renewed
Written on Your works I read
The lesson of Your own eternity.