The Lure of Trees by C. J. Dennis

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"Would anyone really enjoy living where trees were non-existent?" asks the Chairman of the Victorian Forests Commission in a speech explaining why the community owes a great debt to its forests.

I honour all trees well; but, best of all,
I love those scarred old veterans, proud and tall,
      Gazing from eminences, kingly wise,
      Across great sweeps of changing earth and skies;
Gazing with seeming scorn upon the race
Of midgets who despoil this forest place --
      The restless race of men who, with edged tools,
      With fire, have come to serve the end of fools.

Well these patricians know their own high worth;
Well know their task in serving Mother Earth:
      Beckoning rain-clouds sailing overhead
      That earth may drink and living things be fed,
Clutching with myriad roots the precious soil
The sun or sudden flood else would despoil,
      Bending to tempests, spreading to the sky,
      Remote, untamed, unconquered till they die.

I know them in the rose light of the dawn,
Sharp-etched upon the hill-tops, boldly drawn
      Against the light. I know them at high noon,
      Their gleaming arms held up, as for the boon
Of life they offer thanks; know them at night
When, out against the moon's enriching light,
      Some bold phalanger launches from their tops
      And, like a falling leaf, swings down and drops.

And still come stupid men with axe and fire
Scattering death to serve some brief desire.
      "More than our lives are forfeit," says the tree,
      "For as we go, so man's prosperity
Goes with us, till this once green, gracious hill
Shall thirst in vain, when you have wrought your fill."
      I love, I honour all those forest kings;
      They are such wise, such proudly scornful things.

First published in The Herald, 31 January 1935

Author reference sites: C.J. Dennis, Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on January 31, 2011 7:45 AM.

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