This poem was composed by Sidney Lanier in November 1880 in Baltimore, Maryland, when he was close to the end of his life. According to the footnotes from the collection of his poems published posthumously in 1884:
“A Ballad of Trees and the Master” was conceived as an interlude of the latest “Hymn of the Marshes, Sunrise”, although written earlier. In the author’s first copy and first revision of that Hymn, the Ballad was incorporated, following the invocation to the trees which closes with:
And there, oh there
As ye hang with your myriad palms upturned in the air,
Pray me a myriad prayer.
In Mr. Lanier’s final copy the Ballad is omitted. It was one of several interludes which he at first designed, but, for some reason, afterwards abandoned.
116813A Ballad of Trees and the MasterSidney Lanier1880
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Into the woods my Master went,
Clean forspent, forspent.
Into the woods my Master came,
Forspent with love and shame.
But the olives they were not blind to Him,
The little gray leaves were kind to Him:
The thorn-tree had a mind to Him
When into the woods He came.
Out of the woods my Master went,
And He was well content.
Out of the woods my Master came,
Content with death and shame.
When Death and Shame would woo Him last,
From under the trees they drew Him last:
’Twas on a tree they slew Him—last
When out of the woods He came.
This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.