Strange flowers turned bright faces up
To catch the light in many a cup,
And all of nature gladly sought
The blessings by the sunbeams wrought.
But these fair rays whose deeds I sing
Staid nowhere long for anything;
Leaping from rock, and leaf, and tree,
From stream and pool with equal glee,
Until, half buried in the ground,
A freshly fallen seed they found.
And here they halted; here at last
A welcome duty held them fast.
As day by day the sunbeams fell,
A tiny leaflet burst its shell;
And soon a stem of tender green
Was thrust above the earthy screen.
Daily it drank the air and dew;
Daily the sunlight warmed it through;
Up to a mighty tree it grew.
A tower of fronded foliage high
Above the forest sought the sky
Whose sturdy stem, erect, defied
Tempest or flood with haughty pride,
And for a century bravely stood
The monarch of the solitude.
But Time, who conquers all things, saw
This perfect tree without a flaw;
And sent an insect, weak and small,
To bring about its certain fall.
Gnawed at the root, its strength decayed;
The forest giant bent and swayed,
And with a shuddering crash it fell
From the high place it loved so well.
Buried in slime, and ooze, and clay,
The perished king forgotten lay.
The Ages, with resistless tread,
Marched slowly on above the dead;
And where the tree had grandly grown
They piled a thousand feet of stone.
A royal tomb, with royal state,
Was token of the monarch's fate:
Surely the future has for us
No worthier sarcophagus.