The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 1/To an Oak at Newstead

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Young Oak! when I planted thee deep in the ground,
I hoped that thy days would be longer than mine;
That thy dark-waving branches would flourish around,
And ivy thy trunk with its mantle entwine.


Such, such was my hope, when in Infancy's years,
On the land of my Fathers I rear'd thee with pride;
They are past, and I water thy stem with my tears,—
Thy decay, not the weeds that surround thee can hide.


I left thee, my Oak, and, since that fatal hour,
A stranger has dwelt in the hall of my Sire;
Till Manhood shall crown me, not mine is the power,
But his, whose neglect may have bade thee expire.


Oh! hardy thou wert—even now little care
Might revive thy young head, and thy wounds gently heal:
But thou wert not fated affection to share—
For who could suppose that a Stranger would feel?


Ah, droop not, my Oak! lift thy head for a while;
Ere twice round yon Glory this planet shall run,
The hand of thy Master will teach thee to smile,
When Infancy's years of probation are done.


Oh, live then, my Oak! tow'r aloft from the weeds,
That clog thy young growth, and assist thy decay,
For still in thy bosom are Life's early seeds,
And still may thy branches their beauty display.


Oh! yet, if Maturity's years may be thine,
Though I shall lie low in the cavern of Death,
On thy leaves yet the day-beam of ages may shine,[2]
Uninjured by Time, or the rude Winter's breath.


For centuries still may thy boughs lightly wave
O'er the corse of thy Lord in thy canopy laid;
While the branches thus gratefully shelter his grave,
The Chief who survives may recline in thy shade.


And as he, with his boys, shall revisit this spot,
He will tell them in whispers more softly to tread.
Oh! surely, by these I shall ne'er be forgot;
Remembrance still hallows the dust of the dead.


And here, will they say, when in Life's glowing prime,
Perhaps he has pour'd forth his young simple lay,
And here must he sleep, till the moments of Time
Are lost in the hours of Eternity's day.

1807. [First published 1832.]
["Copied for Mr. Moore, Jan. 24, 1828."—Note by Miss Pigot.]

  1. [There is no heading to the original MS., but on the blank leaf at the end of the poem is written, "To an oak in the garden of Newstead Abbey, planted by the author in the 9th year of [his] age; this tree at his last visit was in a state of decay, though perhaps not irrecoverable." On arriving at Newstead, in 1798, Byron, then in his eleventh year, planted an oak, and cherished the fancy, that as the tree flourished so should he. On revisiting the abbey, he found the oak choked up by weeds and almost destroyed;—hence these lines. Shortly after Colonel Wildman took possession, he said to a servant, "Here is a fine young oak; but it must be cut down, as it grows in an improper place."—"I hope not, sir," replied the man, "for it's the one that my lord was so fond of, because he set it himself."—Life, p. 50, note.]
  2. For ages may shine.—[MS. Newstead.]