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THE OAKS are doomed in pleasant Warlock Woods; Soon they ’ll come crashing through the hazel copse; Already rocking like poor wind-tossed ships, I see their reeling spars and waving tops. Shipwrecked indeed: the old estate is gone; The knights have yielded to King Mammon’s lords; Rent is the good escutcheon,—sable, gules; Shivered at last the brave Crusaders’ swords. Soon barked and bare, the oak-trees’ giant limbs Will strew the covert, all o’ergrown with fern: I hear the jarring axe that cleaves and splits; I see the woodmen’s fires that crackling burn. ’T would be a dismal sight in winter-time, When boughs are snapped, and branches tempest-cleft, When dead leaves drift across the rainy skies, And not a wayside flower of hope is left. How much more mournful now in sunny air, When hyacinths in shade grow blue and rank, When echoing cuckoos greet the spring again, And violets purple every primrose bank. Here has the flying rebel cowering hid, Waiting the footfall and the pitying eyes; And here, with sullen psalms and gloomy prayers, The Ironsides have doled their prophecies. And here the outlaws, in the Norman time, Strung their big bows, and filed their arrow-heads, While the wine-jug went round so fierce and fast, When near them lay the fallow-deer just dead. These trees have heard full many a parting kiss, The suicide’s last prayer, the lover’s sigh, The murdered one’s wild scream: it is for this I hold them bound to man in sympathy. The oak woods pay for many a spendthrift’s fault; Old giants, centuries long without a fear, Fall prostrate at one scornful tap from thee, Frail ivory hammer of the auctioneer. “Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang,” No more to be the homes of hawk or owl; No more on stormy nights the banshee wind Shall through thy riven branches gasp and howl.
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