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My Great Oak Tree

Bailey was a great lover of trees, writing in The Holy Earth that “if it were possible for every person to own a tree and to care for it, the good results would be beyond estimation”

“Strength, solidity, durability are symbolized in the Oak. The tree is connected with the traditions of the race, and it is associated with literature. It is a tree of strong individuality, with bold, free growth and massive framework. Its longevity appeals to every person, even though he has no feeling for trees. It connects the present with the past. It spans the centuries.”

My Great Oak Tree

In a far foreign land there is a great oak tree

And I never can tell what it meaneth to me.

Thither I went in the day long ago

And sat in its shade when the sun was low;

A sadness deep had then carried me down

Where the life-cheer ebbs and the soul-fires drown;

Then the great strong arms and whispering leaves

Bestowed me the faiths of their age-long eves

Till the day-bred fears were winnowed apart

And the peace of the place fell to my heart.

And thrice since then far over the sea

Have I journeyed alone to my old oak tree

And silently sat in its brotherly shade

And I felt no longer alone and afraid;

I was filled with strength of its brawny-ribbed bole

And the leaves slow-whispered their peace in my soul.

If never again I travel the sea

Nor feel once more the still message to me,

Glad will I call where my haven may be

Farewell and farewell to my great oak tree.

From “My Great Oak Tree and Other Poems” By Liberty Hyde Bailey,

A Keepsake, issued by the Editors of Chronica Botanica, for the Members the American Institute of Biological Sciences, attending the Cornell University Meetings, September 8-10, 1952.

Thanks to John Linstrom and John Stempien and The Liberty Hyde Bailey Project

: “The white oak—Quercus alba,” in L. H. Bailey, ed., Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture (1914), vol. IV, fig. 2560, and here. Below: “Variable foliage of the Oak—Pin Oak type,” in L. H. Bailey, ed., Cyclopedia of American Horticulture (1901), vol. N-Q, fig. 1505.

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