The Green Bay Tree

or The Wicked Man Touches Wood

By T. H. White


I

FROM wood, the virtue sap, life thread, hold power by touch:
From wood, who grows, who cores benevolence:
Who grain, who poured direction is round knots:
Who bather's rope is for evening gales;
Hold power, but not too much.

We have committed hybris and indiscretion:
We are at the mercy of Saturn, Limbo, and lost:
We have broken continuity, are plucked to clutch
At straws by waves, by waves are plucked and tossed.
Beach shingle shore has shelved from under foot,
Sea-slid have pebbles:
Bleached fingers have fumbled raw wet hemp, and we
Are for the cold surge of the remorseless sea.

II

From wood, the virtue sap, life thread, hold power by touch.
Hold power but, fearing hybris, not too much.
Return, take purpose, leave the unlimited deep.
Strike out no more, we are not built for oceans.
The Atlantic closes on the beating arm and falls asleep.
The pond Pacific need not wake to drown us.

The unseeking sea
Cruelly purposes nothin,
Has no thread,
Engulfs purpose,
In vacuum smoothes over
The assimilated insentient
Insentiently,
Us, dead.

III

Return, return, harbour the safe and sound, the purpose rope:
Leave fear with pride and enterprise, take humble but oh certain hope.
Wood, wood, wood, three times meticulously we touch you,
Drawing your sanitary strength, the baby at the breast:
Now we can live in your ample, folding vegetable power:
Live, go on, conquer, love, flourish, and rest.

T. H. WHITE


England Have My Bones: For the Reader of the Works of T. H. White
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Revised Saturday, 28-Sep-2002 22:12:15 CDT.