By Edwin Oscar Gale
The winter approaches, the summer is past,
How fast the leaves fall in the chilly north blast.
They gather in heaps by the side of the way,
Then scatter like children in rollicking play.
They seem as the birds with intelligence crowned
Slow fluttering down from the trees to the ground.
How joyous their movements as upward they spring
Like some clumsy fledgling first trying its wing.
No lark appears happier chasing its note,
The joy in its heart leaping out at its throat.
When May last approached with its bright sunny skies,
And Flora’s pet child with its indigo eyes
Was watching a youth in a golden surtout,
As slowly he rose from taraxicum root,
The oak at my window looked barren and dead,
No promise of leaves where the old had been shed,
His fingerless hands to the sun he upbore;
A beggar forlorn, he did mutely implore
Apollo to clothe him with verdure again,
Through woofs of the sun to weave warps of the rain.
The wind swept its branches, as harps that are strung.
The birds were in transport and sang as they swung;
The clouds scattered tears on each embryo leaf,
The sun kissed them off, giving gladness for grief;
The buds bursting bonds that had held them so long,
Though weaklings at first became suddenly strong;
No cunning of man could such power bestow
And through the alburnum coax fluids to flow.
Who taught the young leaves to choose food with such skill,
As bees from the flowers their nectaries fill?
What taste in their vestments they wisely displayed:
They studied the prism ere garments were made;
When up in the branches they first could be seen,
To hasten their growth did they don a bright green;
Attaining full size they wore russets and browns,
Like elderly matrons in plain, modest gowns.
What artists these leaves and what toilers they’ve been,
So peerless in painting, so skillful to spin;
Combining the forces of earth and of air
They crowned the old oak with a coronet rare.
Their mission performed they sent down to the soil
For leaves of the future, bequeathments of oil.
What eloquent sermons these falling leaves preach,
What lessons of labor and patience they teach,
Of faith and good works. The gospel of cheer
They whisper to those who are willing to hear.
Men boast when they give what they never may miss,
But where do we find such devotion as this?
When winds with their flails make the giant oaks bend,
And, thrashed from their cups, the ripe acorns descend,
Like angels who come from their bright homes above
To comfort the hearts sore in need of their love,
The faithful leaves drop to the acorns below,
Warm blankets upon them to tenderly throw The winter may come with its ice and its silt,
But safe are the nuts in their foliage quilt,
And when they at length shall emerge from the cold,
The spades of the acorns will pierce the soft mould,
The leaves that preserved them, now gone to decay
Will nourish the monarchs of some distant day.
Aye wonderful things are these fast falling leaves,
From year after year nature daintily weaves
With dew drops for needles, with sunbeams for thread,
Gay garbs for the living from shrouds of the dead.