Friday, July 26, 2013

Bide Always Green

L'Arbre Fée de Bourlemont
Song of the Children
by Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

Now what has kept your leaves so green,
Arbre Fée de Bourlemont?
The children's tears! They brought each grief,
And you did comfort them and cheer
Their bruisèd hearts, and steal a tear
That, healèd, rose a leaf.

And what has built you up so strong,
Arbre Fée de Bourlemont?
The children's love! They've loved you long
Ten hundred years, in sooth,
They've nourished you with praise and song,
And warmed your heart and kept it young—
A thousand years of youth!

Bide always green in our young hearts,
Arbre Fée de Bourlemont!
And we shall always youthful be,
Not heeding Time his flight;
And when, in exile wand'ring, we
Shall fainting yearn for glimpse of thee,
O, rise upon our sight!

"L'Arbre Fée de Bourlemont" means, of course, "The Fairy Tree of Bourlemont", Bourlemont being near Domrémy. It has the remarkable distinction of being one of the most thoroughly attested trees in history, because it was discussed at some length at the trial of Joan of Arc and again at the nullification trial after her death, and it gets that distinction precisely because it was a Fairy Tree. It was one of those trees that has a lot of local legends hanging on it; fairies were said to dance at it, and fairy knights to visit it, and it was part and parcel of the life of local children, who would dance around it every spring.

Mark Twain is not really known for his poetry, but he wrote more than one would expect. Most of them are humorous, but not all of them. This is more carefully crafted than most of his verse, though.

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