‘Trees’: A Poem by Joyce Kilmer

‘I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree.’ As opening lines of poems go, it’s instantly recognisable, and perhaps one of the most self-undoing. ‘Trees’ by Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918), an American writer and poet, delights in the beauty of trees even as it acknowledges the limits of the poet’s craft. NB: ‘Joyce’ was actually a man, whose full name was Alfred Joyce Kilmer; he was killed at the Second Battle of Marne in July 1918, aged just 31.

‘Trees’ by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
If you enjoyed ‘Trees’ by Joyce Kilmer with its much parodied and imitated opening lines, ‘I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree’, you might also enjoy Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem about the felled Binsey poplars.

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Posted on November 9, 2018, in Literature and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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