Bayard Taylor image

Bayard Taylor

Jan. 11, 1825 - Dec 19, 1878


Sylvan Spirits

by Bayard Taylor

The gray stems rise, the branches braid
A covering of deepest shade.
Beneath these old, inviolate trees
There comes no stealthy, sliding breeze,
To overhear their mysteries.

Steeped in the fragrant breath of leaves,
My heart a hermit peace receives:
The sombre forest thrusts a screen
My refuge and the world between,
And beds me in its balmy green.

No fret of life may here intrude,
To vex the sylvan solitude.
Pure spirits of the earth and air,
From hollow trunk and bosky lair
Come forth, and hear your lover's prayer!

Come, Druid soul of ancient oak,
Thou, too, hast felt the thunder-stroke;
Come, Hamadryad of the beech,
Nymph of the burning maple, teach
My heart the solace of your speech!

Alas! the sylvan ghosts preserve
The natures of the race they serve.
Not only Dryads, chaste and shy,
But piping Fauns, come dancing nigh,
And Satyrs of the shaggy thigh.

Across the calm, the holy hush
And shadowed air, there darts a flush
Of riot, from the lawless brood,
And rebel voices in my blood
Salute these orgies of the wood.

Not sacred thoughts alone engage
The saint in silent hermitage:
The soul within him heavenward strives,
Yet strong, as in profaner lives,
The giant of the flesh survives.

From Nature, as from human haunts,
That giant draws his sustenance.
By her own elves, in woodlands wild
She sees her robes of prayer defiled:
She is not purer than her child.


The Poet's Journal
Copyright 1863
Ticknor and Fields, Boston