A Japanese Wood-Carving. Poem by Amy Lowell

Celebrating National Poetry Day

A Japanese Wood-Carving

High up above the open, welcoming door

It hangs, a piece of wood with colours dim. 

Once, long ago, it was a waving tree 

And knew the sun and shadow through the leaves 

Of forest trees, in a thick eastern wood.

The winter snows had bent its branches down,

The spring had swelled its buds with coming flowers, 

Summer had run like fire through its veins, 

While autumn pelted it with chestnut burrs, 

And strewed the leafy ground with acorn cups. 

Dark midnight storms had roared and crashed among 

Its branches, breaking here and there a limb; 

But every now and then broad sunlit days

Lovingly lingered, caught among the leaves. 

Yes, it had known all this, and yet to us

It does not speak of mossy forest ways, 

Of whispering pine trees or the shimmering birch; 

But of quick winds, and the salt, stinging sea! 

An artist once, with patient, careful knife, 

Had fashioned it like to the untamed sea. 

Here waves uprear themselves, their tops blown back 

By the gay, sunny wind, which whips the blue 

And breaks it into gleams and sparks of light. 

Among the flashing waves are two white birds 

Which swoop, and soar, and scream for very joy 

At the wild sport. Now diving quickly in,

Questing some glistening fish. Now flying up, 

Their dripping feathers shining in the sun, 

While the wet drops like little glints of light, 

Fall pattering backward to the parent sea. 

Gliding along the green and foam-flecked hollows, 

Or skimming some white crest about to break, 

The spirits of the sky deigning to stoop 

And play with ocean in a summer mood. 

Hanging above the high, wide open door, 

It brings to us in quiet, firelit room, 

The freedom of the earth's vast solitudes, 

Where heaping, sunny waves tumble and roll, 

And seabirds scream in wanton happiness.

Amy Lowell