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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Holly-Tree

By Robert Southey (1774–1843)

O READER! hast thou ever stood to see

The Holly-tree?

The eye that contemplates it well perceives

Its glossy leaves,

Ordered by an Intelligence so wise

As might confound the Atheist’s sophistries.

Below a circling fence its leaves are seen,

Wrinkled and keen;

No grazing cattle through their prickly round

Can reach to wound;

But as they grow where nothing is to fear,

Smooth and unarmed the pointless leaves appear.

I love to view these things with curious eyes,

And moralize;

And in this wisdom of the Holly-tree

Can emblem see

Wherewith perchance to make a pleasant rhyme,

One which may profit in the after-time.

Thus though abroad perchance I might appear

Harsh and austere,

To those who on my leisure would intrude

Reserved and rude,—

Gentle at home amid my friends I’d be,

Like the high leaves upon the Holly-tree.

And should my youth—as youth is apt, I know—

Some harshness show,

All vain asperities I day by day

Would wear away,

Till the smooth temper of my age should be

Like the high leaves upon the Holly-tree.

And as, when all the summer trees are seen

So bright and green,

The Holly leaves a sober hue display

Less bright than they,

But when the bare and wintry woods we see,

What then so cheerful as the Holly-tree?—

So serious should my youth appear among

The thoughtless throng;

So would I seem, amid the young and gay,

More grave than they,

That in my age as cheerful I might be

As the green winter of the Holly-tree.