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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 Revolution of 1848

By Johan Sebastian Cammermeyer Welhaven (1807–1873)

Translation of William Morton Payne

THIS tree of freedom we have made,

To which men thronging bring their suit,—

Whose branches cast no cooling shade,

And ashes in the mouth whose fruit,—

’Tis but the same old pole of yore,

With the old tinsel wreaths bedecked,

Around which men have danced before,

Until they knew its promise wrecked.

And if it stand on fertile soil,

No root it strikes, no bud doth bear;

’Tis but a log, smooth-shaped with toil,

And stuck end upward in the air.

The signs of blooming life it bears,

Adorning it with summer shows,

Are but the borrowed crown it wears

Of withered leaf and paper rose.

So when men say in ardent trust,

This is in truth the very palm

Whose foliage wide-spreading must

Bring to mankind its peace and calm,—

Why, then I test my sight anew;

But, do my best, I cannot see

The slightest cause to change my view

That but a May-pole is the tree.

Full many a pole like this shall yield

The hoary trunk of Ygdrasil,

Before the golden year revealed

With light and music earth may fill;

For men of Adam’s race must God

Another earth and heaven make:

Then shall the palm spring from the sod,

And earth its thirst for freedom slake.