October 21, 2010

Percy MacKaye's Trees of Miami (circa 1923)



(I)

Trees of Miami, -Miami,
Oracular word
In a far red dawn first uttered
By the vowelling cry of a dawn-red-
     bird
(-Miami! Miami! Miami!)
Echoed there by the muttered
Song of an ancient earth-red race
In a shadowy, sacred place, -
Trees of Miami, beautiful trees!
What do you brood in your reveries?

Where the freshet-torn
Clay-blue banks of the Tallawanda
Gape, to reveal forlorn
Relics of your rooted ancestors,
What do you ponder
There, on those primordial shores,
Out of the clay
Lifting green thoughts into the golden
     day?

What are the secret reasons
That stir your leaves to sing?
Out of a million seasons
Of seqent life -
Wraths of autumn, rages of lyric
     spring,
Winter's calm self-conquering,
And summer's rife
Fecundant, rapt foreseeing --
What are your vernal reasons
For this unintermittent being?

-Miami!-
In answering choir
Leafy and sibylline,
Out of the shadowy green
Echoed that only word, opal with
fire:
--Miami!--

(II)

Trees of Miami, what bird
Of your boughs will unriddle that
     word?

Flicker, --flicker,
Resolute toiler elate,
What do you iterate, iterate,
Iterate,
Tapping it there with your elfin tick-
     er? --
. . . Truth, --truth, --truth!


Redbird, burning
Heart of ecstasy, what is your yearn-
     ing? --
. . . Youth, --youth, --youth, --youth!

Wood dove, wild dove,
You that call--
In pensive music--all
Those that pass
Ever and ever over the grass
Beneath you, what are you fluting
     of? --
. . . Truth, --remembrance, --youth!
     Miami! Miami!


(III)

Ah, trees of Miami! now
The voice of a vowelling bird--
Once, twice, thrice -- from a secret
     bough
Has unriddled your sacred word:
     Miami!

Truth - remembrance - youth: of
     these
You brood in your ancient reveries;
In the flow of universal tides
This is the knowledge that keeps you
     vernal;--
Only beauty abides;
Youth is eternal.

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