Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Hapless Trees

Aaron Hill (1685–1750), "To Dr. ATKINS; on his Arcade of Dutch Elms, dug up, in repairing the Sewer," in The Works of the Late Aaron Hill, Esq, Vol. III (London: Printed for the Benefit of the Family, 1753), pp. 127-128:
Pitying, we sigh'd, to see th' uprooting spade,
Boldly intrenching, fall your fav'rite shade!
Sad Silvia, long, with silent sorrow, strove,
At last, thus loudly, wail'd her prostrate grove:

Ah! Doctor, when you planted for delight,
Why did you fail to search foundations, right?
Shoot, else, th' aspiring branches ne'er so gay;
Pale disappointment grows, as fast, as they.
Why mourn I then?—'tis vain, 'tis causeless grief;
And thus reflexion comes, and brings relief.

Common, in life, your fate, ye hapless trees!
So the green lawn's, of hope's gay prospects, please.
Sap-full, and blooming, each luxuriant shoot!
Yet death lies lurking, at th' unheeded root.
So flourishes, in youth, our love's light joy,
For time, or change of passion to destroy.
So shines religion's boast, with specious glow,
While sin's foul common sewer creeps dark, below;
So factious noise, we patriot purpose call,
While private int'rest works, and saps us all.
So fame, in arms, or arts, or learning, tow'rs
And fond presuming fancy calls it ours;
'Till, from beneath, some blast, unfear'd, is felt,
And life's lost views, like air-form'd fabricks, melt.
Inferior poetry, made even worse by insipid moralizing, but an interesting minor exhibit in the history of arboricide nonetheless. "Dr. Atkins" is probably the naval surgeon John Atkins (1685-1757). Both Hill and Atkins lived in Plaistow. Hill also wrote a birthday poem to Dr. Atkins (op. cit., p. 156), and a letter from Hill to Atkins (October 26, 1742) is printed in Hill's Works, Vol. II, p. 123.


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