Sunday, July 18, 2010


A Poem by William Morris

William Morris, Tapestry Trees:

I am the Roof-tree and the Keel;
I bridge the seas for woe and weal.


High o'er the lordly oak I stand,
And drive him on from land to land.


I heft my brother's iron bane;
I shaft the spear, and build the wain.


Dark down the windy dale I grow,
The father of the fateful Bow.


The war-shaft and the milking-bowl
I make, and keep the hay-wain whole.


The King I bless; the lamps I trim;
In my warm wave do fishes swim.


I bowed my head to Adam's will;
The cups of toiling men I fill.


I draw the blood from out the earth;
I store the sun for winter mirth.


Amidst the greenness of my night,
My odorous lamps hang round and bright.


I who am little among trees
In honey-making mate the bees.


Love's lack hath dyed my berries red:
For Love's attire my leaves are shed.


High o'er the mead-flowers' hidden feet
I bear aloft my burden sweet.


Look on my leafy boughs, the Crown
Of living song and dead renown!
The vine is not out of place among these trees, at least according to Theophrastus, Enquiry into Plants 1.3.1 (tr. Arthur Hort):
A tree is a thing which springs from the root with a single stem, having knots and several branches, and it cannot easily be uprooted; for instance, olive fig vine.
In Notes and Queries 10th Series, No. 228 (May 9, 1908) 370, "C.C.B." asked what "In my warm wave do fishes swim" meant. In 10th Series, No. 235 (June 27, 1908) 514, "ST. SWITHIN" answered, "The poet probably refers to the fact that sardines, anchovies, and other denizens of the deep, having ended their aquatic life, are translated to oil," and "T.F.D" opined that it "is merely a poetical way of saying that fish are fried in olive oil."

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