Light Between The Trees

Round the passionless repose of the silent dead

There is a tree near my house whose molted bark litters the grass. Big, thin swaths of dead skin that had only days or hours before been a necessary part of the tree it covered. I took a piece home, soaked it in water, then dried it flat between sections of the Times and beneath a heavy atlas of the world. It made for interesting paper for a brief time, but already it has begun to curl back into its previous shape, as though longing for familiar contours.

I know how it feels.

LIGHT BETWEEN THE TREES
by Henry Van Dyke

Long, long, long the trail
Through the brooding forest-gloom,
Down the shadowy, lonely vale
Into silence, like a room
Where the light of life has fled,
And the jealous curtains close
Round the passionless repose
Of the silent dead.

Plod, plod, plod away,
Step by step in mouldering moss;
Thick branches bar the day
Over languid streams that cross
Softly, slowly, with a sound
In their aimless creeping
Like a smothered weeping,
Through the enchanted ground.

“Yield, yield, yield thy quest,”
Whispers through the woodland deep;
“Come to me and be at rest;
“I am slumber, I am sleep.”
Then the weary feet would fail,
But the never-daunted will
Urges “Forward, forward still!
“Press along the trail!”

Breast, breast, breast the slope!
See, the path is growing steep.
Hark! a little song of hope
When the stream begins to leap.
Though the forest, far and wide,
Still shuts out the bending blue,
We shall finally win through,
Cross the long divide.

On, on, onward tramp!
Will the journey never end?
Over yonder lies the camp;
Welcome waits us there, my friend.
Can we reach it ere the night?
Upward, upward, never fear!
Look, the summit must be near;
See the line of light!

Red, red, red the shine
Of the splendour in the west,
Glowing through the ranks of pine,
Clear along the mountain-crest!
Long, long, long the trail
Out of sorrow’s lonely vale;
But at last the traveller sees
Light between the trees!