Joyce Kilmer’s Poem; ‘Trees’

Joyce Kilmer was killed at the second battle of the Marne at the age of 31. A sniper shot him as was common. A few years before he wrote the poem ‘Trees’ about the simple natural things of life. Some have criticized Kilmer for being too sentimental. Kilmer was a priest of course. He may have contemplated trees in the denuded landscape of western Europe during the First World War when shell craters filled with cold water, leftover poison gas and ubiquitous mud effected a bleak landscape.

French soldiers ditch 1914.jpg

I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,          5
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.   10
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.