My window looks upon a wood
That stands as tangled as it stood
When God was centuries too young
To care how right he worked, or wrong,
His patterns in obedient trees,
Unprofited by the centuries
He still plants on as crazily
As in his drivelling infancy.
Poor little elms beneath the oak!
They thrash their arms around and poke
At tyrant throats, and try to stand
Straight up, like owners of the land;
For they expect the vainest things,
And even the boniest have their flings.
Hickory shoots unnumbered rise,
Sallow and wasting themselves in sighs,
Children begot at a criminal rate
In the sight of a God that is profligate.
The oak-trees tower over all,
They seem to rise above the brawl,
They seem but just observe the hoax,
They are obscured by other oaks!
They laugh the weaklings out of mind,
And fight forever with their kind.
For oaks are spindling too, and bent,
And only strong by accident;
And if there is a single tree
Of half the size it ought to be,
It need not give him thanks for that,
He did not plan its habitat.
When tree-tops go to pushing so,
There’s every evil thing below;
There s clammy fungus everywhere,
And poison waving on the air,
A plague of insects from the pool
To sting some ever-trusting fool,
Serpents issuing from the foot
Of oak-trees rotten at the root,
Owls and frogs and whippoorwills,
Cackling of all sorts of ills.
Imagine what a pretty thing
The slightest landscape-gardening
Had made of God’s neglected wood!
I’m glad man has the hardihood
To tamper with creation’s plan
And shape it worthier of man.
Imagine woods and sun-swept spaces,
Shadows and lights in proper places,
Trees just touching friendly-wise,
Bees and flowers and butterflies.
An easy thing to improve on God,
Simply the knowing of even from odd,
Simply to count and then dispose
In patterns everybody knows,
Simply to follow curve and line
In geometrical design.
Gardeners only cut their trees
For nobler regularities.
But from my window I have seen
The noblest patch of quivering green
Lashed till it never quivered again.
God had a fit of temper then,
And spat shrill wind and lightning out
At twinges of some godly gout.
But as for me, I keep indoors
Whenever he starts his awful roars.
What can one hope of a crazy God
But lashings from an aimless rod?
This poem is in the public domain, and originally appeared in Poems about God (Henry Holt and Co, 1919).