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Joyce Kilmer

1886–1918

Joyce Kilmer was born on December 6, 1886, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Kilmer attended Rutgers Preparatory School and graduated in 1904. He attended Rutgers College from 1904 to 1906, then transferred to Columbia University, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1908. That same year, he married poet Aline Murray.

After Kilmer graduated college, he took a job teaching Latin at a high school in Morristown, New Jersey, and wrote features for The Literary Digest, The Nation, Town & Country, and The New York Times. From 1909 to 1912, he worked for Funk and Wagnalls, writing definitions for The Standard Dictionary, and continued to write magazine articles for publication.

In 1911, Kilmer published his first poetry collection, A Summer of Love (The Baker & Taylor Company). Two years later, he published what would become his most famous poem, “Trees,” in Poetry magazine. The poem was included in his second collection, Trees and Other Poems (Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1914). 

Kilmer published his last poetry collection, Main Street and Other Poems (George H. Doran Company, 1917), the same year he enlisted in the U.S. Army to serve in World War I, during which time he continued to write poems while fighting in the Sixty-Ninth Regiment. He died of a gunshot from a German sniper on July 30, 1918.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Main Street and Other Poems (George H. Doran Company, 1917)
Trees and Other Poems (Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1914)
A Summer of Love (The Baker & Taylor Company)

Joyce Kilmer

By This Poet

10

Love's Lantern

	(for Aline)

Because the road was steep and long
   And through a dark and lonely land,
God set upon my lips a song
   And put a lantern in my hand.

Through miles on weary miles of night
   That stretch relentless in my way
My lantern burns serene and white,
   An unexhausted cup of day.

O golden lights and lights like wine,
   How dim your boasted splendors are.
Behold this little lamp of mind:
   It is more starlike than a star!

Vision

          (for Aline)

Homer, they tell us, was blind and could not see the beautiful faces
Looking up into his own and reflecting the joy of his dream,
   Yet did he seem
Gifted with eyes that could follow the gods to their holiest places.

I have no vision of gods, not of Eros with love-arrows laden,
Jupiter thundering death or of Juno his white-breasted queen,
   Yet I have seen
All of the joy of the world in the innocent heart of a maiden.

Wartime Christmas

Led by a star, a golden star,
The youngest star, an olden star,
Here the kings and the shepherds are,
Akneeling on the ground.
What did they come to the inn to see?
God in the Highest, and this is He,
A baby asleep on His mother’s knee
And with her kisses crowned.

Now is the earth a dreary place,
A troubled place, a weary place.
Peace has hidden her lovely face
And turned in tears away.
Yet the sun, through the war-cloud, sees
Babies asleep on their mother’s knees.
While there are love and home—and these—
There shall be Christmas Day.

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