Published on Academy of American Poets (

The Willow-Tree

  Know ye the willow-tree
    Whose gray leaves quiver,
  Whispering gloomily
    To yon pale river;
  Lady, at even-tide
    Wander not near it,
  They say its branches hide
    A sad, lost spirit?

  Once to the willow-tree
    A maid came fearful,
  Pale seemed her cheek to be,
    Her blue eye tearful;
  Soon as she saw the tree,
    Her step moved fleeter,
  No one was there—ah me!
    No one to meet her!

  Quick beat her heart to hear
    The far bell's chime
  Toll from the chapel-tower
    The trysting time:
  But the red sun went down
    In golden flame,
  And though she looked round,
    Yet no one came!

  Presently came the night,
    Sadly to greet her,—
  Moon in her silver light,
    Stars in their glitter;
  Then sank the moon away
    Under the billow,
  Still wept the maid alone—
    There by the willow!

  Through the long darkness,
    By the stream rolling,
  Hour after hour went on
    Tolling and tolling.
  Long was the darkness,
    Lonely and stilly;
  Shrill came the night-wind,
    Piercing and chilly.

  Shrill blew the morning breeze,
    Biting and cold,
  Bleak peers the gray dawn
    Over the wold.
  Bleak over moor and stream
    Looks the grey dawn,
  Gray, with dishevelled hair,
  Still stands the willow there—

  Domine, Domine!
    Sing we a litany,—
  Sing for poor maiden-hearts broken and weary;
    Domine, Domine!
  Sing we a litany,
    Wail we and weep we a wild Miserere!


This poem is in the public domain. 

About this Poem

From Ballads and Songs (London: Cassell and Company, 1896).



William Makepeace Thackeray

William Makepeace Thackeray, born July 18, 1811, was an English writer best known for his novels, particularly The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. (The Mershon Company Publishers, 1852) and Vanity Fair (Bradbury and Evans, 1848). While in school, Thackeray began writing poems, which he published in a number of magazines, chiefly Fraser and Punch. He died on December 24, 1863.

Date Published: 2018-07-12

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