Archive for the ‘Joyce Kilmer’ Category

A. J. Kilmer’s "A poem as lovely as a tree"

October 20, 2008


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
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.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Alfred Joyce Kilmer
A Catholic American poet, writer and lecturer born in New Brunswick, N.J. and educated at Rutgers College and Columbia (B.A., 1908,) Alfred Joyce Kilmer lived from December 6, 1886 to July 30, 1918. His most famous poem “Trees,” was published in Trees and Other Poems (1914.) He served in the military and was deployed in Europe during the World War I.

When the United States involved itself in war, in 1917, Alfred Joyce Kilmer, in an expression of patriotic duty, joined the Seventh Regiment of the New York National Guard. While on a military mission in France, he was killed by a fatal sniper’s bullet at a young age of 31, leaving behind his wife Aline Murray and five children. Posthumously, he was awarded the Coix de Guerre (Cross of War) by the French Republic for his valor.

In North Carolina, a place Kilmer never visited, he was honored with the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, a protective reserve of ancient trees, one of the few of its kind in North America. Upon his death, he was interred in the Oise-Aisne Cemetery, Fere-en-Tardenois, France. Source: Alfred Joyce Kilmer and His Memorial Forest by Steve Nix (

There is a bit of nostalgia reading A. J. Kilmer’s poem “Trees.” At this time of the year when autumn progresses in full season, this piece of vintage literature brings a special resonance. The poem with its conservative tone and rhyme seems sentimental and ancient to the reading taste of the present generation, but look at the changing trees mimicking the flowers in the photo. They are the same radiant trees reaching for the sky that a nature-beholder from Brunswick, New Jersey paid tribute to about a century ago. Like a God-believing outdoorsman of this day, he is more relevant now with the environmental movement and the effort to save the plants and trees of the planet. (Photo Credits: dabadoo; USFS; tobi et. al) =0=