Louis MacNeice

Tree Party

Your health, Master Willow. Contrive me a bat 
To strike a red ball; apart from that 
In the last resort I must hang my harp on you. 

Your health. Master Oak. You emblem of strength. 
Why must your doings be done at such length? 
Beware lest the ironclad ages catch up with you. 

Your health, Master Blackthorn. Be live and be quick, 
Provide the black priest with a big black stick 
That his ignorant flock may go straight for the fear of you. 

Your health, Master Palm. If you brew us some toddy 
To deliver us out of by means of the body, 
We will burn all our bridges and rickshaws in praise of you. 

Your health, Master Pine. Though sailing be past 
Let you fly your own colours upon your own mast 
And rig us a crow's nest to keep a look out from you. 

Your health, Master Elm. Of giants arboreal 
Poets have found you the most immemorial 
And yet the big winds may discover the fault in you. 

Your health, Master Hazel. On Halloween 
Your nuts are to gather but not to be seen 
Are the twittering ghosts that perforce are alive in you. 

Your health, Master Holly. Of all the trees 
That decorate parlour walls you please 
Yet who would have thought you had so much blood in you? 

Your health. Master Apple. Your topmost bough 
Entices us to come climbing now 
For all that old rumour there might be a snake in you. 

Your health. Master Redwood. The record is yours 
For the girth that astounds, the sap that endures, 
But where are the creatures that once came to nest in you? 

Your health. Master Banyan, but do not get drunk 
Or you may not distinguish your limbs from your trunk 
And the sense of Above and Below will be lost on you. 

Your health, Master Bo-Tree. If Buddha should come 
Yet again, yet again make your branches keep mum 
That his words yet again may drop honey by leave of you. 

Your health, Master Yew. My bones are few 
And I fully admit my rent is due, 
But do not be vexed, I will postdate a cheque for you.