On a tree fallen across a road

Fr Ian writes:

In a previous blog entry I posted Wendell Berry’s poem The Peace of Wild Things. Several people have remarked to me how helpful they found the poem. Since then I have been reflecting on the comfort and spiritual strength which some poems have brought me, and others. I would be interested to know of a poem which has spiritually comforted or strengthened you.

Some years ago I sent a friend who was facing turmoil in life a copy of the poem, On a Tree fallen across a Road by the American poet Robert Frost. My friend remarked later on the strength he had received from it, and how he in turn passed it on to others.

Like Berry, Frost often uses images from nature with profound effect. In this poem he offers insight to those facing struggles in life.


On a Tree Fallen across The Road

The tree the tempest with a crash of wood
Throws down in front of us is not to bar
Our passage to our journey’s end for good
But just to ask us who we think we are

Insisting always on our own way so.
She likes to halt us in our runners tracks,
And make us get down in a foot of snow
Debating what to do without an ax.

And yet she knows obstruction is in vain:
We will not be put off the final goal
We have it hidden in us to attain,
Not though we have to seize earth by the pole

And, tired of aimless circling in one place,
Steer straight off after something into space.

About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2364267899/
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1 Response to On a tree fallen across a road

  1. Oh, I love the phrase, ‘seize earth by the pole’! Thank you for this. I had never read this poem before. Here’s one that helps me…


    with the night falling we are saying thank you
    we are stopping on the bridge to bow from the railings
    we are running out of the glass rooms
    with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
    and say thank you

    we are standing by the water looking out
    in different directions
    back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
    after funerals we are saying thank you

    after the news of the dead
    whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
    in a culture up to its chin in shame
    living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you
    over telephones we are saying thank you

    in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
    remembering wars and the police at the back door
    and the beatings on the stairs we are saying thank you
    in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
    with the crooks in the office with the rich and fashionable
    unchanged we go on saying thank you thank you

    with the animals dying around us
    our lost feelings we are saying thank you
    with the forests falling faster than the minutes
    of our lives we are saying thank you

    with the words going out like cells of a brain
    with the cities growing over us like earth
    we are saying thank you faster and faster
    with nobody listening we are saying thank you
    we are saying thank you and waving 
    dark though it is

    W. S. Merwin

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