The Tree of Guilt by Louis MacNeice


By Tim Green and Sheila in Moonducks on Flickr

The Tree of Guilt

When first we knew it, gibbet-bare

It scrawled an omen in the air,

But later, in its wealth of leaf,

Looked too lush to hang a thief;


And from its branches muffled doves

Drummed out the purchasable loves

Which far below them were purveyed

On credit through the slinking shade.


And what a cooing trade was done

Around the tree-trunk anyone

Could guess who saw the countless hearts

Carved in its bark transfixed with darts;


So entering this enchanted zone

Anyone could add his own

Cut neatly with a pocket-knife,

There for his life and the tree’s life.


And having thus signed on the line

Anyone claimed his anodyne

And, drinking it, was lulled asleep

By doves and insects, deep and deep,


Till he finds later, waking cold,

The leaves fallen, himself old,

And his carved his own. heart, though vastly grown,

Not recognizably


The dove’s is now the raven’s day

And there is interest yet to pay;

And in those branches gibbet-bare,

Is that a noose that angles there?


Louis MacNeice was born on this day in 1907

To read more of his work, click here


About jmgale

I try very hard and am sometimes right.
This entry was posted in Louis MacNeice, MacNeice Louis, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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