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Last Tree Standing

It was the last tree standing

On the prairie’s boundless ground

Harassed by the winds and rain alike

It stood alone, calm, strong

Gently holding on to its last leaves.

“More wood, more fire,

More orgies!

My power shall not stand

Diminished in any way.

The jewels in my crown,

Those trophies of battle,

That glory of being

The Master of his men.

The vile slavery of my serfs

— shall I let go of it?

More orgies, more food,

More laurels to my power!

“Shall a mere tree come in my way?

What shall I make my men do?

Eat roots when they can have pheasant stew?

That last tree shall give me wood,

And they – those serving men –

They shall chop it, and burn it.

The cooking-men will stir the pots;

The hunting-men shall find for me -

Pheasants, and deer and turtles;

The growing men shall bring me

Wheat, and rice and cotton;

The weaver-men, and the barber-men

And the potter-men and other men,

They shall all ply their trades.

“And I:

I keep the peace among them,

I throw them my table-scraps,

And they shall be fed

And be happy.

They shall not murmur

And swear oaths and secrets

Or in any manner rise against me.

“No more wood be there to burn?

What matter?

We shall burn coal.

“No more coal?

O there is some left for a year?

Good. Burn it, then.

Does not matter.

I shall be dead soon.

I’m old, and I have seen my times.

And they were good.

Let it be, for my men are happy.

Let them not stir.

Once I’m dead what do I care?

My son will face times

Of hardship and sorrow?

O! but let him face it,

I can only live my life.

“I burnt the last tree,

I’ll burn the last coalstone.

But I’ve burnt my snuff,

I have nothing more to burn.

No wood, no fire, no orgies.

We shall do without them.

Let the tree stand

and bear fruit and seed.

We shall sow those seeds and pray.

And while a new forest grows,

Let us

Repent our error

And pledge to learn

Not to make them again.

The jewels of my crown

Or the trophies of my battles,

What more are they than shadows?

Whither my majesty, my laurels

If my people die after me

Unfed, uncared?

Shall a mere orgy today

Feed famine tomorrow?

We shall have roots, and tubers,

And whatever else,

The growing-men can by their talents

Make the mother-earth provide.

We shall all keep a pledge:

I shall, with my potter-men,

And hunter-men and weaver-men,

And barber-men,

Tend to our new forest

And sing to our children

Of our horror, our error.

Our dear kindred

When it be time to inherit the world;

We hope they shall not find

Our efforts in vain.

They shall have fruits

And shade,

And rain,

And every bounty of the forest.

Spring shall come again:

There shall be birds that sing,

And flowers and butterflies.

And that will bring joy.

We shall have in our deaths:

Peace and happiness

That we lived a good life.

The coal shall stay buried,

The wood stand in its glory,

And I rest

Forever in peace.


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