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Watercolor illustration of the classic American poem Trees, written in 1913 by Joyce Kilmer. The nocturnal scene shows a reflecting pond under bright moonlight. Steps lead from the water to a classical garden with a small figural statue on a pedestal and tall cypress trees frame the deep blue sky. The poem is written in calligraphy in the lower portion. Both sections are set within lines of metallic gold and deep blue border.
The poem reads as follows:
"I think that
I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks to 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."
Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918) was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey and was educated at Rutgers College and Columbia University. In addition to regularly publishing his poetry in literary magazines, he was a prolific essayist. He worked on the staff of The Standard Dictionary from 1909 to 1912 and then became a writer for the New York Times Sunday Magazine. He also edited an anthology of Catholic poets. His most famous poem, Trees was published in the August 1913 issue of Poetry, and the following year was included a book of his poetry, Trees and Other Poems. He died in action in World War I, which made this poem all the more poignant, and it has been memorized by generations of schoolchildren.