The tree’s prayer

The tree's prayer

There is a good chance that you’ve never heard of “one of the most remarkable writers of the 19th century.” His poem The tree’s prayer is just one of the many examples of his beautiful poetry. This is the work of the Scottish poet George MacDonald.

George MacDonald
George MacDonald

Source: Wikimedia Commons

About George MacDonald


“one of the three or four greatest men of the 19th century”

“…how I love that man!”


These are just two examples of the thoughts about George MacDonald. The first one is written by W.H. Auden, the second one by Oswald Chambers.

This Scottish poet was also a Christian minister and writer. He is considered as one of the founding fathers of the modern day fantasy literature. His work inspired Lewis Carrol (he was his mentor), J.R.R. Tolkien, W.H. Auden, Oswald Chambers and C.S. Lewis. How is it possible that many people don’t know this?

To be famous is one thing. To remain famous after you died is another thing. In MacDonald’s case, his fame declined after he died. Where most poets fame rose to mythical proportions, this didn’t happen when it comes to the work of MacDonald.

When he died (18 September 1905) his books were eventually not printed anymore. People forgot about this talented poet. It was just a group of fanatic fans, who kept his memory living. Amongst them were other great writers and poets. This simply wasn’t enough.

The work of MacDonald was inspired by his religious beliefs. Maybe that is the reason that his work wasn’t just that popular after he died. There was, however, a revival of his work in the Seventies and Eighties of the 20th century. After that, the attention for this poet moved to the background.


About The tree’s prayer

Haven’t you ever longed for Spring, when it’s Winter? What if trees could talk? What if they have this longing for the sweet season of Spring when life starts over again? Well, it might be that they would describe their longing in the way that MacDonald did. However, trees can’t talk and ‘all’ we have is the poem written by this Scottish poet.

That’s, of course, one way to read the poem. Have you considered the tree as the metaphor, for someone who wants things to change? Or is ready for a new life, maybe in the afterlife.

Or the possibility that someone believes that a change will come. When you read the last stanza:


“Yet winter’s noon is past:
I’ll stretch my arms all night into the wind,
Endure all day the chill air and unkind;
My leaves will come at last. “

These leaves will come because from pain or misery can come growth.

The tree's prayer

The tree’s prayer


Alas! ’tis cold and dark;
The wind all night has sung a wintry tune;
Hail from black clouds that swallowed up the moon
Has beat against my bark.


Oh! when will it be spring?
The sap moves not within my withered veins;
Through all my frozen roots creep numbing pains,
That they can hardly cling.


The sun shone out last morn;
I felt the warmth through every fibre float;
I thought I heard a thrush’s piping note,
Of hope and sadness born.


Then came the sea-cloud driven;
The tempest hissed through all my outstretched boughs,
Hither and thither tossed me in its snows,
Beneath the joyless heaven.


O for the sunny leaves!
Almost I have forgot the breath of June!
Forgot the feathery light-flakes from the moon!
The praying summer-eves!


O for the joyous birds,
Which are the tongues of us, mute, longing trees!
O for the billowy odours, and the bees
Abroad in scattered herds!


The blessing of cool showers!
The gratefulness that thrills through every shoot!
The children playing round my deep-sunk root,
Shadowed in hot noon hours!


Alas! the cold clear dawn
Through the bare lattice-work of twigs around!
Another weary day of moaning sound
On the thin-shadowed lawn!


Yet winter’s noon is past:
I’ll stretch my arms all night into the wind,
Endure all day the chill air and unkind;
My leaves will come at last.

George MacDonald


This poem is from the book A hidden life and other poems, Sunrise Books Publishers, limited first edition, 1988, number 447 of 1,000.

The tree's prayer
Article Name
The tree's prayer
A beautiful longing for Spring
Publisher Name
The Ministry of Poetic Affairs

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