Academic journal article The Hudson Review

Tales of the Village Atheist

Academic journal article The Hudson Review

Tales of the Village Atheist

Article excerpt

1. A Leaf of the Northern Woods

Westward the wind bore him away,

League upon league, day after day,

To where the sun was known to set,

And far beyond, and farther yet,

Into a region dark as night;

No lawn in view on which to light,

The merest gravel waste to land on

Where dead leaves lay in wild abandon,

Bereft of dignity or fear,

The scattered remnant of a year

That history would not record.

Above these barrens Erik soared,

His cellulose all sere and red

With premonitory dread,

For now at last, in late November,

Some gust or howl made him remember

What the Lord of Life had said,

To all the Leaves assembled

In dewy May, on oak and elm,

Of foliage the verdant realm.

The Lord of Life who lives in the sky

Had promised the Leaves they'd never die,

Not in a million years or more,

Not in a century or a score;

Always they would live with Him

Upon a sempiternal limb,

Unless or until the sun should sicken

And all the Leaves be terror-stricken

And lose their grip upon Life's tree

And in a heedless panic flee

But that of course could never be.

Such had been the firm belief

Of Erik and every other Leaf--

Until the light began to fail

And willows trembled and grew pale.

The afternoons would slip away,

And night trespass against the day,

Till winter brought a killing frost,

And Erik knew their cause was lost

And all the Leaves from all the trees

Were destined to be refugees. …

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