Poem Against the British

Here is Robert Bly’s “Poem Against the British” from Silence in the Snowy Fields (1953):

I.
The wind through the box-elder trees
Is like rides at dusk on a white horse,
Wars for your country, and fighting the British.

II.
I wonder if Washington listened to the trees.
All morning I have been sitting in the grass,
Higher than my eyes, beneath trees,
And listening upward, to the wind in leaves.
Suddenly I realize there is one thing more:
There is also the wind through the high grass.

III.
There are palaces, boats, silence among white buildings,
Iced drinks on marble tops, among cool rooms;
It is good also to be poor, and listen to the wind.

I read D’Aulaire’s biography of George Washington to the children today. After learning about his time spent surveying and mapping the Virginia wilderness, I believe Washington probably did listen to the trees. My favorite line in this poem is the last one. I think you could substitute “poor” with “humble.” That’s the meaning I take from the poem. It might be good to be famous, important, or rich, but it is also good to be humble. Listening to the wind is a humble thing.

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2 thoughts on “Poem Against the British”

  1. Thank you for the D’Aulaire reminder. I am not familiar with their work on George Washington. This also inspires me to find copies of paintings of Washington to show my guys during our together time as we have reached the American Revolution in The Story of the World.

    1. The D’Aulaire biography spends some time on Washington’s early life, which I appreciate. These children’s biographies usually make me want to find a big, thick adult biography to dive into:)

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