Alfred Joyce Kilmer was an American poet, as well as journalist, literary critic, lecturer, and editor, who was born on 6 December 1886.
Although married and with children Joyce Kilmer volunteered for service in 1917 following America’s entry into World War I. Before his departure, he contracted with publishers to write a book about the war, but he never had a chance to pen it because he was killed by a German sniper’s bullet to the head at the Second Battle of the Marne (France) on 30 July 1918. He was thirty-one years old.
He is mainly remembered for his poem “Trees” which appeared in Poetry magazine in 1913 and, the following year, was published as the title poem in his collection “Trees and Other Poems”
Its immediate and continued popularity has been attributed to Kilmer’s deeply-held affinity for nature and for God, described with a combination of sentiment and simple philosophy,
This short poem is still published in anthologies despite the continuing negative opinion from scholars and critics who have dismissed Kilmer’s work as being too simple and overly sentimental. Many writers have even parodied his work and style (considered too traditional, even archaic) as attested by the many imitations of “Trees”.
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at 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.
Non credo che vedrò mai
una poesia bella come un albero.
Un albero la cui bocca avida sia premuta
contro il dolce seno fluente della terra;
un albero che guardi Dio tutto il giorno,
e alzi le sue braccia frondose in preghiera;
un albero che in estate possa indossare
fra i capelli un nido di pettirossi;
sul cui petto si deponga la neve;
chi viva intimamente con la pioggia.
Le poesie sono fatte da sciocchi come me,
ma solo Dio può creare un albero.