HIGH on the mountain's storm-rent side

Above the flowing of the tide, 

Amid the debris from the flood 

Which the Spring rushed through the wood 

With furious rage and wondrous strength, 

Until it reached the base at length, 

Spreading destruction in its path, 

Like a grim giant in his wrath, 

I found a tree of curious mold 

Standing above the hemlocks old 

Which lay around, among the mass 

Of broken rock and thin, coarse grass. 

The roots, I saw, held in their grasp, 

Tightly locked as with metal hasp, 

Winding round and round it about 

A fibrous chain both tough and stout, 

A rock, whose rough and unhewn side 

These curious fetters strove to hide. 

The tightening arms had grown around 

The rock embedded in the ground, 

Until it seemed like a stony heart 

Whose strings no power on earth could part.

I thought of the time long ago,

When the rock was not imprisoned so,

But lay in its bed on the mountainside,

Far up away from the flowing tide,

Mighty in form and massive in mein,

Surrounded by ferns and grasses all green,

With a sapling small beside it, so weak

That its great strong back it was fain to seek

To sustain it during the wintry blast,

Till its trunk was firm and its roots were fast,

Leaning thereon as a little child

Will cling to its parent strong and mild.

Slowly but surely the root-strings spread,

With gathering strength, and a grasp so dread,

With insidious power and gentle grace,

Till it held the rock in a strong embrace.

Now it lies, fettered, in prison hold,

'Mid the grasses green and the trees so old.

Thus do evil habits grow

Steadily, firmly, no matter how slow,

Till the heart, once tender in childhood's hour,

Hath yielded at last to the tempter's power,

And lies imprisoned in fatal hold,

Like the rock held fast in the tree-root old.

Had the woodman's ax long years ago

Struck, at the sapling and laid it low,

It never had grown to a giant tree,

Nor the rock would today a captive be.

So should we sever the habits, which bind,

No matter how slowly, so surely they wind

Round the young heart, till 't is bound with a chain,

Which resists every effort to cleave it in twain, 

Strike deep at the root, nor spare the stern blow 

That will at a stroke destroy the sly foe. 

Then will the heart remain pure and free, 

Unlike the rock held fast in the tree.

 Christian-at Work.