The pine was mortal, once, like other trees
That lift their boughs in the air,
Wearing in summer its green fripperies.
In winter going bare
And desolate of birds.
But that was in an old, forgotten age
Before the words
Of Wise Men stung King Herod to such rage
That his loud armies went
About the land to slay the Innocent.
Then there was consternation and no joy
In Israel. Joseph and Mary, Flying
Into another country with the Boy
Came when the day was dying,
Houseless to the edge of a green wood
Where valorously stood
A needled pine that every summer gave
Small birds a nest.
And half its trunk was hollow as a cave.
Said Joseph, “This is refuge. Let us rest.”
The pine tree, full of pity, dropped its vast
Protective branches down
To cover them until the troops rode past,
Their weapons jingling, toward a different town.
All night it hid them. When the morning broke,
The Child awoke
And blessed the pine, His steadfast lodging place.
“Let you and your brave race,
Who made yourself My rampart and My screen
Keep summer always and be ever green.
For you the punctual seasons shall not vary,
But let there throng
A thousand birds to you for sanctuary
All winter long.”
The story tells us, too,
That if you cut a pine cone part way through,
You find it bears within it like a brand
The imprint of His hand.