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On this day in 1918 the young American poet and soldier Joyce Kilmer was killed in France by a sniper’s bullet, just a few weeks before the end of the First World War.
Born into a good middle-class family (his father invented Johnson’s baby powder), Kilmer was a devout Catholic and a prolific writer and lecturer comparable to his English contemporaries Belloc and Chesterton. He is chiefly remembered for the simplicity of his writing and his love of nature.
This is exemplified in his best-known poem, 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.
The poem has been much parodied since it was written in 1913 but its honest simplicity shines through.
Today I ask that I shall appreciate nature and the simple things in life.