FRUIT GATHERED FROM A CHESTNUT TREE, AT PRIESTLANDS
On his visits to Southampton, Newton often went across to the New Forest to spend a few days with Charles Etty at his home in Priestlands, near Lymington.
The house still stands. It is now part of Priestlands School.
Chestnut trees still grow in the grounds.
No hero’s praise shall stain my pen,
For burning towns, or slaughtering men;
A gentler theme best pleases me:
I sing Miss Gordon’s favourite tree.
How tall it rears its stately head!
How wide its numerous branches spread!
Ye all that now appears in view
At first from a small chestnut grew.
Jonah admired his transient gourd,
But soon its sudden loss deplored;
One night produced it fully grown,
It withered ere the sun went down.
From small beginnings, sure but slow,
The trees of righteousness thus grow;
While false professors quickly shoot,
And quickly die for want of root.
This tree, without a prop, secured,
Has many a winter’s storm endured;
Because the roots, though out of sight,
Are well proportioned to its height.
Believers thus still thrive and grow,
‘Midst all the storms that round them blow;
The world expects to see them fall,
But Christ, their root, supports them all.
Pleasing, though solemn, is the gloom
With which the shade o’erspreads her room;
In summer’s overwhelming heat,
Here she enjoys a cool retreat.
So may her spirit sheltered be,
By dwelling, Saviour, near to Thee!
And find affliction’s heat allayed
Beneath thy love’s refreshing shade.
But as the tree conceals the sky,
And hides the landscape from the eye,
Another lesson it imparts
To our depraved, deceitful hearts.
Thus every gift the Lord bestows,
To cheer us in this world of woes,
Is apt to prove ensnaring too,
And hide the Giver from our view.
This tree, though now arrayed in green,
Will soon without a leaf be seen;
Yet will again, we trust, in spring,
Invite the birds to build and sing.
So we, by time’s unsparing hand,
Bereaved, like leafless trunks, must stand;
But when our earthly joys are dead,
We hope for better in their stead.
Yes, we shall quit this scene of strife,
To dwell beneath the Tree of Life;
To praise and worship near the throne,
Where loss or change are never known.