Lothrop, Montana

Lothrop, Montana
By Whittaker Chambers
June 30, 1926

The cottonwoods, the boy-trees,
Imberbe 1 — the clean, green, central bodies
Standing apart, freely, freely, but trammeled;
With the branches inter-resting — for support,
Never for caressing, except the wind blow.
And yet, leaning so fearfully into one another,
The leaves so pensile, so tremulous!y hung, as they lean
Unable to strain farther into one another
And be a part:
Held back where in the earth them secret roots
Wrap one about another, interstruggle and knot; the vital
Writhing in struggle; heavy, fibrous, underearthen life,
From which the sap mounts filling those trembling leaves
Of the boy-trees, the cottonwoods. 2 3

Notes:

  1. Imberbe appears in French and other Romance languages, preserving the original Latin imberbis (from in + barba, meaning “no beard” or “beardless”): inexperienced.
  2. Chambers’s favorite teacher at Columbia College, Mark Van Doren, was at this time literary editor of The Nation and had published this poem.
  3. “Lothrop, Montana,” The Nation, June 30, 1926
 

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