On a Sea Cliff

This tree is weathered nearly flat,
      Twisted in tangled brambles;

Gripping the cliff-face much as a cat
      In its stiff-tailed, sycamore scramble.

It clings above the shaken shale,
      Searching each hidden fissure;
Forcing the limestone’s ancient mail
      With its sap-bold, root-old pressure.

And every leaf upon it shows,
      Despite its harsh-wracked grappling,
As perfect a form as that which grows
      On a suppler inland sapling.

On salt and storms and rock it has thrived;
      It took the shape it had to make;
In itself straight and true it has lived:
      It buckles and bends but it does not break.