Alfred Joyce Kilmer (December 6, 1886 – July 30, 1918) was an American journalist, poet, literary critic, lecturer, and editor. Though a prolific poet whose works celebrated the common beauty of the natural world as well as his religious faith, Kilmer is remembered most for a short poem entitled “Trees” (1913), which was published in the collection Trees and Other Poems in 1914. While most of his works are unknown, a select few of his poems remain popular and are published frequently in anthologies. Several critics, both Kilmer’s contemporaries and modern scholars, disparaged Kilmer’s work as being too simple, overly sentimental, and suggested that his style was far too traditional, even archaic.
At the time of his deployment to Europe during the first World War (1914–1918), Kilmer was considered the leading American Catholic poet and lecturer of his generation, whom critics often compared to British contemporaries G. K. Chesterton (1874–1936) and Hilaire Belloc (1870–1953). A sergeant in the 165th U.S. Infantry Regiment (better known as ‘The Fighting 69th), Kilmer was killed at the Second Battle of the Marne in 1918 at the age of 31.
119. Trees I THINK that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree. A tree whose hungry mouth is prest Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast; A tree that looks at God all day, 5 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. 10 Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.