In search of the Wayfarer poet

Hi everyone,

Lavonne, an old friend of mine from Plum Creek Children’s Literature Festival held each year on the campus of Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska, handed me a clipping with a poem called “To the Wayfarer.” This was apparently published in a 1991 issue of WOOD Magazine and was translated from Portuguese into English. I like the poem but don’t know the original poet. Maybe no one does. According to legend, many Portuguese people would attach the poem to trees in their forests:

To the Wayfarer-
Ye who pass by and would raise your hand against me
Harken ere you harm me!
I am the heat of your hearth on cold winter nights,
The friendly shade screening you from the summer sun
My fruits are refreshing draughts,
Quenching your thirst as you journey on,
I am the beam that holds your house,
The board of your table,
The bed on which you lie,
And the timber that builds your boat,
I am the handle of your hoe,
The door of your homestead,
The wood of your cradle,
And the shell of your coffin.
I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty.
Ye who pass by, listen to my prayer; harm me not.

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6 comments on “In search of the Wayfarer poet

  1. This bit of poetic prose has been passed around through books on wood and woodcraft for almost a century. The earliest source I can find is in Alexander L. Howard, A Manual of the Timbers of the World (London: Macmillan, 1920), p. xiii. There it is called an “inscription which in Portugal is displayed . . . wherever timber trees are to be found.” This appearance includes the original Portuguese. The link is:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=2YIqAQAAMAAJ&pg=PR13&dq=quenching+intitle:timbers+inauthor:howard&hl=en&sa=X&ei=EZMWVeXUGpOCNt-Dg_AB&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=quenching%20intitle%3Atimbers%20inauthor%3Ahoward&f=false

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