Notes to Poem:
Bending Bay Tree

Peter Y. Chou

Commentary on Poem "Bending Bay Tree":

Bay Trees on Middlefield Road
Walking to Foothill College on
Middlefield Road in Palo Alto,
I pass many Bay Trees and Oaks
all standing straight and upright.

When I miss Bus #35 at Showers Drive to Foothill College, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, I'll take Bus #32 that stops near the corner of San Antonio Road and Middlefield Road. It is at that intersection, I wrote a poem on "Asymmetric Elm Tree" (10-22-2013) in front of Jiffy Lube (4201 Middlefield Road) that I've not noticed for sixteen years. There is a two blocks walk to the Cubberley Middlefield Campus Parking Lot (Montrose Avenue and Middlefield Road). In my usual rush to Foothill College Computer Lab, I rarely stop to admire trees on the road as I do while hiking during nature walks. On work days, my mind is so focused on computer and poetry projects that I'm blinded to nature's beauty. Only on weekends when hiking, I'm relaxed to take hundreds of photos on trees, wildflowers and scenic vistas.

Y-Shape Bending Bay Tree
But one Bay Tree is bent— twisted
in the letter Y-shape, and I've never
stopped to ask why until now, since
Bay Trees bend toward creek water

On last week's class Foothill College Day Hike at Picchetti Ranch (10-25-2013), photographed several Bay Trees bending toward Stevens Creek. Another hike at Long Ridge Trail (8-28-2011), saw Bay Trees bent toward Peters Creek. A third was observed at UVas Canyon (9-25-2011) with Bay Tree bending across UVas Creek, A fourth was at Memorial Park (8-16-2009) with Bay Tree bending to Pescadero Creek. Since I've got "Y" in my middle name, have collected Y-Shape Trees during hikes at Wunderlich Park (10-18-2013), Skyline Trail (7-28-2013), Matadero Creek Trail (3-24-2013), UVas Canyon (9-25-2011), Guadalupe Trail (9-12-2010), and Purisima Creek Redwoods (9-14-2008). After taking a photo of this Y-shape Bay Tree, I asked it "Why are you bending when there's no creek around here?"

Bay Tree Bending to Keats Court
and everything over here is dry.
So following its branches to
the street corner and to my
surprise— it's Keats Court!

As I followed the Bay Tree's bending branches, what a surprise to find the signpost "Keats Ct" & "Middlefield Rd" at the street corner. The British poet John Keats (1795-1821) is one of my favorites. My copy of Lemprière's Classical Dictionary notes that John Keats is said to have known the book almost by heart. No wonder there's so much allusions to Greek & Roman myths in his poems. My favorite Keatian insight: "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,'— that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." (Ode on a Grecian Urn)

Signpost: Keats Ct & Middlefield Rd

Ah!— "Ode on a Grecian Urn"
where John Keats sings unheard
sweeter melodies beneath the trees
in forest branches & happy boughs.

Drawing Keats rendered of an
engraving of Sosibios Vase (1819)
Keats wrote "Ode on a Grecian Urn" in May 1819 and published anonymously in the January 1820, Number 15 issue of the magazine, Annals of the Fine Arts.
Second stanza cites unheard melodies & trees—
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
    Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
    Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
    Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;

Third stanza cites "happy boughs!"—
Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
    Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;

Fifth stanza cites "forest branches"—
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
    Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!

Keats' fondness of trees is apparent in his most famous Ode.
Photo Source: Keats Urn (

Severn paints "Portrait of Keats,
Listening to a Nightingale on
Hampstead Heath" in a forest grove
with tall Y-shaped trees behind him.

Joseph Severn, "Portrait of Keats
listening to a nightingale
on Hampstead Heath"
Joseph Severn's "Portrait of Keats listening to a nightingale on Hampstead Heath" (1845) is an oil painting (114x97 cm) at City of London Corporation.
In Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale" (1819), tree citations appear in the first stanza:
But being too happy in thine happiness,—
    That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees

In the second stanza, we find "forest dim"
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
    And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

More tree images are in the fifth stanza—
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
    Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
    Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
    White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;

Photo Source:

William Hilton, "John Keats"
National Portrait Gallery, London
Keats wrote to John Taylor in 1818—
"If poetry comes not as naturally
as the leaves to a tree,
it had better not come at all."

John Taylor (1781-1864) was a publisher, essayist, and writer. He's author of the 1859 book The Great Pyramid, in which he argued that the numbers π and φ may have been deliberately incorporated into the design of the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza, whose perimeter is close to 2π times its height. His theories in Pyramidology were then expanded by Charles Piazzi Smyth. John Taylor was also John Keats's publisher, and published works by Lamb, Coleridge and Hazlitt. After reading Keats' letter to John Taylor (February 27, 1818), comparing poetry growing naturally as tree leaves, I was inspired to write the "Tree Poem" in Dick Maxwell's Poetry Workshop. Image Source: "John Keats" (

I quoted the above letter in
a "Tree Poem" 24 years ago
and the cycle returned today
like clockwork as a Bay Tree
On October 25, 1989, wrote a "Tree Poem" using Keats letter to John Taylor as an epigraph.
On October 30, 2013, wrote "Bending Bay Tree" after seeing it bent toward Keats Court.
It's exactly 24 years apart by five days, so like clockwork my mind returns to Keats.

A leaf from the tree,
a poem from the heart,
both flowing naturally.

A leaf born from
the photo of light & knowledge,
the synthesis of togetherness.

A poem, the child that brings
knowledge together— an intuitive leap
that binds one to all things.

Keats Court Sidewalk Sign
bends toward Keats Court to honor
the poet who loves trees paying
homage to them in his verses
as I'm doing now full of joy.

Just as Keats paid homage to trees in his poems, the Bending Bay Tree to Keats Court honors the poet. My poems on Keats and trees span 24 years like clockwork. Keats was born on October 31, 1795, so I honor him today on his 218th birthday.

— Peter Y. Chou
    Mountain View, 10-31-2013

| Top of Page | Bending Bay Tree | Poems 2013 | Poems 2012 | Poems 2011 | Poems 2010 |
| Haikus 2013 | Haikus 2012 | Haikus 2011 | Platonic Lambda | CPITS | Books | A-Z Portals | Home |

© Peter Y. Chou, Wisdom Portal
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: 10-31-2013)