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The Planting of the Apple-Tree

Written by: William Cullen Bryant | Biography
 | Quotes (29) |
COME let us plant the apple-tree. 
Cleave the tough greensward with the spade; 
Wide let its hollow bed be made; 
There gently lay the roots and there 
Sift the dark mould with kindly care 5 
And press it o'er them tenderly  
As round the sleeping infant's feet  
We softly fold the cradle sheet; 
So plant we the apple-tree. 

What plant we in this apple-tree? 10 
Buds which the breath of summer days 
Shall lengthen into leafy sprays; 
Boughs where the thrush with crimson breast  
Shall haunt and sing and hide her nest; 
We plant upon the sunny lea 15 
A shadow for the noontide hour  
A shelter from the summer shower  
When we plant the apple-tree. 

What plant we in this apple-tree? 
Sweets for a hundred flowery springs 20 
To load the May-wind's restless wings  
When from the orchard row he pours 
Its fragrance through our open doors; 
A world of blossoms for the bee  
Flowers for the sick girl's silent room 25 
For the glad infant sprigs of bloom  
We plant with the apple-tree. 

What plant we in this apple-tree! 
Fruits that shall swell in sunny June  
And redden in the August noon 30 
And drop when gentle airs come by  
That fan the blue September sky  
While children come with cries of glee  
And seek them where the fragrant grass 
Betrays their bed to those who pass 35 
At the foot of the apple-tree. 

And when above this apple-tree  
The winter stars are quivering bright  
And winds go howling through the night  
Girls whose young eyes o'erflow with mirth 40 
Shall peel its fruit by cottage-hearth  
And guests in prouder homes shall see  
Heaped with the grape of Cintra's vine 
And golden orange of the line  
The fruit of the apple-tree. 45 

The fruitage of this apple-tree 
Winds and our flag of stripe and star 
Shall bear to coasts that lie afar  
Where men shall wonder at the view  
And ask in what fair groves they grew; 50 
And sojourners beyond the sea 
Shall think of childhood's careless day 
And long long hours of summer play  
In the shade of the apple-tree. 

Each year shall give this apple-tree 55 
A broader flush of roseate bloom  
A deeper maze of verdurous gloom  
And loosen when the frost-clouds lower  
The crisp brown leaves in thicker shower; 
The years shall come and pass but we 60 
Shall hear no longer where we lie  
The summer's songs the autumn's sigh  
In the boughs of the apple-tree. 

And time shall waste this apple-tree. 
Oh when its aged branches throw 65 
Thin shadows on the ground below  
Shall fraud and force and iron will 
Oppress the weak and helpless still? 
What shall the tasks of mercy be  
Amid the toils the strifes the tears 70 
Of those who live when length of years 
Is wasting this little apple-tree? 

Who planted this old apple-tree?  
The children of that distant day 
Thus to some aged man shall say; 75 
And gazing on its mossy stem  
The gray-haired man shall answer them: 
A poet of the land was he, 
Born in the rude but good old times; 
'T is said he made some quaint old rhymes 80 
On planting the apple-tree.