by William Cullen Bryant (1794 - 1878)

The planting of the apple tree
Language: English 
  Come, let us plant the apple tree!
Cleave the tough green sod with a spade.
Wide let its hollow bed be made,
There gently lay the roots
And sift the dark mold with kindly care,
  And press it o’er them tenderly,
As round the sleeping infant’s feet
We softly fold the cradle sheet,
  So we plant the apple tree.

  What do we plant in this apple tree?
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
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   
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,    
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,    
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,    
  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,    
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.    
   
  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;    
  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    
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    
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    
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    
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;    
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
  On planting the apple-tree.”

R. Sowash sets stanzas 1-2

Confirmed with American Poetry, edited by Percy Holmes Boynton, New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1919, page 188.


Authorship:

Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive):


Researcher for this text: Paul Ezust [Guest Editor]

This text was added to the website: 2017-09-28
Line count: 81
Word count: 524