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Arbor Day Poems

Table of Contents

Arbor Day Poems
High Desert Oaks
by Julian Onderdonk
  1. The Planting of the Tree by Eben E. Rexford
  2. What Do We Plant? by Henry Abbey
  3. The Class Tree by Emma S. Thomas
  4. Our Tree by Jennie D. Moore
  5. Plant a Tree by Lucy Larcom
  6. The Heart of the Tree by Century
  7. Arbor Day Hymn by Samuel F. Smith
  8. Arbor Day by M.L.P.
  9. On Planting a Tree at Inveraray by James Russell Lowell
  10. The Planting of the Apple-Tree by William Cullen Bryant
  11. Apple-Seed John by Lydia Maria Child

Come, let us plant a tree,
Tenderly, lovingly,
Some heart to cheer.
Long may its branches sway
Shelter sweet birds alway,
Long may its blossoms say
'Springtide is here.'

– Anonymous
  1. The Planting of the Tree

    by Eben E. Rexford

    We bring here from the forest,
    A tree to plant to-day,
    To be a thing of beauty
    When we have passed away.
    Perchance a "joy forever,"
    We're planting in this tree,
    And thro' all future ages
    Its ministry will be.

    We cannot know what lesson
    This tree may teach to men—
    Deep truths of God and Nature
    Eluding book and pen.
    We plant it here, believing
    That in its own wise way,
    It will live out the mission
    God dow'rs it with to-day.

    Bring to this tree, O Springtime,
    Your sunshine and your rain;
    Coax from the branch, each season,
    The fair green leaves again.
    Be kind to it, O Summer,
    And in the years to be,
    May children say, "God bless them,
    Who gave this dear old tree!"

  2. What Do We Plant?

    by Henry Abbey

    What do we plant when we plant the tree?
    We plant the ship, which will cross the sea.
    We plant the mast to carry the sails;
    We plant the plank to withstand the gales—
    The keel, the keelson, and beam and knee;
    We plant the ship when we plant the tree.

    What do we plant when we plant the tree?
    We plant the house for you and me.
    We plant the rafters, the shingles, the floors,
    We plant the studding, the lath, the doors,
    The beams and siding, all parts that be;
    We plant the house when we plant the tree.

    What do we plant when we plant the tree?
    A thousand things that we daily see;
    We plant the spire that out-towers the crag,
    We plant the staff for our country's flag,
    We plant the shade, from the hot sun free;
    We plant all these when we plant the tree.

  3. The Class Tree

    by Emma S. Thomas

    Grow thou and flourish well,
    Ever the story tell,
    Of this glad day;
    Long may thy branches raise
    To heaven our grateful praise;
    Waft them on sunlight rays,
    To God, away.

    Deep in the earth to-day,
    safely thy roots we lay,
    Tree of our love;
    Grow thou and flourish long;
    Ever our grateful song
    Shall Its glad notes prolong
    To God above.

    "Let music swell the breeze,
    And ring from all the trees,"
    On this glad day;
    Bless Thou each student band
    O'er all our happy land;
    Teach them Thy love's command,
    Great God, we pray.

  4. Our Tree

    by Jennie D. Moore

    Into the sunbeams' keeping
    The mellow sunbeams bright.
    We give our tree, to nourished be,
    By the warm, life-giving light.

    The gentle breezes, tender,
    That rustle the tree-tops high,
    Will whisper to it, how stately
    It may be, in the bye-and-bye.

    And the rain and the dew will moisten
    And freshen the rootlets light.
    And we shall soon see in our spreading tree,
    A rare and beauteous sight.

    And the birds will seek its shelter,
    How glad we then shall be,
    That on Arbor Day in the joyous May,
    We planted a fair young tree.

    Let us then rejoice and sing,
    That in the gladsome spring,
    The springtime of our lives and of the year,
    We have marked again the day
    Which we welcome every May,
    And have planted thus a tender sapling here.

  5. Plant a Tree

    by Lucy Larcom

    He who plants a tree
    Plants a hope.
    Rootlets up through fibres blindly grope;
    Leaves unfold into horizons free.
    So man's life must climb
    From the clods of time
    Unto heavens sublime.
    Canst thou prophesy, thou little tree,
    What the glory of thy boughs shall be?

    He who plants a tree
    Plants a joy;
    Plants a comfort that will never cloy;
    Every day a fresh reality,
    Beautiful and strong,
    To whose shelter throng
    Creatures blithe with song.
    If thou couldst but know, thou happy tree,
    Of the bliss that shall inhabit thee!

    He who plants a tree,—
    He plants peace.
    Under its green curtains jargons cease.
    Leaf and zephyr murmur soothingly;
    Shadows soft with sleep
    Down tired eyelids creep,
    Balm of slumber deep.
    Never hast thou dreamed, thou blessed tree,
    Of the benediction thou shalt be.

    He who plants a tree,—
    He plants youth;
    Vigor won for centuries in sooth;
    Life of time, that hints eternity!
    Boughs their strength uprear;
    New shoots, every year,
    On old growths appear;
    Thou shalt teach the ages, sturdy tree,
    Youth of soul is immortality.

    He who plants a tree,—
    He plants love,
    Tents of coolness spreading out above
    Wayfarers he may not live to see.
    Gifts that grow are best;
    Hands that bless are blest;
    Plant! life does the rest!
    Heaven and earth help him who plants a tree,
    And his work its own reward shall be.

  6. The Heart of the Tree

    by Century

    What does he plant who plants a tree?
    He plants the friend of sun and sky;
    He plants the flag of breezes free,
    The shaft of beauty, towering high;
    He plants a home to heaven anigh;
    For song and mother croon of bird
    In hushed and happy twilight heard—
    The treble of heaven's harmony—
    These things he plants who plants a tree.

    What does he plant who plants a tree?
    He plants cool shade and tender rain.
    And seed and bud of days to be,
    And years that fade and flush again;
    He plants the glory of the plain;
    He plants the forest's heritage—
    The harveat of a coming age;
    The joys that unborn eyes shall see—
    These things he plants who plants a tree.

    What does he plant who plants a tree?
    He plants in sap and leaf and wood,
    In love of home and loyalty
    And far cast thought of civic good—
    His blessing on the neighborhood
    Who in the hollow of his hand
    Holds all the growth of all our land—
    A nation's growth from sea to sea
    Stir in his heart who plants a tree.

  7. Arbor Day Hymn

    by Samuel F. Smith, the author of "My Country Tis of Thee," and to be sung to the same tune.

    Joy for the sturdy trees,
    Fanned by each fragrant breeze,
    Lovely they stand!
    The songbirds o'er them trill;
    They shade each tinkling rill;
    They crown each swelling hill;
    Lowly or grand.

    Plant them by stream and way,
    Plant them where the children play
    And toilers rest.
    In every verdant vale,
    On every sunny swale—
    Whether to grow or fail,
    God knoweth best.

    Select the strong, the fair;
    Plant them with earnest care;
    No toil is vain.
    Plant in a fitter place,
    Where, like a lovely face,
    Let in some sweeter grace,
    Change may prove gain.

    God will his blessing send,
    All things on him depend,
    His loving care
    Clings to his leaf and flower,
    Like ivy to its tower,
    His presence and his power
    Are everywhere.

  8. Arbor Day

    by M.L.P.

    Arbor Day, Arbor Day,
    See, the fields are fresh and green;
    All is bright cheerful sight,
    After Winter's night.
    Birds are flying in the air,
    All we see is fresh and fair;
    Bowers green, now are seen,
    Flowers peep between.

    Swaying trees, swaying trees,
    Rocking gently in the breeze,
    Dressed so gay, fine array,
    For this Arbor Day
    While we plant our tree so dear,
    All the others list to hear,
    How we sing, in the spring,
    And our voices ring.

    Here we stand, here we stand,
    Round the tree, a royal band;
    Music floats, cheering notes,
    Sweetly, gaily floats.
    March along with heads so high,
    While our tree is standing nigh;
    Step away, light and gay,
    On this Arbor Day.

  9. On Planting a Tree at Inveraray

    by James Russell Lowell

    Who does his duty is a question
    Too complex to be solved by me,
    But he, I venture the suggestion,
    Does part of his that plants a tree.

    For after he is dead and buried,
    And epitaphed, and well forgot,
    Nay, even his shade by Charon ferried
    To—let us not inquire to what,

    His deed, its author long outliving,
    By Nature's mother-care increased,
    Shall stand, his verdant almoner, giving
    A kindly dole to man and beast.

    The wayfarer, at noon reposing,
    Shall bless its shadow on the grass,
    Or sheep beneath it huddle, dozing
    Until the thundergust o'erpass.

    The owl, belated in his plundering,
    Shall here await the friendly night,
    Blinking whene'er he wakes, and wondering
    What fool it was invented light.

    Hither the busy birds shall flutter,
    With the light timber for their nests,
    And, pausing from their labor, utter
    The morning sunshine in their breasts.

    What though his memory shall have vanished,
    Since the good deed he did survives?
    It is not wholly to be banished
    Thus to be part of many lives.

    Grow, then, my foster-child, and strengthen,
    Bough over bough, a murmurous pile,
    And, as your stately stem shall lengthen,
    So may the statelier of Argyll!

  10. The Planting of the Apple-Tree

    by William Cullen Bryant.

    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,
    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?
    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,
    The winds go howling through the night,
    Girls, whose 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 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;
    'Tis said he made some quaint old rhymes
    On planting the apple-tree."

    Yea, plant the tree that bears best apples, plant,
    And water it with wine, nor watch askance
    Whether thy sons or strangers eat the fruit:
    Enough that mankind eat and are refreshed.

    – Ralph Waldo Emerson
    The Adirondacs
  11. Apple-Seed John

    by Lydia Maria Child

    Poor Johnny was bended well-nigh double
    With years of toil, and care, and trouble;
    But his large old heart still felt the need
    Of doing for others some kindly deed.

    "But what can I do?" old Johnny said;
    "I who work so hard for daily bread?
    It takes heaps of money to do much good;
    I am far too poor to do as I would."

    The old man sat thinking deeply a while,
    Then over his features gleamed a smile,
    Then he clapped his hands with a boyish glee,
    And said to himself, "There's a way for me!"

    He worked, and he worked with might and main,
    But no one knew the plan in his brain.
    He took ripe apples in pay for chores,
    And carefully cut from them all the cores.

    He filled a bag full, then wandered away,
    And no man saw him for many a day.
    With knapsack over his shoulder slung,
    He marched along, and whistled or sung.

    He seemed to roam with no object in view,
    Like one who had nothing on earth to do.
    But, journeying thus o'er the prairies wide,
    He paused now and then and his bag untied.

    With pointed cane deep holes he would bore,
    And in ev'ry hole he placed a core;
    Then covered them well, and left them there
    In keeping of sunshine, rain and air.

    Sometimes for days he waded through grass,
    And saw not a living creature pass,
    But often, when sinking to sleep in the dark,
    He heard the owls hoot and the prairie dogs bark

    Sometimes an Indian of sturdy limb
    Came striding along and walked with him;
    And he who had food shared with the other,
    As if he had met a hungry brother.

    When the Indian saw how the bag was filled,
    And looked at the holes the white man drilled,
    He thought to himself 'twas a silly plan
    To be planting seed for some future man.

    Sometimes a log cabin came in view,
    Where Johnny was sure to find jobs to do,
    By which he gained stores of bread and meat,
    And welcome rest for his weary feet.

    He had full many a story to tell,
    And goodly hymns that he sung rignt well;
    He tossed up the babes, and joined the boys
    In many a game full of fun and noise.

    And he seemed so hearty, in work or play,
    Men, women, and boys all urged him to stay;
    But he always said, "I have something to do;
    And I must go on to carry it through."

    The boys, who were sure to follow him round,
    Soon found what it was he put in the ground;
    And so, as time passed and he traveled on,
    Ev'ry one called him "Old Apple-seed John."

    Whenever he'd used the whole of his store,
    He went into cities and worked for more;
    Then he marched back to the wilds again,
    And planted seed on hill-side and plain.

    In cities, some said the old man was crazy;
    While others said he was only lazy;
    But he took no notice of gibes and jeers,
    He knew he was working for future years.

    He knew that trees would soon abound
    Where once a tree could not have been found;
    That a flick'ring play of light and shade
    Would dance and glimmer along the glade;

    That blossoming sprays would form fair bowers,
    And sprinkle the grass with rosy showers;
    And the little seeds his hands had spread
    Would become ripe apples when he was dead.

    So he kept on traveling far and wide,
    Till his old limbs failed him, and he died.
    He said at the last, "'Tis a comfort to feel
    I've done good in the world, though not a great deal."

    Weary travelers, journeying west,
    In the shade of his trees find pleasant rest;
    And they often start, with glad surprise,
    At the rosy fruit that round them lies.

    And if they inquire whence came such trees,
    Where not a bough once swayed in the breeze,
    The answer still comes, as they travel on,
    "These trees were planted by Apple-seed John."

    Thank God for noble trees!
    How stately, strong and grand
    These bannered giants lift their
    O'er all this beauteous land.

    – Unknown

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