The Planting of the Apple-Tree

William Cullen Bryant - 1794-1878
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,   
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."

More by William Cullen Bryant

To a Waterfowl

   Whither, 'midst falling dew,
While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue
   Thy solitary way?

   Vainly the fowler's eye
Might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong,
As, darkly painted on the crimson sky,
   Thy figure floats along.

   Seek'st thou the plashy brink
Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide,
Or where the rocking billows rise and sink
   On the chafed ocean side?

   There is a Power whose care
Teaches thy way along that pathless coast,--
The desert and illimitable air,--
   Lone wandering, but not lost.

   All day thy wings have fanned,
At that far height, the cold, thin atmosphere,
Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land,
   Though the dark night is near.

   And soon that toil shall end;
Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest,
And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend,
   Soon, o'er thy sheltered nest.

   Thou'rt gone, the abyss of heaven
Hath swallowed up thy form; yet, on my heart
Deeply hath sunk the lesson thou hast given,
   And shall not soon depart.

   He who, from zone to zone,
Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must tread alone,
   Will lead my steps aright.

A Song for New Year's Eve

Stay yet, my friends, a moment stay— 
     Stay till the good old year, 
So long companion of our way, 
     Shakes hands, and leaves us here. 
          Oh stay, oh stay, 
One little hour, and then away.

The year, whose hopes were high and strong, 
     Has now no hopes to wake; 
Yet one hour more of jest and song 
     For his familiar sake. 
          Oh stay, oh stay, 
One mirthful hour, and then away.  

The kindly year, his liberal hands 
     Have lavished all his store. 
And shall we turn from where he stands, 
     Because he gives no more? 
          Oh stay, oh stay, 
One grateful hour, and then away.  

Days brightly came and calmly went, 
     While yet he was our guest; 
How cheerfully the week was spent! 
     How sweet the seventh day's rest! 
          Oh stay, oh stay, 
One golden hour, and then away.  

Dear friends were with us, some who sleep 
     Beneath the coffin-lid: 
What pleasant memories we keep 
     Of all they said and did! 
          Oh stay, oh stay, 
One tender hour, and then away.  

Even while we sing, he smiles his last, 
     And leaves our sphere behind. 
The good old year is with the past; 
     Oh be the new as kind! 
          Oh stay, oh stay, 
One parting strain, and then away.

The Gladness of Nature

Is this a time to be cloudy and sad,
When our mother Nature laughs around;
When even the deep blue heavens look glad,
And gladness breathes from the blossoming ground?

There are notes of joy from the hang-bird and wren,
And the gossip of swallows through all the sky;
The ground-squirrel gaily chirps by his den,
And the wilding bee hums merrily by.

The clouds are at play in the azure space
And their shadows at play on the bright-green vale,
And here they stretch to the frolic chase,
And there they roll on the easy gale.

There's a dance of leaves in that aspen bower,
There's a titter of winds in that beechen tree,
There's a smile on the fruit, and a smile on the flower,
And a laugh from the brook that runs to the sea.

And look at the broad-faced sun, how he smiles
On the dewy earth that smiles in his ray,
On the leaping waters and gay young isles;
Ay, look, and he'll smile thy gloom away.