The Planting of the Apple-Tree

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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.

© William Cullen Bryant