The Heart of the Tree – Important Questions

The Heart of the Tree is a poem by Henry Cuyler Bunner, brought out in 1893. The poem is not so much about trees or forests as about the art or skill of plantation, involving the amazing work of human hands that make life better, richer and healthier for us without asking for much in lieu.

Important Question and Answers

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

What does he plant who plants a tree?
He plants a 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.

1. What does the poet mean by the personal pronoun ‘he’?

Ans. In poet’s own words, the personal pronoun ‘he’ has been used here for the person who plants a tree. This pronoun does not actually mean any particular person, but anyone who plants a tree. This word therefore suggests anyone who adopts this as a practice.

2. What does the poet suggest when he says that a person who plants a tree, plants ‘a friend of sun and sky’ and ‘the flag of breezes free’?

Ans. The poet uses these phrases for a tree planted by someone. Here, the poet wants to say that a tree is usually high enough to appear to be talking to the sky in all its brightness. The tree also directly receives the warmth and heat of the sunrays falling on it. Similarly, when the breezes or winds blow, we can notice their impact on the tree in the movement of its leaves and branches. This indirectly suggests the feelings of excitement and joy which we experience ourselves when we meet our friends after long time. Thus, the poet tries to establish an indirect connection between a tree planted by someone and some of the most significant components of Nature.

3. What is the phrase ‘The shaft of beauty, towering high’ used for?

Ans. In the stanza given here, this phrase denotes the stem of a tree that is beautiful and goes up vertically showing its height. The stem becomes longer and denser as a tree grows up and matures. Moreover, it’s on the stem that twigs and branches grow with a lot of leaves, fruits and flowers. Thus, as the poet aptly observes, the stem not only accounts for the beauty of a tree, but also its height that makes it a veritable representative of vast and bounteous nature.

4. Based on the poet’s description here, what type of tree is the poet referring to? Do you see such trees in your surroundings?

Ans. The description of the tree given by the poet indicates that it must be a very tall and dense tree with many branches. Such trees are usually very old. In our surroundings, we see quite a few such trees, but they are becoming rarer now. A number of trees have been cut down or felled to accommodate concrete structures due to which we are deprived of their benefits.

5. What does the phrase ‘The treble of heaven’s harmony’ signify here?

Ans. In this stanza, the poet speaks of three major advantages of planting a tree, which connect it to nature in a unique way. Firstly, it acts as a friend of sun and sky, due to its height and exposure to sunrays falling on it. Secondly, it acts as though it were a flag of the winds touching and stirring it occasionally. Thirdly, it offers shelter to birds that sing and croon in its lap with their families reflecting a sense of security and joy. Due to this, the tree appears to be a perfect messenger of ‘heaven’ as it is instrumental in bringing harmony on earth. The phrase ‘The treble of heaven’s harmony’ precisely suggests the great significance of all that the tree does for the humankind.

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

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 harvest of a coming age;
The joy that unborn eyes shall see–
These things he plants who plants a tree.

1. Why does the poet equate the planting of a tree with the planting of ‘cool shade and tender rain’?

Ans. As this stanza suggests, the tree that the poet refers to must be a huge tree with several branches laden full of twigs and leaves. A tree like this offers a shade to the comfort of wayfarers and passers-by. Moreover, when the raindrops fall on it, they lose their intensity and swiftness before touching the ground. Though these advantages may not be evident when someone plants a tree, they are revealed when the latter grows in size, volume and spread with the passage of time. That is why the poet feels that the planting of a tree is the same as planting ‘cool shade and tender rain’.

2. What does the phrase ‘seed and bud of days to be’ suggest here?

Ans. The poet here speaks with the foresight of a visionary, capable of seeing the bright side of future due to the benefits that the planting of a tree may offer to the generations to follow. As the tree grows in size, and starts bearing flowers and fruits, its seeds and buds will become visible in future.

3. Which phrases used in this stanza reflect that the poet has a futuristic perception of the tree that he is talking about?

Ans. These phrases are ‘seed and bud of days to be’, ‘forest’s heritage’, ‘the harvest of a coming age’ and ‘the joy that unborn eyes shall see’. Use of words like ‘seed’ and ‘bud’ in the first phrase clearly indicate that the poet sees in a tree the possibility of having many such trees in future, which will grow from them. As the number of trees will grow, they will give birth to a forest and will be thus seen as a heritage by the forthcoming generations. The third phrase suggests that future men and women will reap the benefits of the natural resources growing out of the tree.

4. Do you think that the poet’s perception of the benefits of planting a tree is realistic? Why?

Ans. The poet’s perception is realistic to a large extent. No doubt, if a tree is planted in favourable climatic conditions and is looked after with a positive intent, it can be advantageous on all counts, for generations of people. However, in an age when a large quantum of natural resources is spoilt for material comfort and pleasure, and people are not keen to devote time to rearing trees, the poet’s perception sounds very idealistic.

5. How do trees account for the forest wealth of a nation?

Ans. Trees account for the forest wealth of a nation by ensuring plenty harvest in the days to come. This is reinforced by the poet’s use of the phrase ‘the forest’s heritage’ for a tree. The poet wants to say that trees, besides keeping our environment healthy and clean, also yield a number of products such as fruits, flowers and other things that are good for health and are also beneficial from economic point of view.

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:

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 blessings 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
Stirs in his heart who plants a tree
.

1. How does a person, who plants a tree, serve his nation?

Ans. By planting a tree, a person contributes to the growth of his society. His contribution may not be as direct as that of a physician who treats his ailing compatriots, or a teacher who directs his pupils towards the task of nation building, but it’s still no less important. The practice of planting a tree keeps the social ambiance in good and healthy shape, and affects its future positively. That is how the person, who plants a tree, contributes his mite to the task of nation building.

2. Which fundamental values have been highlighted in this stanza? How is the practice of planting a tree responsible for promoting them?

Ans. As the poet says, the person who plants a tree loves the humankind. This is because he is aware of the fact that the tree, he is planting is beneficial for everyone. Thus, it also suggests that he is a person who really cares for the growth of his kinsfolk and social surroundings. Due to his love for this practice, he also spreads the message of social peace, harmony and brotherhood. Furthermore, the practice also suggests his concern for his nation’s growth, highlighting his patriotic character and spirit.

3. Briefly explain the concluding lines of this stanza. What does the poet want to say here?

Ans. The concluding lines of the stanza highlights the significance of planting a tree as a great service to the nation. The poet feels that the man who plants a tree is, like a true patriot, who is genuinely concerned about the growth of his nation. As he is quite familiar with the advantages offered by a tree, he is able to link them with his nation’s growth which is his prime concern. This implies that it’s his love for his nation that actually propels and motivates him to adopt this practice.

4. How can this poem help in making a person as a good citizen?

Ans. A person who plants trees becomes good citizen of his country because, by planting a tree, he brings joy and blessings to the neighbourhood. It suggests that the practice of planting trees reflects the humanistic idea of common good that would be a boon for man in general and the nation in particular.

5. Describe the alliteration been used by the poet in the last five lines of this stanza with example.

Ans. In the last five lines of this stanza, the poet has used the literary device or figure of speech- alliteration. Alliteration signifies the occurrence of several words in a row having the same first consonant sound or similar sounding letter. Such words either come successively or one after the other, or they may be close together in a line or sentence. In the 6th and 7thlines, we have words like ‘hollow’, ‘His’, ‘hand’ and ‘hold’ all of which start with ‘h’. Similarly, in the last two lines, we see the phrase ‘sea to sea’ followed by ‘stir’ with the same consonant sound ‘s’ in the beginning.

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