The Heart of the Tree by Henry Cuyler Bunner

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.

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.

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.

Summary

The poem ‘The Heart of the Tree’ is poem about the beauty of planting a tree or the satisfaction derived from this practice. In this poem, the poet beautifully describes the actual essence of what a person plants when he plants a tree. The poet aptly says that when somebody plants a tree, he plants not only what we call a tree, but something that serves as a friend of sun, sky, and breeze. Here, the poet wants to say that the sky’s brightness, sun’s warmth and the touch of breeze make them a friend of a plant. He further observes that the stems are like beauty shafts which keep growing.

The dense branches of the plant act as a true shelter or home to different types of birds, with their colourful presence as messengers of Nature’s beauty, diversity and bounteousness. They tweet, chirp and croon in their fascinating voices thus making the surroundings pleasant. In a way, as the poet feels, the person who plants a tree also plants a future. This is because the tree will bring rain and coolness to the environment, and will thus become an identity of the habitat. This will play a major role in producing food for future generation.

Furthermore, the person who plants trees also acts as a good citizen of his country because, by planting a tree, he brings joy and blessings to the neighbourhood. As a result of all he does, the land becomes fertile, and thus a boon to the humankind.

Analysis

The poem ‘The Heart of the Tree’ comprises three stanzas of 9 lines each. The rhyming pattern for the three stanzas is slightly uneven, and it can be indicated as ababbccaa.

The poem begins with a refrain ‘What does he plant who plants a tree?’ that is repeated at the beginning of each stanza highlighting the thought that how beneficial it is to plant a tree.

In the first stanza the poet explains that one who plants a tree plants a friend of sun and sky, flag of free breezes and home to countless birds whose song we hear in the twilight that denotes heaven’s harmony. In the second stanza the poet emphasizes that he plants shade and rain, seeds and buds of tomorrow which would raise the glory of earth in plains and strengthen the forests to benefit generations ahead. In the third stanza he concludes one who plants a tree germinates the far-cast thought that would bring blessings resulting in growth of the nation.

The poem discusses the usefulness of a tree elaborating on how a tree that is planted benefits not only the nature, a nation, but also contributes to the growth of humankind. One who plants a tree aspires for his nation’s growth. Trees stand straight and steady, giving an impression as if they are touching the sun and the sky. They sway with the breeze and beautify the surrounding. They are home to chirruping birds which sing sweetly and display heaven’s harmony on this earth.

Trees give us shade and bring rain. They pave a way for many more seeds to grow and buds to bloom in future. Trees contribute to forest wealth of our nation and they ensure plenty harvest in the days to come. The one who plants a tree has a noble thought of a common good that would be a boon for man in general and the nation in particular. He has a dream of the growth of all his land when he plants a tree.

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