The Planting of the Apple Tree

Arbor Day is a designated day upon which the people and especially the school children plant trees and shrubs along the highways and other suitable places…

An Excerpt from Our American Holidays:Their Meaning and Spirit, as retold within the pages of St. Nicholas Magazine.

This is a fabulous poem to read aloud if you are planting apple trees with children on Arbor Day. Nice bit of history, too. Enjoy!


Arbor Day is a designated day upon which the people and especially the school children plant trees and shrubs along the highways and other suitable places. It was first observed in Nebraska. The State board of agriculture offered prizes for the counties and persons planting the largest number of trees, and it is said that more than a million trees were planted the first year, while within sixteen years over 350,000,000 trees and vines were planted in the State.

This custom, so beautiful and useful, spread rapidly, and now is recognized by the statutes of many of the States.

The exact date naturally varies with the climate.


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 mold 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 hunt 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 glittering 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;
‘Tis said he made some quaint old rhymes
On planting the apple-tree.”

“Arbor Day” is an Excerpt from Our American Holidays: Their Meaning and Spirit, as retold within the pages of St. Nicholas Magazine. Learn more at

Our American Holidays: Their Meaning and Spirit was originally published in 1906, and is at once a heartwarming reminiscence on the Victorian Era in America and a reminder of the inspiration and delight our most beloved Traditional holidays – Christmas, Thanksgiving Day, Easter, Halloween – as well as the national identity and pride our uniquely American holidays – Independence Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington – can still hold for us today. Compiled from the pages of St. Nicholas Magazine, a popular turn of the Century publication for youth ages five to eighteen, Our American Holidays: Their Meaning and Spirit is an ideal resource for reclaiming the original, uncommercialized significance and character of every American holiday for ourselves, and for sharing that vision, inspiration and delight with the children we love.


Leave a comment

Filed under 19th Century, 6283643, america, american culture, american history, american holidays, american tradition, apples, arbor day, books, conservation, earth, earth day, environment, environmentalism, family, fruit, fun, gardening, green living, holidays, home schooling, homeschooling, kids, kids activities, nature, nature poetry, nature writing, old books, outdoor fun, outdoors, parenting, planting, poems, poetry, pring, slow living, spring, springtime, trees, Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s