Cherry Trees near Kyoto, Japan

Today is Arbor Day, celebrated in the US and now all over the world, is usually placed on the last Friday in April (though the date depends on the region and best tree planting season). The holiday was first promoted, via the best newspaper of the day, by settler J. Sterling Morton and his wife after their move to the Nebraska Territory in 1854. According to the official Arbor Day Foundation History page,

“Morton not only advocated tree planting by individuals but also encouraged civilian groups and organizations to join in. His promotion of trees was further expanded when he became the secretary of the Nebraska Territory. On January 4, 1872, Morton first proposed a tree-planting holiday to be called ‘Arbor Day’ to the State Board of Agriculture. The holiday was scheduled for April 10th of that year, and it is estimated that more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day.”

The first official Nebraska state Arbor Day was April 10, 1874 though it wasn’t legalized in the state until 1884. Finally the date of Morton’s birthday was selected as the official US holiday, April 22. The Arbor Day Foundation puts out a guidebook on how to celebrate the holiday and there are suggestions on the webpage as well. I especially liked this Nature Explore project I found off the Foundation’s website, which helps kids connect with nature, a collaboration with the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, which helps fund outdoor classroom activities and provides information for families that want to start up nature programs on their own. The Foundation’s website also features a visual tree identification guide for the US.  Plus if you live in the US and join the Foundation, they send you 10 free trees to plant at your house or donate 10 trees to a National Forest that needs them.

Tree at Sunset

So naturally today’s poetry is about trees. I picked the first one because I liked the imagery and I have a soft spot for Frost. I had to memorize his poem The Road Not Taken in high school and is one of the few poems I can still remember by heart and remains one of my favorite poems ever. For the A.E. Housman poem, I liked the poem and I discovered the poet after posting his To An Athelete Dying Young for my Sports Poetry post a few days ago. The other two poems I’d not heard of but enjoyed the imagery of the poems. I would like to dedicate today’s post to my best friend Huma, as she loves trees and her birthday was this week.

Birches

by Robert Frost
When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay 
As ice-storms do.  Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain.  They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust--
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer.  He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground.  He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return.  Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Loveliest   of Trees

by A. E. Housman
Loveliests of trees, the cherry now   
Is hung with bloom along the bough,   
And stands about the woodland ride   
Wearing white for Eastertide.   

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,   
And take from seventy springs a score,   
It only leaves me fifty more.   

And since to look at things in bloom   
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go   
To see the cherry hung with snow.

Song of   the Trees

by Mary   Colborne-Veel
1

We are the Trees.  
  Our dark and leafy glade  
Bands the bright earth with softer mysteries.  
Beneath us changed and tamed the seasons run:  
In burning zones, we build against the sun         
  Long centuries of shade.  

2

We are the Trees,  
  Who grow for man’s desire,  
Heat in our faithful hearts, and fruits that please.  
Dwelling beneath our tents, he lightly gains         
The few sufficiencies his life attains—  
  Shelter, and food, and fire.  

3

We are the Trees  
  That by great waters stand,  
By rills that murmur to our murmuring bees.         
And where, in tracts all desolate and waste,  
The palm-foot stays, man follows on, to taste  
  Springs in the desert sand.  

4

We are the Trees  
  Who travel where he goes         
Over the vast, inhuman, wandering seas.  
His tutors we, in that adventure brave—  
He launched with us upon the untried wave,  
  And now its mastery knows.  

5

We are the Trees          
  Who bear him company  
In life and death. His happy sylvan ease  
He wins through us; through us, his cities spread  
That like a forest guard his unfenced head  
  ’Gainst storm and bitter sky.          

6

We are the Trees.  
  On us the dying rest  
Their strange, sad eyes, in farewell messages.  
And we, his comrades still, since earth began,  
Wave mournful boughs above the grave of man,          
  And coffin his cold breast.

Trees   Need Not Walk the Earth

by   David Rosenthal
Trees need not walk the earth  
For beauty or for bread;  
Beauty will come to them  
Where they stand.  
Here among the children of the sap
Is no pride of ancestry:  
A birch may wear no less the morning  
Than an oak.  
Here are no heirlooms  
Save those of loveliness, 
In which each tree  
Is kingly in its heritage of grace.  
Here is but beauty’s wisdom  
In which all trees are wise.  
Trees need not walk the earth 
For beauty or for bread;  
Beauty will come to them  
In the rainbow—  
The sunlight—  
And the lilac-haunted rain;
And bread will come to them  
As beauty came:  
In the rainbow—  
In the sunlight—  
In the rain.
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