The Heart of The Tree By Henry Cutler Bunner


Introduction

The Heart of the Tree by Henry Cutler Bunner is a lovely poem that underlines the poet’s love of nature. It is a remark about the benefits of planting a tThe Heart of The Tree”ree. The poem is divided into three stanzas and discusses the various benefits of planting a tree. The poem encourages us to plant more trees.


Stanza Wise Explanation of  “The Heart of The Tree”


All three stanzas of the poem The Heart of the Tree begin with a refrain in which the poet asks what the man who plants a tree actually plants. Then he chooses to respond to it himself, revealing what a tree means to humanity and nature, showing how great that man is who plants a tree.

STANZA-1

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.


Explanation

In the first stanza of the poem The Heart of the Tree, the poet underlined the importance of planting trees in preserving nature’s holistic beauty. When a man plants a tree, he also plants many other things. A tree is a friend of a pleasant environment. It cools the air, lowers the temperature, and even purifies the air by trapping dust, pollen, and smoke. It provides free, gentle breezes. As a result, it is aptly described as a ‘friend of the sun and sky.’ It transforms the environment around it into heaven. The presence of green trees is nothing short of Heaven. Whoever plants a tree provides shelter for the birds, whose sweet crooning in the silent and happy twilights delights us. He ensures peace, comfort, beauty, music, and harmony for himself and others by planting a tree.

The use of words such as ‘heaven anigh,’ ‘heaven’s harmony,’ and ‘towering high’ is intended to convey the impression that the work of planting a tree is indeed a heavenly and glorious deed.

The last line of the first stanza forms a logical whole with the opening line, one asking a question and the other answering it.

STANZA-2

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.

In the second stanza, the poet emphasises the importance of planting a tree in order to make the earth a better place to live for future generations. The poet asks the same question again: ‘What does he plant who plants a tree?’ The answer is simple. By planting a tree, we ensure cool shade in the summer and gentle rains throughout the year, both of which are necessary for our survival. A tree produces seeds that sprout and buds that bloom in the future. A tree is described by the poet as “the forest’s heritage” and “the harvest of a coming age.” It has the potential to serve as a living legacy for the next generation. It will provide numerous benefits in the future. It does, in fact, serve as a link between us and our children.

STANZA-3

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 neighbourhood
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.

In the third stanza, by planting a tree, the man expresses his love and loyalty for this earth (his home), his sense of civic duty, and his blessings on the neighbourhood.  The poet says that he who plants a tree does a civic good. All of this is reflected in the tree’s “sap, leaf, and wood,” in every cell. By planting a tree, a man directly or indirectly contributes to the growth of the nation. When a tree is planted, it starts a nation’s journey from sea to sea. And it all begins with a progressive thought in the heart of the man who plants a tree. One who plants a tree plants a nation. A country’s growth and progress depends on the wealth of trees.

The capitalization in ‘His’ indicates that the man who plants a tree is all-powerful and determines a nation’s destiny.

The last line is crucial because it discusses the man’s heart, his feelings, dreams, and wishes for planting the tree. This also contributes to the poem’s title, “The Heart of the Tree.” As a result, the poet Henry Cuyler Bunner creates an unusual piece of poetry in ‘The Heart of the Tree’ out of a common and cliché topic – the utility of planting a tree.

Summary of  The Heart of the Tree


Henry Cuyler Bunner’s poem The Heart of the Tree is a lovely piece of poetry with a simple theme and structure. The poet in this poem glorifies the act of planting a tree. The poem shows how a tree helps life on Earth and says that it has a direct link to a nation’s growth.

The poem has three stanzas. All the three stanzas start with a refrain with the poet asking what the man actually plants who plants a tree. Then he chooses to answer to it by himself and shows what a tree means to the humankind and to the nature, thus explaining how great that man is.
 
The poem begins with with a question “What does he plant who plants a tree ?”. The line establishes the tone for the rest of the poem. We immediately recognise that the poet is about to explain why planting a tree is beneficial. The poet, on the other hand, responds by saying that by planting a tree, the man makes a friend of the sun and sky. A plant grows upward with the goal of reaching the sun and the sky. As a result, it appears that the sun and the sky have made a new friend in the tree. Second, the tree requires sunlight and air to survive, and finally, the trees appear to absorb heat and protect the earth from the scorching sun, implying that the sun becomes friendly when the trees are present. The speaker continues by stating that the man plants a flag that flies freely in the gentle breeze. The poet compares the tree’s leafy branches to a flag, and the stem to the tall flag’s beautiful shaft (pole). The man creates a home for the sweet singing birds high in the sky, close to heaven, by planting a tree. Those birds chirping, which is harmonious to heaven’s own tunes, can be heard in the quiet and happy twilight.
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To begin a new stanza, the poet repeats the question and tries to answer it again in the following lines. He plants a tree that provides us with cool shade and aids in the rainy season. In the future, a tree will produce seed and buds. Years will pass in silence, but the tree will continue to exist because its seeds will produce new trees. Trees are the primary components that contribute to the greening and beautification of plains. As a result, the poet describes trees as the plain’s glory. Furthermore, a single tree today may one day become a forest. As a result, the man is now planting a forest’s heritage by planting a tree. Planting a tree today, according to the speaker, will bear fruit in the coming days. Our next generation would be delighted to reap its benefits. So all credit goes to the man who plants a tree.

By planting a tree, a man expresses his love and loyalty for the earth (his home), his sense of civic responsibility, and his blessing on the community. All of this is reflected in the tree’s sap, leaf, wood, and every cell. By planting a tree, a man contributes to the nation’s growth, either directly or indirectly. When a tree is planted, it initiates a nation’s journey from sea to sea. All of this stems from a man’s progressive thought when he plants a tree. It discusses the man’s heart, feelings, dreams, and wishes in relation to planting a tree.

Questions and Answers


1. 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;(i) Who is the poet asking the question in the first line of the extract? List any two things, according to the extract, that man will do by planting trees.
Ans.The poet does not put this question to anybody in particular. It is a rhetorical question to draw the reader’s attention to the importance of planting trees. He himself answers the question. According to the extract the man who plants a tree plants ‘a friend of sun and sky, and home for birds and animals near heaven. ‘

(ii) Give the meaning of the following lines:
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;
Ans. A tree is a friend of the sun and the sky.  The sun and the sky help a tree to grow up and spread its branches. The tree in turn keeps the air clean. A tree flutters like a flag in the breeze and makes the breeze cool and fresh. The tree is beautiful, tall like a tower. A tree is a home for birds and animals. They make their nests high up in the sky. 
 
iii) In what way are the trees friends of sun and sky? How can a man plant the flag of breezes free?
Ans.Trees need the light of the sun to make their food by the process of photosynthesis. It needs the sky (space) to spread its branches. Trees clean and purify the air, and cool the breezes. In this way trees, sun and sky help each other like friends.

iv) What is meant by “the shaft of beauty”? What is compared to the shaft?
Ans. A tree grows. Its trunk looks like the shaft of a flag. The tree is beautiful and compared to the shaft of beauty. 

v) What is the impact of the beginning the poem with a question? What is the figure of speech used here?
Ans. Beginning the poem with a question draws the reader’s attention to an important topic: ‘Why we should plant trees!’ The figure of speech used here is ‘rhetorical question’. 

 
2. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:
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.i) What is known as mother-croon of bird? Why the song is sung in a hushed voice?
Ans. The soft sweet song mother bird sings to her chicks in evening is described as mother-croon of birds. The song is sung in the quiet, and happy twilight when the mother birds returns to her little ones for the night. It is a sort of lullaby.
 
ii) What is twilight? Why is it a happy twilight?
Ans. Twilight is the faint light at the end of the day when the sun goes down. It is a happy twilight because mother bird has returned to her nest and she is with her chicks. It is like a happy home. 
iii) What is meant by a) treble b) Heaven’s harmony? What role does the treble play in heaven’s harmony?
Treble is high tone in music, in the evening there is peace and harmony in nature. The treble note of the mother bird is like pleasant music to the quiet atmosphere. 

iv) In this lesson, under the heading. Style, the meaning of metonymy is given. Give two examples of metonymy from the extract. How is it used in the context?
Ans. Metonymy is a figure of speech in which a thing or concept is called not by its own name but rather by another name associated with that thing or concept. In this poem, a tree is called by various names associated with it. For example, a tree is called ‘the flag of breezes free’ and ‘a shaft of beauty towering high’. 

v) Give four functions which a tree performs on this earth.
Ans. A tree provides cool shade. A tree takes up carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. A tree causes rain to fall. A tree provides shelter to birds and beasts. 


3. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:
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—
i) Enumerate any three benefits of planting trees as suggested by the poet in this extract. What do the plants do to provide cool shade in a place?
Ans. Plants provide cool shade and gentle rain. They provide seeds and buds which grow into trees. Over a period of time trees multiply and turn into a forest. Plants obstruct the rays of the sun and provide cool shade. 

ii) The water evaporates, condenses and falls as rain. What role do the trees play in this process of producing rain?
Ans. Water evaporates. To condense and fall as rain it needs to be cooled down. Trees are cool and help the vapours to condense and fall as rain.
 
(iii) How do the last two lines of the extract explain the process of regeneration? How does the man plant the forest’s heritage?
Ans. Trees produce seeds and buds. These seeds dry up but they do not die. They lie in the soil. When they get proper conditions to grow, they sprout and grow up into trees again. They become forests and provide benefits to the coming generations. 

(iv) How do the trees provide for the harvest of the following tears?
Ans. Trees are a source of hundreds of useful things. They provide us with fruit and medicines. They provide us material for building homes and huts. They provide us material for clothing. In fact, our survival depends on them. The benefits that come from the trees we plant now is the harvest of the following years. 

(v) What do the expression, unborn eyes indicate? What will see they see? Why will they rejoice?
Ans. The expression ‘unborn eyes’ is used for the children yet to be born. If we plant trees now, those children will be happy to see the beautiful trees. They will rejoice because trees are not only beautiful to look at, but also provide us shade, rain, fruit, flowers, medicines and hundreds of other things and clean the atmosphere.

4. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow:
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 neighbourhood,
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.
(i) The poet says: “He plants, in sap and wood”. Which figure of speech is used here? Explain its usage with two other examples from the poem.
Ans. Metonymy is the figure of speech used here ‘sap’, ‘leaf’ and ‘wood’ here stand for a tree. The other example of metonymy is ‘the forest’s heritage’ ‘a flag of breezes free’. 

(ii) What is meant by ‘far-cast thought of civic good”? In what way is the planter’s work a blessing? State for whom it is a blessing.
Ans. A ‘far-cast thought’ means foresight. A person who plants a tree can foresee how the tree he plants will do good to society. It is a blessing to the neighbourhood because it will provide cool shade, fruit, flowers etc. to them. Moreover, a tree is beautiful to look at. It will be a pleasing sight. 

(iii) Give the meaning of the following lines:
Who in the hollow of His hand
Holds all the growth of all our land—
Ans. A person who plants a tree holds a little sapling or a seed in the palm of his hand. But this seed is the seed of prosperity of his nation. A seed or a sapling grows into a big tree and trees multiply into forests which are so beneficial for a nation’s growth and development. 

(iv) In what way a nation’s growth depends on planting trees?
Ans. Trees are essential for the maintenance of ecological balance. They not only give shelter to birds and beasts but also produce oxygen which is essential for life on earth. Trees cause rain to fall and provide us food and material for shelter and clothing. Without trees the world will turn into a desert and life will become impossible. Trees provide so many useful things that the growth of a nation depends on them. 

(v) Comment on the appropriateness of the title of the poem The Heart of the Tree.
Ans. When you speak of one’s heart, you refer to one’s generosity and kindness. In this sense, The Heart of The Tree’ is an apt title. A tree is generous and kind to all without discrimination. It lives and dies for the good of others. It provides shade and shelter. It provides fruit and food. It provides material for building homes, ships and other useful things. Every part of a tree is beneficial What a heart a tree has!
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Extra Questions


1. Give the meaning of the following;-Who in the hollow of his hand, 
Holds all the growth of all our land.Ans. The man’s hand holds the future progress of mankind. Our land will become barren without trees. The growth of the universe is possible only by planting trees. 

2. What is twilight? Why is it a happy twilight?
Ans. Twilight is the faint light at the end of the day after the sun has gone down. It is a happy twilight because the mother-croon sings to her young ones happily, with a soft and gentle voice. The bird’s high-pitched tone adds to the pleasant harmony of nature.

3. In what ways is the poem relevant in our times?
Ans. The poem is relevant in our times as forests are being cut indiscriminately for building houses, roads and bridges. Air temperature is increasing and there is a great danger to the environment due to deforestation and its adverse ecological effects.

Word Meaning


1. anighnear, close
2. Hushed– quiet, serious
3. Treble– consisting of three parts; threefold
4. Harvest-reward
5. Unborn eyes– unborn children
6. Stirs– moves, arouses a feeling
7. Days to be– days to come, future
8. Heritage- an inheritance
9. From sea to sea- all the world
10. Towering- extremely tall


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