Lucy Larcom

Plant a Tree by Lucy Larcom

‘Plant a Tree’ by Lucy Larcom is a nature and religion-themed poem that speaks about the benefits of planting trees. 

The poem is quite simple, using language that most readers can understand. This is furthered by the fact that the poet used the same structure in all five stanzas. Each begins with “He who plants a tree” and is followed by a line like: “Plants a hope.” Other variations include “joy,” “youth,” and “peace.” 

Plant a Tree
Lucy Larcom

He who plants a treePlants a hope.Rootlets up through fibres blindly grope;Leaves unfold into horizons free.So man's life must climbFrom the clods of timeUnto heavens sublime.Canst thou prophesy, thou little tree,What the glory of thy boughs shall be?

He who plants a treePlants a joy;Plants a comfort that will never cloy;Every day a fresh reality,Beautiful and strong,To whose shelter throngCreatures blithe wih song.If thou couldst but know, thou happy tree,Of the bliss that shall inhabit thee!

He who plants a tree,--He plants peace.Under its green curtains jargons cease.Leaf and zephyr murmur soothingly;Shadows soft with sleepDown tired eyelids creep,Balm of slumber deep.Never has thou dreamed, thou blessèd tree,Of the benediction thou shalt be.

He who plants a tree,--He plants youth;Vigor won for centuries in sooth;Life of time, that hints eternity!Boughs their strength uprear:New shoots, every year,On old growths appear;Thou shalt teach the ages, sturdy tree,Youth of soul is immortality.

He who plants a tree,--He plants love,Tents of coolness spreading out aboveWayfarers he may not live to see.Gifts that grow are best;Hands that bless are blest;Plant! life does the rest!Heaven and earth help him who plants a tree,And his work its own reward shall be.
Plant a Tree by Lucy Larcom


Summary

‘Plant a Tree’ by Lucy Larcom is a heartfelt and inspirational poem about the benefits of planting trees. 

The poem is divided into five even stanzas, each of which promotes another reason why it’s a good idea to plant a tree. The poet uses literary devices like metaphors and personification in order to describe how a tree might bring with it “joy,” “peace,” “youth,” and much more. The poem concludes by suggesting that God helps those who plant trees. 

Structure and Form 

‘Plant a Tree’ by Lucy Larcom is a five-stanza poem that is divided into stanzas of nine lines. These follow a rhyme scheme of ABBACCCAA. This unique rhyme scheme persists, with only a few alternations, throughout the entire poem. The poet uses easy-to-read language that makes the poem accessible to readers of all ages. This makes a great deal of sense, considering the poem’s subject matter and what the poet was trying to promote. 

Literary Devices 

Throughout this poem, the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to: 

  • Metaphor: the poet uses a very clear metaphor in the first lines, relating trees to “hope” without using “like” or “as.” 
  • Personification: the use of human-specific traits to define something that’s not human. For example, “Rootlets up through fibres blindly grope.” 
  • Apostrophe: an address to someone or something that cannot respond or can’t hear. For example, the poet’s speaker addresses the “little tree” and asks it a rhetorical question: “What the glory of thy boughs shall be?” 


Detailed Analysis 

Stanza One 

He who plants a tree

Plants a hope.

Rootlets up through fibres blindly grope;

Leaves unfold into horizons free.

So man’s life must climb

From the clods of time

Unto heavens sublime.

Canst thou prophesy, thou little tree,

What the glory of thy boughs shall be?

In the first lines of this poem, the speaker begins by making a direct, declarative statement. They say that “He who plants a tree / Plants a hope.” This is very easy to understand and helps set up the rest of the poem. By creating new life, one is also creating possibilities, the speaker is implying. 

The speaker continues on, relating the growth of a tree (and the possibilities its life offers) to the climb human beings make as they leave the earth and move up into the “heavens sublime.” While speaking to the tree, the speaker considers its potential and the glory that its “boughs shall be.” This connects directly to the poet’s comparison of a tree growing to a human being attaining their spiritual potential and going to heaven.  

Stanza Two 

He who plants a tree

Plants a joy;

Plants a comfort that will never cloy;

Every day a fresh reality,

Beautiful and strong,

To whose shelter throng

Creatures blithe with song.

If thou couldst but know, thou happy tree,

Of the bliss that shall inhabit thee!

In the next few lines, the speaker starts again with a metaphor, saying that if you plant a tree, you’re also planting “joy.” You are fostering “a fresh reality” that is “Beautiful and strong.” It will shelter those who come after you, including creatures. 

The speaker knows that the tree doesn’t understand the happiness that it can bring, but they end this stanza by saying that they wish the tree did understand. 

Stanza Three 

He who plants a tree,–

He plants peace.

Under its green curtains jargons cease.

Leaf and zephyr murmur soothingly;

Shadows soft with sleep

Down tired eyelids creep,

Balm of slumber deep.

Never has thou dreamed, thou blessèd tree,

Of the benediction thou shalt be.

The third stanza begins in the same way as the first and second. The speaker says, this time, that peace will come along with a planted tree. The sounds related to nature, like the murmurs and rustling, are all indicators of a peaceful environment. The speaker also again connects the tree to a place of safety where creatures can slumber. 

The poem ends in the same way, with the speaker wishing that the tree understood just the kind of peace that it can make others feel. The poet continues using personification throughout these lines, making the forest feel alive and sleepy. 

Stanza Four 

He who plants a tree,–

He plants youth;

Vigor won for centuries in sooth;

Life of time, that hints eternity!

Boughs their strength uprear:

New shoots, every year,

On old growths appear;

Thou shalt teach the ages, sturdy tree,

Youth of soul is immortality.

In the fourth stanza of this lovely poem, the speaker compares planting a tree to planting “youth.” This is described in more detail in the following lines as the speaker elaborates on how a “tree” connects to “youth.” The youth is seen through the “New shoots” that appear “every year.” 

Stanza Five 

He who plants a tree,–

He plants love,

Tents of coolness spreading out above

Wayfarers he may not live to see.

Gifts that grow are best;

Hands that bless are blest;

Plant! life does the rest!

Heaven and earth help him who plants a tree,

And his work its own reward shall be.

In the fifth stanza of this lovely poem, the speaker compares planting a tree to planting “love.” This is the final comparison Larcom wanted to imbue this text with. The following lines work in the same way that the previous stanzas did, elaborating on what “love” in the form of a tree would look/feel/sound like. 

The final lines encourage those reading to “Plant!” And just wait and see as a tree brings its own rewards (including “peace,” “love,” and joy,” as noted above). The speaker also suggests in these last lines that fostering life in this way is one of the ways that human beings can endear themselves to God. 

FAQs 

What is the theme of ‘Plant a Tree?’

The main themes of ‘Plant a Tree’ are nature and religion. The poet spends much more time alluding to the importance of nature than she does to God, but religion is a distinct part of this poem as well. 

Why did Larcom write ‘Plant a Tree?’

Larcom likely wrote this poem because she wanted to convey a message of nature’s importance and the many multifaceted ways that trees benefit those who plant them and those who come after them. 

What is the message of ‘Plant a Tree?’

The message is that despite the incredibly busy world one lives in, it’s important to take the time to appreciate nature. Planting a tree is one of the best ways one can do this. 

What is ‘Plant a Tree’ about? 

‘Plant a Tree’ is about the many different ways that a tree benefits its environment. It can bring peace and joy while also promoting new life or youth and bringing one closer to God. 


Similar Poetry 

Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some related poems. For example: 

  • Treesby Joyce Kilmer – contains a speaker’s impassioned declaration that no art can outdo one of God’s creations, especially not a tree.
  • Tree at My Windowby Robert Frost – focuses on one specific tree outside a speaker’s window that meant a lot to him.
  • Treesby Owen Sheers –  depicts the speaker’s father planting a tree for each of his children as they are born.

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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
About
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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