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THE HEART OF THE TREE By HENRY CUYLER BUNNER

Stanza 1

In the very beginning of the poem The Heart of The Tree, the poet poses a question to
the readers asking why we plant trees and then goes on to answer his own question. He
says that when we plant a tree, we plant a friend of the sun and the sky. Trees provide
a cool breeze and absorb the sun’s heat. Trees grow tall to reach out to the sky. With
the help of sunlight, trees carry out the process of photosynthesis and maintain balance
in the ecosystem. They share a special bond. It purifies the atmosphere by taking in
carbon-dioxide and by releasing oxygen. The poet compares a tree to a flag that flutters
in the breeze and compares the stem to a pole that stands tall and firm. Trees are the
home to a number of birds. Trees provide birds a spot to sit and sing their melodious
songs. It seems like the trees have made a home for the birds that are closer to heaven.

Stanza 2

The poet repeats the same question and suggests more reasons to plant trees. He adds
that trees provide cool shade and gentle rain. A tree will produce seeds and buds for the
future generation. Years will pass by and the old trees will wither away but the seeds of
today will produce new trees in the future. The poet calls the trees the “glory of the
plain” as they make the land look green and beautiful. One who plants a tree conserves
the heritage of forests. The poet suggests that we plant trees not only for ourselves but
also for the future generations to come. Our future generations would be able to reap
the benefits of planting trees.

Stanza 3

In the final stanza, the poet poses the same question. According to the poet, a man who
plants a tree does so because of his loyalty towards his neighbourhood , his family and
the society. By planting a tree, he expresses his concern for the future of the planet. The
trees that he plants give food, wood, and sap to all human beings. The man who plants
trees is given God-like attributes as he takes care of the well-being of the people. By
planting trees he initiates a step in the path of the progress of the Nation. The
capitalization of ‘H’ in the last stanza portrays the man who plants trees in a divine light
as he contributes to making the world a better place for himself and for others.

 The Heart of The Tree Themes

Benefits of planting trees – The poet attempts to educate the readers about the
importance of planting trees for our survival. This poem The Heart of The Tree glorifies
the act of planting trees and equates the man who does so with God-like attributes. Trees
do not only serve to beautify the nature but also provide a home for the birds and offer
us cool shade. They are the harbinger of rain and the source of cool breezes. They keep
the environment balanced by taking in carbon dioxide and giving out oxygen. Trees
reduce pollution in the air. They never cease to exist as they continue the process of
regeneration by shedding seeds and leaves that give birth to new plants needed to
maintain balance in the eco-system. Trees are important for the survival of mankind as
they not only bless the souls of today but provide our future generations with its harvest.
Just like the human heart helps in the proper functioning of the human body, trees, too,
maintain the lives of birds, animals and human beings on earth. The poet gives the
message that we must plant new trees to ensure a harmonious and stable way of living
for us and for the generations to come.

Importance of trees for a sustainable future – The poet says that when one plants trees
today, he actually plants it for the future progenies. He is concerned about the future of
mother earth and, hence, fulfills his civic duty by showering his “blessings on the
neighborhood” in the form of plants. Trees are needed for the growth and development
of the nation in general. We cannot survive in a land with no trees. The poet, thus,
appeals to the readers to plant more and more trees in order to prevent the environment
from degrading. We must plant trees keeping in mind the welfare of the “coming age”

The Heart of The Tree Rhyme Scheme

The poem The Heart of The Tree consists of three stanzas of nine lines each. It can be
roughly said that the poem follows the rhyme scheme ababbccaa. For instance, the
rhyming words in the first stanza are tree-free, sky-high-anigh, bird-heard, harmony-
tree.

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

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In hushed and happy twilight heard—
The treble of heaven’s harmony—
These things he plants who plants a tree.

The Heart of The Tree Tone


The tone of the poem The Heart of The Tree is inspiring, straight-forward and
educative. The poet is concerned about mother earth and lays down different points to
illustrate the usefulness of trees to protect the earth. He encourages everyone to plant
more trees, not only for themselves but also for the future generations. The survival of
the future generations is greatly dependant on our outlook to plant trees. Trees keep the
environment stable by purifying the air, causing rain, offering cool breeze and shade,
providing food, wood, and medicines and by providing a home for the birds in the sky.
The poet uses simple words to deliver his message that tree plantation is no longer a
hobby or a luxury but it is, indeed, a necessity for our survival.

The Heart of The Tree Central Idea


In this poem The Heart of The Tree, the poet highlights the importance of trees in our
lives and inspires us to plant more trees. He says that the trees not only beautify the
environment but helps in the smooth functioning of the ecosystem. Planting trees are
crucial not only for our survival but also for the future generations. Without trees, the
earth would be unsuitable for living as trees are responsible for the growth and
development of mankind. The poet is also concerned for the future of the earth which
must be made better by planting more trees. Trees are essential in every part of life-they
give out oxygen for human beings to inhale, they cause rain and offer food, timber,
medicines and so on. This, it can be concluded that the central idea of this poem is to
make people aware of the importance of planting trees for us as well as for the future
ggenerations.

Analysis

In “The heart of the tree”, Henry Cuyler Bunner has attempted to highlight
the importance of planting trees in a nation. He begins every stanza by
asking a rhetorical question –“What does he plant who plants a tree?” and

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closes the stanzas by highlighting the impact of trees on the environment.
By doing so he makes the readers ponder over the issue and eventually
answers on his own. The language of the poem is very simple and lucid. The
poet begins to explain the usefulness of planting trees as he says that the
one who plants a tree plants a friend of the sun and the sky. It is because the
tree always aims for the sun and the sky, i.e., it grows upwards to reach the
sky. Again, the sun provides sunlight to the tree which is vital to carry out
the process of photosynthesis to make food for plants

Trees take up carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen, thereby,
purifying the air around. The poet compares the tree to a flag. Just like the
flag moves freely in the breeze, the leafy branches of the tree also flutter
and provides a cool breeze to us. Trees, for the poet, are the epitome of
beauty on the earth. He further adds that when a ma plants a tree, he plants
a home for the birds that sing in harmonious voice. The trees become the
natural habitat of the birds and hence the balance in the ecosystem is
restored.

In the second stanza, too, the poet asks the same question. He wishes to
add more points to encourage his readers to plant trees. He says that the
tree provides cool shade to all- to birds, to animals, and to human beings. It
is now an unknown fact that trees help in causing rain. Trees bear seeds and
bud for the future generations and continue the process of birth, death, and
regeneration. They make the plain area look naturally beautiful. When the
poet says that a man “plants the forest’s heritage”, he means that if anyone
takes the initiative to plant a single tree then in the future it might grow into
a forest, thereby, enriching the natural beauty of the planet. Our future
progenies will enjoy all the benefits of the trees that we plant today. The

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poet brings into limelight not only the present benefits of planting trees but
also the benefits our future generations would reap.

The poet adds a philosophical element to the poem The heart of the tree as
he says that a man who plants a tree does so out of his concern for his
family, his neighborhood and the entire universe. When a man plants a tree
he fulfills his civic duty. He says that by planting a tree, a man is making ways
for fellow human beings to access food and wood. By doing so the man is
directly able to contribute to nature’s growth. We see a capitalization in the
word ‘His’ in the last stanza used to refer to the person who plants trees. He
has been attributed God-like abilities to plan the destiny for the nation. He
holds the growth of the nation in his hands. Through such simple yet
powerful narration, the poet has successfully pointed out that the tree can
itself be regarded as the heart of human life that looks over the well-being
of everyone. It is the tree which is responsible for the growth of mankind
and the one who plants them must be respected for his noble deed.

Poetic devices

Alliteration – It is the close repetition of consonant sounds, usually at the


beginning of words. For instance,
1. “He plants a friend of sun and sky”
2. “He plants a home to heaven anigh”
3. In hushed and happy twilight heart”
4. “He plants a flag of breezes free”
Metonymy – Metonymy is a figure of speech in which one word or phrase is
substituted by something that is closely associated with it. In this poem, The
heart of the tree, the phrases “cool shade”, “tender rain”, “sap and leaf and
wood”, are all metonyms for the tree. In the first stanza, in the line “He
plants a home to heaven anigh”, ‘heaven’ represents the sky.

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Transferred epithet – It is a figure of speech in which an adjective qualifies
the noun and not the person or thing it is originally describing. For instance,

“In hushed and happy twilight heard”- Here the adjective “happy” qualifies
twilight though it means people’s happiness. ‘Twilight’ is not happy, the
‘people’ are happy but still, twilight is qualified by happy.

Metaphor – It is a figure of speech in which a similarity between two


different things is implied but not directly stated. In this poem, The heart of
the tree, the branches of a tree are compared to a flag. For instance, “He
plants the flag of breezes free”.

Personification – It is a figure of speech in which abstract ideas or inanimate


objects are given attributes of living beings. For instance, the poet
personifies the tree when it calls it “a friend of sun and sky”.

Polysyndeton – It is a figure of speech used for close repetition of


conjunctions. For instance,

“He plants in sap and leaf and wood”