Synopsis of The Heart of the Tree by Henry Cuyler Bunner

Synopsis of The Heart of the Tree by Henry Cuyler Bunner

About the Poet of The Heart of the Tree

Henry Cuyler Bunner (1855-1896) was an American poet, novelist, and editor. He wrote verses and fictions that depict the scenes and people of New York City where he spent a greater part of his life. He began his short but prolific career as a staff reporter with the Arcadian. Subsequently, he joined Puck as assistant editor and became its editor until his untimely death. He played a pioneering role in developing Puck from a new, struggling comic weekly into a powerful social and political organ. As a poet, his best-known anthology was titled Airs from A ready and Elsewhere (1884), which contained one of his popular early poems, The Way to Arcady, Rowen and Poems were his two other collections that were published when he was alive. The latter, edited by his friend Brander Matthews, displays the pleasantly comical side of his imaginative brilliance and deftness of his fine yet largely underrated poetic craft. He also wrote clever vers de société and parodies. Bunner's fiction, particularly Made in France; French Tales Retold with a United States Twist, reflects the influence of the French master Guy de Maupassant and other French writers. As a playwright he is known chiefly for Tower of Babel. His short story Zenobia's Infidelity was made into a feature film called Zenobia starring Harry Langdon and Oliver Hardy by the Hal Roach Studio in 1939.

About the Poem The Heart of the Tree

"The Heart of the Tree" is a poem by Henry Cuyler Bunner, brought out in 1893. It was published in the Century Magazine, a reputed magazine of the 19th century. Immediately after its publication, the poem started receiving rave reviews for its refreshing approach to nature, earthy ecological sensitivity and brilliant depiction of humanist spirit. As many people observe, the poem is not so much about trees or forests as about the art or skill of plantation, involving the amazing work of human hands that make life better, richer and healthier for us without asking for much in lieu. The poem clearly celebrates it for the pioneering contribution it makes to our lives on all counts. As readers, what strikes us no less is its great relevance today, when we are experiencing disasters in all parts of the world due precisely to the callous and insensitive attitude of some of us towards natural resources.

Summary of the Poem The Heart of the Tree

The poem 'The Heart of the Tree' is poem about the beauty of planting a tree or the satisfaction derived from this practice. In this poem, the poet beautifully describes the actual essence of what a person plants when he plants a tree. The poet aptly says that when somebody plants a tree, he plants not only what we call a tree, but something that serves as a friend of sun, sky, and breeze. Here, the poet wants to say that the sky's brightness, sun's warmth and the touch of breeze make them a friend of a plant. He further observes that the stems are like beauty shafts which keep growing. The dense branches of the plant act as a true shelter or home to different types of birds, with their colourful presence as messengers of Nature's beauty, diversity and bounteousness. They tweet, chirp and croon in their fascinating voices thus making the surroundings pleasant. In a way, as the poet feels, the person who plants a tree also plants a future. This is because the tree will bring rain and coolness to the environment, and will thus become an identity of the habitat. This will play a major role in producing food for future generation. Furthermore, the person who plants trees also acts as a good citizen of his country because, by planting a tree, he brings joy and blessings to the neighbourhood. As a result of all he does, the land becomes fertile, and thus a boon to the humankind.

Critical Analysis of the Poem The Heart of the Tree

The poem 'The Heart of the Tree' comprises three stanzas of 9 lines each. The rhyming pattern for the three stanzas is slightly uneven, and it can be indicated as ababbccaa.

The poem begins with a refrain 'What does he plant who plants a tree?' that is repeated at the beginning of each stanza highlighting the thought that how beneficial it is to plant a tree.

In the first stanza, the poet explains that one who plants a tree plants a friend of sun and sky, flag of free breezes and home to countless birds whose song we hear in the twilight that denotes heaven's harmony. In the second stanza the poet emphasizes that he plants shade and rain, seeds and buds of tomorrow which would raise the glory of earth in plains and strengthen the forests to benefit generations ahead. In the third stanza he concludes one who plants a tree germinates the far-cast thought that would bring blessings resulting in growth of the nation.

The poem discusses the usefulness of a tree elaborating on how a tree that is planted benefits not only the nature, a nation, but also contributes to the growth of humankind. One who plants a tree aspires for his nation's growth. Trees stand straight and steady, giving an impression as if they are touching the sun and the sky. They sway with the breeze and beautify the surrounding. They are home to chirruping birds which sing sweetly and display heaven's harmony on this earth.

Trees give us shade and bring rain. They pave a way for many more seeds to grow and buds to bloom in future. Trees contribute to forest wealth of our nation and they ensure plenty harvest in the days to come. The one who plants a tree has a noble thought of a common good that would be a boon for man in general and the nation in particular. He has a dream of the growth of all his land when he plants a tree.


breezes - soft cold winds;
shaft - gleam: streak;
towering high - growing as tall as a tower;
anigh - close; near;
mother-croon of bird – the soft song that mother bird sings to her young ones;
tender - soft; mellow;
fade - wither;
flush - wash out;
heritage – legacy;
unborn eyes - reference to future generations yet to born;
sap - juice; liquid;
far-cast – foresee;
civic - public;
hollow - empty space; void;
stirs - stimulates.

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