“Plant a Tree” by Lucy Larcom

Posted on March 10, 2014 by Yoshiko Yamamoto

For the past few weeks, I’ve been designing a set of 6 cards for the next season. Three are new holiday cards and the rest are a set of three quote cards that are adapted from my designs for the Wisdom of Trees prints that originally were commissioned by American Bungalow magazine in 2012.

Plant a Tree

Today I finished drawing and designing one of the quote cards, “Plant a Tree”, based on a poem by Lucy Larcom. Known today for her memoir A New England Girlhood (1889), Larcom was a widely published poet, teacher, and an abolitionist. In this book Larcom recorded the lives of New England girls who were working at textile mills in Lowell, calling attention to the dangerous conditions of factory work. It is a vivid account of the fast changing lifestyle of workers from agrarian to industrial age in America.


Larcom’s phrase “I defy the machinery to make me its slave” still resonates today. Here at the Arts & Crafts Press, we use both our hands and machinery. Just as William Morris advocated in his writings over a century ago, we’re trying to find a good balance between the use of our hands and machines. As I write this, my assistant, Rachel, is printing our note cards using our 1951 Heidelberg letterpress printing press. And on my worktable is a unfinished linoleum block for the next print, “Banditry of Chickadees”.


The goal for us is to find the pleasurable balance between machinery and handwork, in order to offer our note cards and prints at an affordable price while keeping our quality.

Below is the entire poem “Plant a Tree” by Larcom. Enjoy!


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?

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!

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 hast thou dreamed, thou blessed 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 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.

by Lucy Larcom
Born March 5 1824; Died April 27, 1893

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