Introduction

This poem talks about trees and all the things that we can make from them. The wood acquired from trees is very useful. So, a wide variety of products are created using them. This means that we plant all these things when we plant trees.

About the Poet

Henry Abbey (1842 – 1911) was an American Poet who is best remembered for his poems “What do we plant when we plant a tree?” and “The Bedouin’s Rebuke”.

Theme

The main theme of his poem is trees and how useful they are.

Line 1 – 6

What do we plant when we plant the tree?
We plant the ship which will cross the sea.
We plant the mast to carry the sail.
We plant the planks to withstand the gales,
The keel, the keelson, the beam, the knee;
We plant the ship when we plant the tree.

The poet asks us what we plant when we plant the tree. He replies by saying that we plant the ship which will cross the sea, because wood from trees is used to build ships. So, when we plant a tree, we also plant the mast to carry the sail, the planks to resist strong winds, the keel, the keelson, the beam, and the knee. All these components of a ship are made with wood, so planting a tree equals to planting them.

Line 7 – 12

What do we plant when we plant the tree?
We plant the houses for you and me.
We plant rafters, the shingles, the floors.
We plant the studding; the lath, the doors,
The beams and siding, all parts that be;
We plant the house when we plant the tree.

The poet again asks us what we plant when we plant the tree. Houses are made of wood, so by planting trees we also plant the houses we live in. The different parts of a house such as the rafters, the shingles, the floors, the studding, the lath, the doors, the beams and siding are all made of wood. So, we plant them all when we plant the tree. Therefore, planting trees also means planting houses.

Line 13 – 18

What do we plant when we plant the tree?
A thousand things that we daily see;
We plant the spire that out-towers the crag,
We plant the staff for our country’s flag,
We plant the shade, from the hot sun free;
We plant all these when we plant the tree.

Once again, the poet asks us what we plant when we plant the tree. A thousand things that we see everyday are made of wood, so we plant them all when we plant trees. We plant the spire that towers around the crag, and the staff for our country’s flag, both of which are made of wood. Trees also provide the shade that frees us from the hot sun, so we plant that as well. These are all the things we plant when we plant the tree.