If you need that warm, fuzzy feeling that only the simple pleasures of Christmas can provide, then look no further than E.E. Cummings’ classic poem “[little tree]”:
Edward Estlin Cummings was born in 1894 and started writing poetry in 1904. His writing was highly popular and influential throughout the mid-1900s. In fact, when he passed away in 1962, he was the second most read American poet, just behind Robert Frost. One of Frost’s most popular lines comes from his poem “Hyla Brook”:
We love the things we love for what they are
Although the two poems are not related, this is actually a perfect way to describe “[little tree]”. It is clear that the child in the poem loved the tree for what it was. He describes it as being “silent” and “more like a flower”, but that doesn’t change his love for the pint-sized plant. By the way, if you’re wondering why there are brackets around “little tree”, your guess is as good as anyone’s. That’s the beauty of poetry!
It’s undeniable that Cummings accomplished something truly special with his delightful poem about sprucing up a tiny sapling. He created a scene that could easily take place in a movie. He wrote down words that belong in a song. His verses serve not just as an ode to a tree, but as a tribute to Christmas itself. It represents all those wonderful feelings of joy a person can experience just from decorating a tree, even if it’s small. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Charlie Brown, it’s that the size of a tree doesn’t matter!
The child also displays a great deal of respect for the tree, as he ponders:
who found you in the green forest
And were you very sorry to come away?
He speaks to the tree as if it were human. Maybe he relates to the tree because it is small and young like himself. Regardless of his motivations, his compassion is contagious. He even tries to comfort the tree:
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would
This imagery makes you want to put your arms around a loved one. In fact, that could be what the brackets around “[little tree]” are meant to represent. The excitement of displaying the finished, decorated tree is something that many of us have also experienced as children:
then when you’re quite dressed
you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they’ll stare!
How they’ll stare, indeed. At the end of the poem, we learn that he shares his love of the tree with his sister. This is quite a touching image. To picture two siblings holding hands, admiring their brightly colored tree together, while dancing and singing “Noel Noel” . . . well, that’s what Christmas is all about.
Author: Written by Alan Ritch for the PA Christmas & Gift Show