Our holiday tree – 2014
Although this is a somewhat lengthy poem, I feel it is worth including here.
The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine, I said,
“There aren’t enough to be worth while.”
“I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.”
“You could look.
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north. He said, “A thousand.”
“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?”
He felt some need of softening that to me:
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”
Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.
As I read this, I couldn’t help feeling so very grateful that I live in a place where I can purchase a single tree from a local farmer who grew it himself. I had to order and pay for the tree in advance, then pick a date when I would meet the farmer. When the day came to pick up the tree, the farmer told me it had been cut that morning. The smell of the fresh pine filled the inside of my station wagon and brought back memories of Christmases as a child.
This poem made me feel a little sad for the people who live in congested places and are out of touch with nature and her cycles. I thought about the exploitation of rural folk and the consumerism that has come to define our society, a consumerism that culminates at this time of the year. And again, I felt grateful and fortunate that I live in a place where I can buy locally grown food directly from a farmer, where I can purchase handmade items from artisans who are my neighbors. I don’t mind spending a little extra for these things. For me, it’s worth it.
The last image that haunted me from this poem was the farmer’s vision of his hills stripped bare for the sake of a pittance. For me, this time of the year symbolizes the promise of rebirth, of light overcoming the dominant darkness. The evergreen tree is a living symbol of this rebirth, surviving through the dark, cold winter, promising the green growth of spring. I suspect that Frost also considered this when he included the subtitle, “A Christmas Circular Letter.” The Christmas Tree symbolizes the circle of life that is renewed after the winter months. The lights represent the warmth and sunlight that will coax the plants from the soil. The round ornaments symbolize the circle of the year and the seasons, as well as the fruits which will reappear in the warmer months.
May you and yours have a blessed holiday and New Year!