An apple tree beside the way,
Drinking the sunshine day by day
According to the Master’s plan,
Had been a faithful friend to man.
It had been kind to all who came,
Nor asked the traveler’s race or name,
But with the peasant boy or king
Had shared its blossoms in the spring,
And from the summer’s dreary heat
To all had offered sweet retreat.
When autumn brought the harvest time,
Its branches all who wished might climb,
And take from many a tender shoot
Its rosy-cheeked, delicious fruit.
Good men, by careless speech or deed,
Have caused a neighbor’s heart to bleed;
Wrong has been done by high intent;
Hate has been born where love was meant,
Yet apple trees of field or farm
Have never done one mortal harm.
Then came the Germans into France
And found this apple tree by chance.
They shared its blossoms in the spring;
They heard the songs the thrushes sing;
They rested in the cooling shade
Its old and friendly branches made,
And in the fall its fruit they ate.
And then they turn on it in hate,
Like beasts, on blood and passion drunk,
They hewed great gashes in its trunk.
Beneath its roots, with hell’s delight,
They placed destruction’s dynamite
And blew to death, with impish glee,
An old and friendly apple tree.
Men may rebuild their homes in time;
Swiftly cathedral towers may climb,
And hearts forget their weight of woe,
As over them life’s currents flow,
But this their lasting shame shall be:
They put to death an apple tree!