Christmas Trees by Robert Frost

Robert Frost, perhaps the single most popular American poet, gained a worldwide audience by writing about nature and life in the country, so it’s very appropriate that he chose to write about the Christmas tree. His offering gently explores the tension between commercialism and the natural way of life.

The city had withdrawn into itself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.

Perhaps best known for his poem, “The Road Not Taken,” American poet Robert Frost (1874–1963) won four Pulitzer prizes for his work. While much of his poetry describes his surroundings in New England, it also explores the themes of life, loss, and the ways of nature.

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