This page is a tribute to the vanishing American chestnut tree, which is evoked in the opening lines of “The Village Blacksmith” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
The Village Blacksmith
UNDER a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate’er he can, 10
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.
Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.
And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door; 20
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And watch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing-floor.
He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter’s voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.
It sounds to him like her mother’s voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.
Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night’s repose.
Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought!
Author Dan WeinbacH on the American Chestnut
“Unfortunately, the Chestnut tree, referred to here, is the American Chestnut which was a majestic forest tree on the East coast to the Appalachians. This tree was virtually wiped out by the Chestnut blight in the early 1900’s. As a result I do not have a photo, and the tree was not included in the Trees 4 Seasons book. The Chinese Chestnut is in the same family, but does not have the same majestic character.”
Backstory of the Photo
The above photo is courtesy of Yooperman on Flickr. His caption to it reads:
“Wait till you hear what this tree is–you’ll be speechless, too.
“It’s a chestnut, a spreading chestnut tree, an American Chestnut. Chestnut blight wiped them out everywhere they were native, but they were so scattered in California (this one was in a nursery) that they’ve escaped. So neat.”