Little tree

This is a poem by e.e. cummings. The poem is lovely, but when set to music by Steven Heitzig for chorus and harp, it becomes exquisite. What is it about the wedding of good texts with music by sensitive composers that make both the music and texts even richer than if they stood alone? Anyway, “little tree” has become a favorite of mine, and so yesterday I had a mini-20 minute retreat: sitting in the car by the creek, watching a mockingbird in the once beautiful, but fading hemlocks, and listening to “little tree” several times over, performed by the Dale Warland Singers on December Stillness (1995).

On the surface it is a poem about choosing and decorating a Christmas tree. But the music helps you slow down to notice more. This is what I heard: the innocence of a child’s love and care, the loss that comes with leaving a place, the attention to detail, the beauty of the moment, sacrifice, the loveliness of appreciation, the giving of life for the joy of praise, the “noel” that keeps singing long after the song and poem have ended in silence.

I failed to find (or didn’t know enough to find) a good recording of this to post, so I can only share half of the experience. But we can grab a thermos of coffee anytime, head for the park and I’ll play it for you.

little tree by e.e. cummings

little tree

little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don’t be afraid
look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
put up your little arms
and i’ll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy
then when you’re quite dressed
you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they’ll stare!
oh but you’ll be very proud
and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we’ll dance and sing
“Noel Noel”