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Paul Laurence Dunbar

The Old Apple-Tree

There's a memory keeps a-runnin'

Through my weary head to-night,

An' I see a picture dancin'

In the fire-flames' ruddy light;

'Tis the picture of an orchard

Wrapped in autumn's purple haze,

With the tender light about it

That I loved in other days.

An' a-standin' in a corner

Once again I seem to see

The verdant leaves an' branches

Of an old apple-tree.

You perhaps would call it ugly,

An' I don't know but it's so,

When you look the tree all over

Unadorned by memory's glow;

For its boughs are gnarled an' crooked,

An' its leaves are gettin' thin,

An' the apples of its bearin'

Wouldn't fill so large a bin

As they used to. But I tell you,

When it comes to pleasin' me,

It's the dearest in the orchard,—

Is that old apple-tree.

I would hide within its shelter,

Settlin' in some cosy nook,

Where no calls nor threats could stir me

From the pages o' my book.

Oh, that quiet, sweet seclusion

In its fulness passeth words!

It was deeper than the deepest

That my sanctum now affords.

Why, the jaybirds an' the robins,

They was hand in glove with me,

As they winked at me 'an warbled

In that old apple-tree.

It was on its sturdy branches

That in summers long ago

I would tie my swing an' dangle

In contentment to an' fro,

Idly dreamin' childish fancies,

Buildin' castles in the air,

Makin' o' myself a hero

Of romances rich an' rare.

I kin shet my eyes an' see it

Jest as plain as plain kin be,

That same old swing a-danglin'

To the old apple-tree.

There's a rustic seat beneath it

That I never kin forget.

It's the place where me an' Hallie—

Little sweetheart—used to set,

When we'd wander to the orchard

So's no listenin' ones could hear

As I whispered sugared nonsense

Into her little willin' ear.

Now my gray old wife is Hallie,

An' I'm grayer still than she,

But I'll not forget our courtin'

'Neath the old apple-tree.

Life for us ain't all been summer,

But I guess we've had our share

Of its flittin' joys an' pleasures,

An' a sprinklin' of its care.

Oft the skies have smiled upon us;

Then again we've seen 'em frown,

Though our load was ne'er so heavy

That we longed to lay it down.

But when death does come a-callin',

This my last request shall be,—

That they'll bury me an' Hallie

'Neath the old apple-tree.