I’ve written a couple of times about Chestnut trees – White Chestnuts and Red Chestnuts. I entitled one of the posts Under The Spreading Chestnut Tree, and until today I didn’t fully appreciate the word ‘spreading’ in relation to Chestnut trees.
I mean that I know they can be very broad, as in this photo. But today I traced along some branches with my eye.
The branches are very long – fifty feet (fifteen metres) and the branches that lead off the main branches get very thin, and they just go on and on for for a long distance. And it makes me wonder how those thin branches can take the weight of that long distance – especially when they are in full leaf or when the wind howls.
They hang down a little, but not as much as the thin branches on the Red Chestnut. They tend to hang down more compared to the White Chestnut, as you can see here.
I guess maybe I should look at more Red Chestnuts before making that pronouncement as definitive.
Under The Spreading Chestnut Tree
The line comes from a popular English song that goes back centuries and was popular in England in the days of music hall. If I recall correctly from old clips, there was a saucy innuendo in the way the words were delivered.
And ‘under a spreading chestnut-tree’ is also the opening verse of a poem, The Village Blacksmith by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
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
It’s not the most etherial of openings. The words and the rhyming are pretty obvious and, to my mind, clunky. But then later in the poem there is this, the penultimate verse.
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.
Of course, I don’t know how much the average village blacksmith valued or respected his work. What was life like for a person like that in the 1800s in Longfellow’s day? Perhaps the blacksmith went home each day and collapsed exhausted and hated everything about his life.
Or perhaps he learned a lot about the materials he worked with, and grew to love the detail and the challenge of working with them.
Perhaps when he was young he contemplated his future and tried to imagine how he was going to become successful. Perhaps he chose a profession where he had the best chance of acquiring the success he wanted.
One could see how he would attach himself to anything that furthered that goal. He would turn like a weathervane, attracted to the next chance to advance.
If, on the other hand, he thought of what inspired him and of the work he wanted to accomplish, then the focus would be on the work, and could feel good about that.
Note: For he and him read also she and her.