Portrait Gallery

A Book Of Americans

by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét

Johnny Appleseed

by Rosemary Carr Benét and Stephen Vincent Benét *

Of Jonathan Chapman
Two things are known,
That he loved apples,
That he walked alone.

At seventy-odd
He was gnarled as could be,
But ruddy and sound
As a good apple tree.

For fifty years over
Of harvest and dew,
He planted his apples
Where no apples grew.

The winds of the prairie
Might blow through his rags,
But he carried his seeds
In the best deerskin bags.

From old Ashtabula
To frontier Fort Wayne,
He planted and pruned
And he planted again.

He had not a hat
To encumber his head.
He wore a tin pan
On his white hair instead.

He nested with owls,
And with bear-cub and possum,
And knew all his orchards
Root, tendril and blossom.

A fine old man,
As ripe as a pippin,
His heart still light,
And his step still skipping.

The stalking Indian,
The beast in its lair
Did no hurt
While he was there.

For they could tell,
As wild things can,
That Jonathan Chapman
Was God's own man.

Why did he do it?
We do not know.
He wished that apples
Might root and grow.

He has no statue.
He has no tomb.
He has his apple trees
Still in bloom.

Consider, consider,
Think well upon
The marvelous story
Of Appleseed John.

Illustration by Charles Child.

Johnny Appleseed, from A Book of Americans, by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét, Illustrated by Charles Child, 1933, Pages 47-48.

* There is no indication in the 1933 book who wrote which poems or if they are co-authored. This poem is sometimes attributed simply to Rosemary Carr Benét.

Hear Mary Alice Amidon sing this poem: