This week in 1950, the world’s first commercial redwood tree farm was dedicated in Hammond Grove, near Eureka. Three years later, the California Legislature, which had designated the native redwood the state tree in 1937, amended the law to be specific, recognizing both the coast redwood and the giant sequoia. The poet Walt Whitman saw in the mighty redwood, and in California, all the promise of “the true America.” He wrote “Song of the Redwood-Tree” in 1874.
“Song of the Redwood-Tree”
The flashing and golden pageant of California,
The sudden and gorgeous drama, the sunny and ample lands,
The long and varied stretch from Puget sound to Colorado south,
Lands bathed in sweeter, rarer, healthier air, valleys and mountain cliffs,
The fields of Nature long prepared and fallow, the silent, cyclic chemistry,
The slow and steady ages plodding, the unoccupied surface ripening, the rich ores forming beneath;
At last the New arriving, assuming, taking possession,
A swarming and busy race settling and organizing everywhere,
Ships coming in from the whole round world, and going out to the whole world,
To India and China and Australia and the thousand island paradises of the Pacific,
Populous cities, the latest inventions, the steamers on the rivers, the railroads, with many a thrifty farm, with machinery,
And wool and wheat and the grape, and diggings of yellow gold. . . .
The new society at last, proportionate to Nature,
In man of you, more than your mountain peaks or stalwart trees imperial,
In woman more, far more, than all your gold or vines, or even vital air.
Fresh come, to a new world indeed, yet long prepared,
I see the genius of the modern, child of the real and ideal,
Clearing the ground for broad humanity, the true America, heir of the past so grand,
To build a grander future.
excerpted from “Song of the Redwood-Tree,” by Walt Whitman, 1874, from “Leaves of Grass,” The Modern Library, a division of random house inc., 1993. Research from www.learncalifornia.org.