Green Apples,” by John Townsend Trowbridge, is a cautionary poem about gathering things too early, with an engraving by Winslow Homer. Trowbridge was one of the founding editors of Our Young Folks. [Note: This image has been digitally “de-aged,” though I made every effort to keep the artist’s work unaltered.]
“Green Apples,” J. T. Trowbridge (from Our Young Folks, August 1868; pp. 470-471)
boys picking apples

“Green Apples,” by Winslow Homer, August 1868

Pull down the bough, Bob! Is n’t this fun?

Now give it a shake, and—there goes one!

Now put your thumb up to the other, and see

If it is n’t as mellow as mellow can be!

I know by the stripe

It must be ripe!

That’s one apiece for you and me.

Green, are they? Well no matter for that.

Sit down on the grass, and we ’ll have a chat;

And I ’ll tell you what old Parson Bute

Said last Sunday of unripe fruit.

“Life,” says he,

“Is a bountiful tree,

Heavily laden with beautiful fruit.

“For the youth there’s love, just streaked with red,

And great joys hanging just over his head;

Happiness, honor, and great estate,

For those who patiently work and wait;—

Blessings,” said he,

“Of every degree,

Ripening early, and ripening late.

p. 471

“Take them in season, pluck and eat,

And the fruit is wholesome, the fruit is sweet;

But, O my friends!—” Here he gave a rap

On his desk like a regular thunder-clap,

And made such a bang,

Old Deacon Lang

Woke up out of his Sunday nap.

Green fruit, he said, God would not bless;

But half life’s sorrow and bitterness,

Half the evil and ache and crime,

Came from tasting before their time

The fruits Heaven sent.

Then on he went

To his Fourthly and Fifthly:—was n’t it prime?

But, I say, Bob! we fellows don’t care

So much for a mouthful of apple or pear;

But what we like is the fun of the thing,

When the fresh winds blow, and the hang-birds bring

Home grubs, and sing

To their young ones, a-swing.

In their basket-nest, tied up by its string.

I like apples in various ways:

They ’re first-rate roasted before the blaze

Of a winter fire; and, O my eyes!

Are n’t they nice, though, made into pies?

I scarce ever saw

One, cooked or raw,

That was n’t good for a boy of my size!

But shake your fruit from the orchard tree,

And the tune of the brook, and the hum of the bee,

And the chipmonks [sic] chippering every minute,

And the clear sweet note of the gay little linnet,

And the grass and the flowers,

And the long summer hours,

And the flavor of sun and breeze, are in it.

But this is a hard one! Why did n’t we

Leave them another week on the tree?

Is yours as bitter? Give us a bite!

The pulp is tough, and the seeds are white,

And the taste of it puckers

My mouth like a sucker’s!

I vow, I believe the old parson was right!

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