Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The White Magnolia Tree.

Okay, you know I'm a sucker for sentimentality, If you're not into that or fear a poetic sugar hit, do no read further.

So you're still reading, you big softie. You've been cautioned . . .

The White Magnolia Tree is a poem by Helen Deutsch (906 – 1992), who was an American screenwriter, journalist, and songwriter.


Shortly after Helen's graduation from Barnard College, she was asked to write something to recite on a radio show to be aired just two days later in honour of the late actress Jane Cowl. Overnight, Helen wrote "The White Magnolia Tree." She then forgot about the poem. In 1957, she was commissioned by NBC-TV to provide a poem to be recited by Helen Hayes for the 50th anniversary celebration of General Motors. She got out her old poem, and Helen Hayes recited it with such tenderness that within a week thousands of people had requested a copy of the poem. General Motors provided it in booklet form. Helen Hayes herself made a 45 rpm of the poem and sent out hundreds of copies. 

Hear a recitation of the poem at: 


The White Magnolia Tree

The year when I was twenty-one, 
(John that year was twenty-three) 
That was the year, that was the spring, 
We planted the white magnolia tree. 

"This tree," said John, "shall grow with us, 
And every year it will bloom anew. 
This is our life. This is our love." 
And the white magnolia tree grew and grew... 

Oh, youth' a thing of fire and ice, 
And currents that run hot and white, 
And its world is as bright as the sun... 

I was twenty-one... 
And I wore a plume in my hat. 
And we went to the movies and wept over" Stella Dallas", 
And John sang "Moonlight and Roses" 
(a little off-key, but very nicely really), 

And we hurried through our crowded days 
With beautiful plans, boundless ambitions, and golden decisions. 
There is so much the young heart clamours for, 
That it must have, and that it cannot live without, 
And it must be all or nothing, 
For aren't we the masters of creation? 

Oh, valiant and untamed were we, 
When we planted the white magnolia tree! 
And the white magnolia grew and grew, 
Holding our love within its core, 
And every year it bloomed anew, 
And we were twenty-one no more. 

No more untamed, no more so free, 
Nor so young, nor so wild and aflame were we. 
Dearer to us grew other things: 
Easy sleep, books, a day's quiet holiday, 
Good talk beside a fire, the beauty of old faces... 

We have known many things since then: 
The death of a child and the bitter lesson 
That a heart which breaks can mend itself again 
(That it can and must be done), 
And what loyalty can mean, 
And how real a word like courage can become, 
And that solitude can be rich and gratifying 
And quite different from loneliness... 

There is so little the serious heart requires: 
Friends, faith, a window open to the world, 
Pride in work well done, 
And strength to live in a world at war 
And still maintain the heart's own private peace... 

Dear Heaven, I give thanks to thee 
For things I did not know before, 
For the wisdom of maturity, 
For bread, and a roof, and for one thing more... 

Thanks because I still can see 
The bloom on the white magnolia tree! 

Helen Deutsch


Yes, I know that these are white and pink magnolias but it seemed appropriate to post this pic with the poem, it's one of my mother's artworks and hangs in my office reception area.

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