ON KILLING A TREE: Poem analysis

“ON KILLING A TREE” is a poem written by Gieve Patel. This poem is highlights deforestation and exploitation of nature by man in a cruel way to satisfy his needs. The poem gives a vivid picture of the brutal act of killing a tree. The poem compares the killing of a tree to a murder.

“It takes much time to kill a tree,

Not a simple jab of the knife

Will do it. It has grown

Slowly consuming the earth,

Rising out of it, feeding

Upon its crust, absorbing

Years of sunlight, air, water,

And out of its leprous hide

Sprouting leaves.”

The poem starts with the poet starting to describe how difficult it is to kill a tree. It cannot be killed with just a quick blow of a knife because it had grown this huge and is deep rooted in the soil. It rises out of the earth’s crust and absorbing years of sunlight, water and air. The tree also sprouts leaves from its discoloured bark.

So hack and chop

But this alone wont do it.

Not so much pain will do it.

The bleeding bark will heal

And from close to the ground

Will rise curled green twigs,

Miniature boughs

Which if unchecked will expand again

To former size.”

In stanza 2, these lines state that even though human being chop the tree, it doesn’t mean the tree is destroyed. Just like how we get cuts and bleed and finally heal, the tree also releases sap when chopped. The bleeding bark will heal back itself and grow again from the ground. Green twigs grow and when left unnoticed, it grows back to it’s former size.

“No, The root is to be pulled out —

Out of the anchoring earth;

It is to be roped, tied,

And pulled out — snapped out

Or pulled out entirely,

Out from the earth-cave,

And the strength of the tree exposed

The source, white and wet,

The most sensitive, hidden

For years inside the earth.”

In the above lines, the initial step to destroy a tree is described. The initial step is uprooting the tree. To destroy a tree completely, first it needs to be pulled out from the earth which was holding and sustaining it. The earth nurtured the tree for many years but now roped, tied and pulled out entirely. ‘Earth cave’ is maybe referred to deep hole that is created by pulling out the tree. It is only when the act of pulling the tree out of the earth is done, it’s real strength is revealed. When the tree is uprooted, the most sensitive, white and moist part of the tree, the roots come out from the earth which was deep down the soil for years.

“Then the matter

Of scorching and choking

In sun and air,

Browning, hardening,

Twisting, withering,

And then it is done.”

And after the tree is uprooted, it is destroyed by other elements of nature such as sunlight and air. The climatic and environmental changes play a role in browning and hardening of the tree. It dries and twists and finally withers. By this stage, the tree is destroyed once and for all.

This poem conveys a social message to all stating the importance of trees and destroying them is a crime. The nature has provided man so much but man becomes greedy and exploits nature. Man should realize that destroying nature is destroying himself.

RELEVANT LINKS: https://byjus.com/cbse-notes/class-9-english-beehive-on-killing-a-tree-summary/ https://experimentwithperspectives.blogspot.com/2016/03/poem-analysis-subject-summarisation-and-explanatioon-on-killing-a-tree-by-gieve-patel.html

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