On Killing A Tree


On Killing A Tree

By Gieve Patel

On Killing A Tree Poem Introduction

The poet arouses the reader's awareness and emphasises the fact that trees are living things. He compares trees to humans to emphasise that trees should not be cut down because destroying trees is the same as killing a human being. A tree does not die simply by being cut because it regrows from the point where it is cut. If it must be destroyed, it must be uprooted.

On Killing A Tree Poem Summary

"On Killing a Tree" is a heartfelt poem. The poet persuades the reader not to cut down trees, comparing it to "killing" a human being. He says that a plant absorbs sunlight, water, air, and nutrients from the soil to grow into a massive tree. It grows a strong trunk and a lot of leaves. Simply cutting the tree's trunk does not kill it. When a tree is cut, the sap flows out in the same way that a wounded man bleeds. When the wound heals, new branches and tiny leaves sprout, eventually growing into trees.

A tree must be uprooted in order to be destroyed. The roots, which are white in colour and damp from the moisture in the soil, are hidden in a pit in the ground. These roots are the most vulnerable part of the tree because they anchor it to the ground. These roots must be removed from the soil in order to kill the tree. When the roots are severed, the tree begins to die. It withers, dries up due to the action of heat and wind, twists, hardens, and eventually dies.

On Killing A Tree Poem Explanation

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.

  • Jab: sudden rough blow
  • Leprous hide: discolored bark

A simple cut does not result in the death of a tree. A tree grows slowly and is rooted in the soil. To grow into a large tree, a plant absorbs nutrients from the soil. The tree is firmly rooted in the ground. It needs sunlight, water, and air to grow into a strong trunk with many leaves.

So hack and chop
But this alone won’t 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.

  • Hack: cut roughly by striking heavy blows

The bark of trees is cut and chopped into many pieces by humans, but this is insufficient to destroy the tree. The cut point of the tree expresses sap in the same way that a human bleeds. This would gradually heal, and new branches would sprout from there.

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.

  • Anchoring earth: trees are held securely with the help of the roots in the earth
  • Snapped out: chopped out

According to the poet, in order to kill the tree, it must be uprooted. The tree must be separated from the Earth that supports it. The tree's roots connect the tree to the soil in the pit of the Earth. The most sensitive and hidden part of the tree – the roots – must then be separated. The roots are white and damp in colour.

Then the matter
Of scorching and choking
In sun and air,
Browning, hardening,
Twisting, withering,
And then it is done.

  • Scorching and choking: the drying up of the tree after being uprooted

Once the tree has been uprooted, it withers and dries out due to the action of heat and wind. The trunk will turn brown, twist, and harden. The tree will eventually die in this way.

On Killing A Tree Poem Literary Devices

1. No rhyme scheme is there in the poem. It is written in free verse. There is no rhyme or rhythm.
2 Enjambment: When one sentence continues into two or more lines.
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 most sensitive, hidden
For years inside the earth.

3. Metaphor : indirect comparison
Leprous hide – the uneven colour of the surface of the trunk of a tree is compared to the skin of a person suffering from leprosy.

Bleeding bark – the sap coming out of tree where it is cut is compared to the bleeding from the wound in a human’s body.

4. Alliteration: repetition of a consonant sound in 2 or more closely places words.
Bleeding bark – ‘b’ sound
White and wet – ‘w’ sound

5. Repetition: a word or sentence is repeated to lay emphasis on it.
‘Pulled out’ is repeated

About the Poet

Gieve Patel born in 1940 (age 80 years), Mumbai. His Famous Books are Mirrored, Mirroring, Mister Behram and Other Plays, Gieve Patel: Sculptures and Drawings. In this poem "On Killing a Tree" seeks to express her feelings about tree cutting. It will take too long for him to kill a tree, he says. His poems express deep concern for nature while also exposing man's cruelty to it.