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World Poetry Month: Day Twenty Six
Today’s poetry is ‘On Killing A Tree’ a poem by Gieve Patel. We forget this simple principle: “Earth is all that we have in common”.
We are unknowingly and knowingly preparing for the funeral of our own planet. Even though it may seem simple, killing a tree on a macro scale is extremely destructive to nature. Indian poet Gieve Patel discusses this idea in his poem “On Killing a Tree”.
As he begins the poem, he declares that killing a tree is not an easy task, saying: “It takes much time to kill a tree/Not merely a knife jab”.
The tree is portrayed as a thief that consumed the earth without permission, consuming its crust, absorbing years of sunshine, air, and water. Through clever wordplay, the poet presents the act of having trees as sinful.
It is clear from the very beginning that the poet is equating the life of the tree with that of a human. Poets treat trees in the same manner as humans, who are emotional beings.
There are some measures that the poet suggests to exterminate (to destroy completely) the tree in the advance stanzas. Just like butchers, he suggests hacking and chopping (cutting into pieces).
“Trees are magic machines that pull carbon out of the air and build themselves”, we have heard.
As the poet echoes (repeats) his fear of magic machines, he asks us to check the growth of ‘miniature boughs’ that, if unchecked, will enable the tree to grow over its previous size.
In this poem, the poet emphasizes the tree’s ability to exfoliate (grow by unfolding leaves). In the meantime, we are reminded that the tree will find every means to survive.
As a tree grows, sprouts branches, heals, absorbs, feeds, and expands, these expressions indicate its ability to survive.
Continuing to describe in vivid detail the cruelty and egoism of human beings, the poet further states that the root has to be pulled from the earth’s cave in which it lived like a ferocious animal.
In his poem, the poet declares that this white and wet part is the most sensitive and strong part of a tree, and only through activities such as scorching, choking, browning, hardening, twisting, and withering can it be destroyed.
A wholesome experience of the poem has been created by using many poetic devices aptly. We find personification in lines: bleeding bark will heal, and out its leprous hide. In the line ‘bleeding bark will heal’, alliteration is used.
Human beings’ cruelty to nature is successfully depicted in this exquisitely wonderful poem.
We need movements like Chipko, Appiko, and Fridays for Future to save our planet in light of the massive destruction of nature.
‘On Killing A Tree’ by Gieve Patel ▶️
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 leperous hide
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,
Which if unchecked will expand again
To former size.
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.
Then the matter
Of scorching and choking
In sun and air,
And then it is done.
Retaliation is the permanent feeling
प्रतिहिंसा ही स्थायी भाव है
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