On Killing a Tree
By Gieve Patel
of the poem
The poem ‘On
Killing a Tree’ is composed by Gieve Patel, an Indian playwright, poet and a
The tone of the
poem is sarcastic and didactic as the poet teaches us to be kind, loving and sympathetic
The poet wants to
sensitise the readers against cruel and unsympathetic treatment towards nature
and indiscriminate felling of trees.
It is composed in
blank verse and doesn’t follow any rhyming scheme. The poem is divided in four stanzas
but the stanza division and line length is irregular.
The theme is that
the trees and plants are alive just like all of us.
significant message is conveyed through the poem that we should not cut trees and
trees have life, they take birth, feel pain and die.
The poem opens
with a beautiful but sarcastic statement by the poet about ‘Killing’ a tree. He
says that a tree can’t be killed so easily and so simply. Actually, he wants to
convey something different. He taunts how trees are cut or ‘killed’ so mercilessly
all over the world as man keeps cutting them, taking much time and much pain, but
the trees shouldn’t be killed.
· He further says that it is difficult to kill a tree with
the knife or axe. It takes much time and much effort to cut a tree completely. The
tree takes years to grow on the earth. It consumes the nutrients of soil,
sunlight, air and water.
· The poet says that simple cutting and chopping is not
sufficient to kill a tree. After sometime its bleeding bark will heal and new
leaves will come out from the bark, the leaves will grow into small branches
and then the tree will grow to its earlier size.
· Now, the poet tells how to ‘kill’ a tree. He says, its
roots must be pulled out entirely from the soil which acts as the anchor to the
tree. First. The tree must be tied with a root and pulled out using lot of
efforts and strength. When it is pulled out of earth completely, its strength
is exposed. The strength of a tree lies in its roots which are white and full
of moisture as they keep hidden inside the earth for years. The roots are the
most sensitive part of a tree as well as the source of its strength.
· After the tree is pulled out with its roots, the roots
get exposed, they lie in hot dry sun and the air sucks out its moisture. Thus,
the roots become dry, brown and hard. They become twisted and lifeless. And
finally it is killed as it can’t grow again.
Message of the Poem
This poem conveys the message that the trees are our
lifeline. So, they must not be killed. He gives the message that trees are
alive just like human beings. We should not cut trees because trees have life.
They take birth, feed upon earth, air, light and water, feel pain, bleed and
are precious and significant so they must not be cut.
Theme of the Poem
The poet considers the tree as a living organism. But
the man is killing it with utmost cruelty and callousness. It implies that a
person shall be a murderer if he ‘kills’ a tree this way.
The poet is
composed in blank verse as the lines of the poem don’t rhyme.
It takes much time to kill a tree – Alliteration, sarcasm
Slowly consuming the earth – personification,
Rising out of it, feeding – personification, enjambment
Years of sunlight,
air, water – consonance,
And out of its leprous
hide – metaphor
bark will heal – personification
Which if unchecked will expand again – assonance, consonance
Out of the anchoring
earth – metaphor
It is to be roped,
tied – assonance, consonance, asyndeton
And pulled out — snapped out – repetition, consonance
Out from the earth-cave
Of scorching and choking – consonance, assonance
Browning, hardening – assonance, consonance, enjambment, asyndeton
Twisting, withering – assonance, consonance, enjambment,
And then it is done – assonance
It takes much time to
kill a tree,
Not a simple jab of the
Will do it. It has
Slowly consuming the
Rising out of it,
Upon its crust,
Years of sunlight, air,
(a) What kind of task
is it to kill a tree?
(b) Why can a “simple
jab of the knife” not kill a tree?
(c) How is the task of
cutting a tree represented in the poem?
(d) What happens if the
branches of a tree are cut off?
(e) How does the tree
(f) Which poetic device
is used in last four lines?
a) The task of killing
a tree is tedious and time taking hence, not at all a simple job.
b) A simple jab of
knife is not sufficient enough to kill a tree as after cutting it with a knife
it regrow into a tree.
c) The task of cutting
a tree is represented as a murder of a living being in the poem. The poet wants
to convey that the tree is living and its murder is a cruel act.
d) If the branches of a
tree are cut off, they will grow again into fresh branches.
e) The tree grows slowly
consuming the nutrients from the soil as if it is feeding upon its crust for
all the years. It absorbs sunlight, breathes air, lives upon daily watering. In
short, it eats, breathes and drinks water just like all of us.
f) Personification and