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 leprous hide
Sprouting leaves.

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 boughsW
hich if unchecked will expand again
To 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.

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

Summary

It is a symbolic poem. It is a vague poem. In this poem the tree is a symbol of evil which is very deep-rooted and can not be wiped off easily. The poet symbolises the evil as a tree. He says that merely cutting a tree will not kill it because it has the ability to sprout again after some time.

He says that a tree can not be killed by a simple jab of knife. It has grown very slowly by feeding itself on the earth. It indicates that evil is also deep rooted in the surroundings and can not be uprooted so easily without changing the environment.

For uprooting the tree, the poet says that we will have to tie the rope to it and then pull it out completely. Then it will come out of the cave and expose its white roots to the sunlight. After that the roots will get dry and the sun and the air will make the roots brown and hard. They will make it twist and wither slowly. Then only the tree will be killed.

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