Trees by Harry Behn

Trees are the kindest things I know,
They do no harm, they simply grow
And spread a shade for sleepy cows,
And gather birds among their bows.

They give us fruit in leaves above,
And wood to make our houses of,
And leaves to burn on Halloween
And in the Spring new buds of green.

They are first when day’s begun
To tough the beams of morning sun,
They are the last to hold the light
When evening changes into night.

And when a moon floats on the sky
They hum a drowsy lullaby
Of sleepy children long ago…
Trees are the kindest things I know.

Summary

This is a simple poem in four stanzas about trees and what they mean to the poet. The poem conveys the importance of trees to the world with the use of very simple images and the poem has a regular rhyme scheme. A regular rhyme scheme means that you can see a pattern in the last words of each line. In this poem you will notice that the poem is in couplets with the last two words of each couplet having similar sounding words (Know/Grow, Cows/boughs).

Trees, as you all know, are very important for the survival of this world. Trees not only add colour to the landscape but make survival possible for us and many other creatures. Today we see that trees are slowly disappearing from our cities, villages and jungles, which, perhaps, is leading to global warming and a possible threat to our very existence. Thus it is important to preserve our forests and, if possible, plant as many trees as possible.

The poem begins with the line “Trees are the kindest things I know.” Trees are kind because, amongst other things, they harm no one. To be kind is to be gentle, caring and helpful to others. In the first stanza the poet talks about the kindness of the trees towards the animal world. They provide shade to the sleepy cows and provide a place for the birds to gather and to build their nest as well among their branches. In the second stanza the poet talks about the tree’s kindness to human beings. They provide us with food, wood for building houses and leaves full of beauty and joy in spring time, when the trees get fresh leaves and flowers.

The trees are kind because they just grow (without much help from us) and in their process of growth, they only shower blessings on man and animals without harming anyone. The images of ‘sleeping cows’ and ‘birds among their bough’ evokes an extremely pleasant, simple and peaceful landscape. The first two stanzas create an image of a peaceful and harmonious world and at the centre of the world are the trees which provide many things but demand very little or nothing from us.

This atmosphere of peace and tranquility is carried over to the stanzas, 3 and 4. The third stanza talks about the loftiness of the trees. The trees, being tall, are the first ones to catch the morning beams of the sun as it rises over the horizon. The expression ‘To touch the beams of morning sun” make the trees seem tall, majestic and lofty reaching out to the sun with their many arms (branches) spread out. And they are also the last to “hold the light” before night sets in. It seems as if the trees, in a generous gesture, bring in and hold the life giving sunlight for the world’s benefit. And finally, in the last stanzas the trees sing a lullaby, when the moon is up, to put people to sleep. The trees look very benign in the stanza. After the day’s work when people are tired and sleepy, the trees, like an old loving grandmother, sings them a lullaby of ‘sleepy children long ago.’ This lullaby is the rustling of leaves in a gentle breeze. It reminds people of sleepy children or in other words, of uncorrupted, pure and simple life. The last line is a repetition of the opening line, “Trees are the kindest things I know.” The poet’s belief that trees are the kindest things is reinforced through the various images used in the poem and this is again reaffirmed in the last line of the poem.


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