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The poem Trees, written by American Poet Joyce Kilmer is about the beauty of nature, especially the trees. The poet wrote this poem when he happened to open the window one fine morning and was charmed by the beautiful trees outside his home.
The poem has been divided into six couplets and is quite symbolic. I will discuss the poem line by line and also try to explore the possible deep meanings.
I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree.
In the first couplet, the poet, after seeing the beauty of the tree, says that he will not be able to see (read) a poem which is as lovely as the tree. The line seems to be confusing because, he is comparing his poem with the tree.
However, if we go deep into the lines, we find that the poet is comparing his creativity (composing poems) with the creativity of God (creation of trees). He thinks that his creativity is inferior than the creativity of God.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
In the second couplet, the poet has personified the Earth. According to him, like a mother feed milk to her children, mother earth feeds its sweet water which flows on its breast (surface) to the tree when its hungry mouth i.e. roots is prest i.e. searches for food.
Note that, here earth symbolises motherhood while the tree is acting like a child. In poet’s imaginations, earth and tree have human characteristics.
A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
In this couplet, the poet says that a tree looks at God all the day and always lifts her leafy arms to pray. Here the tree is given female characteristics (as she is referred to as “she”).
The tree grows upwards and the poet imagines as if it is praying to God. Leafy arms refer to its branches and leafs. The poet considers the tree to be religious like humans.
A tree that may in summer wear A nest of robins in her hair;
According to the poet, the tree wears (i.e. gives space) the nest of robins (birds) in her hair (i.e. branches) during the summers.
In other words, the trees give shelter to birds and save them from extreme heat and cold.
Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain.
In this couplet, the poet again refers the tree as female. According to him, the snow lain (falls) on the bosom (breast) i.e. leaves of the tree. Moreover, it also lives intimately i.e. happily with the rain as the latter helps it to grow.
In other words, like humans, the trees also face ups and downs in their lives. They also bear the hardships (snow) and enjoy the good times (rainy season).
Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.
In the final couplet, the poet calls himself fool and says that poems are composed by humans (like him) while a charming thing like the tree can only be created by God.
Here, the poet is again comparing the creativity of humans with the creativity of God. He concludes that humans creativity can never be as perfect as that of God. Humans can never make something like the tree.
The whole poem is symbolic in which nature is personified and its Creator is appreciated. Another important aspect of this poem is the criticism of humans activities against the nature.
God creates trees, while humans cut it to and write poems on the paper made out of it. The poet seems to be critical of this activity. This is why he calls himself and other poets fools.