On Killing a Tree

Describe in detail the growth of a tree, as stated in the first stanza of the poem, ‘On Killing a Tree.

In the first stanza of the poem, ‘On Killing a Tree Give Patel describes the growth of a tree. According to the poet, a tree grows slowly by consuming the nutrients from the earth. The tree takes essential nutrients from the earth’s upper crust and prepares its food. It also absorbs sunlight, air and water, the three elemental forces of nature, to produce food. This food reaches all parts of the tree as a result of which the tree grows. Thus, taking in nutrients from the earth and the atmosphere, the tree grows gradually. The poet describes the growth of a tree to suggest its vivacity.

“It takes much time to kill a tree, / Not a simple jab of the knife / Will do it.”-What does the phrase, ‘a simple jab of the knife’, mean? Why can’t ‘a simple jab of the knife’ kill a tree?

The phrase, a simple jab of the knife, means the attempt to kill a tree by mere stabbing it with a knife.

★ The poet says that an attempt to kill a tree only by stabbing it with a knife cannot be successful. If a tree is struck hard with a knife, it does not die. The tree can overcome such a blow. It has become strong by absorbing the nutrients from the earth. Since birth, it has been absorbing sunlight, air and water. So a simple jabbing won’t kill it. A tree can withstand a simple jab of the knife. The poet defines the difficult task of cutting down trees by using such a phrase ironically.

How has the tree grown to its full size? List the words suggestive of its life and activity. Why does it take much time to kill a tree?

Or, Why does it take ‘much time to kill a tree’? How is the tree finally killed?

Since birth, the tree slowly consumes the nutrients from the earth. It has been absorbing sunlight, air and water so as to grow to its full size. The words which suggest a tree’s life and activity are

as follows: consuming the earth, rising out of it, feeding Upon its crust, absorbing sunlight, air, water for years and sprouting leaves. It is not easy to kill a tree because it has deep roots. So, a stab of the knife or hacking and chopping the tree cannot kill it. To kill a tree the root has to be pulled out. It has to be scorched and choked in the sun and air so that it becomes brown, hard, twisted and dry. Only then does a tree die? So it takes much time and effort to kill a tree.

“And out of its leprous hide/Sprouting leaves.”-What does the expression ‘leprous hide’ refer to? What does ‘its leprous hide’ bear? What is the significance of the expression? Bring out the irony suggested here.

The expression, ‘leprous hide, refers to the bark of the tree which looks like the skin of a leprosy patient. It is brown, dry and rough.

• Leaves grow from its ‘leprous hide!

• The poet here personifies the tree by describing its bark as ‘leprous. He uses a medical term to personify the tree.

• The expression is ironical. Leprosy usually eats away the body and hampers normal growth. But here, the leprous hide is a source of growth. It bears the leaves that produce food. It is not a symbol (image) of decay (fr), but of growing life. This kind of image certainly makes the poem a modern one.

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