Gieve Patel is not only a poet but also a painter and an environmentalist. His poem ‘On Killing a Tree’ speaks about deep concerns about nature and man’s evil habits of cutting trees for selfish motives.
The poem ‘On Killing a Tree’ is like an instruction manual of killing a tree. It tells the reader that trees are living beings. They are not cut but killed properly by uprooting the roots that are inserted deeply in the soil. Through the poem, the poet teaches us many lessons. Firstly, the poem illustrates the courage and strength of trees, through which it teaches us to be strong and determined. Then, it points out that evils are just like roots. They are deeply rooted within us and even if we feel we had vanquished them, it suddenly appears. Therefore, to kill an evil we must put in our best efforts and uproot it. Thirdly, it teaches us that we must bring all our work to a proper end. Lastly, it requests us not to cut trees that sustain our lives.
The poem ‘On Killing a Tree’ describes the process of cutting a tree completely. Ironically, through the description of the process, the poet presents a severe criticism of human cruelty and insensitive nature in chopping down trees for material benefit. The poet appeals to its readers not to cut trees that give us the necessities of life and sustains it. Therefore one must not cut trees but plant more and more trees. Apart from this, the poet gives readers several lessons. Through the poem, the poet tells us that the sturdiness and resilience of trees such that they take all kinds of admonitions but refuse to die. Similarly, we too must be strong and determined to face any challenges in life. Next, the trees in the poem symbolize the evil patterns that are deeply inherited within us. We may think that we have gotten rid of it but they may suddenly appear until and unless we put in our best efforts. Lastly, the poem outs that we must complete our work efficiently and whole-heartedly.
It takes much time to kill a tree, ……. Sprouting leaves.
The poem starts by pointing out that it takes a lot of time to cut a tree. The simple act of stabbing it with a knife is not enough to kill a tree. It is not an easy job to kill a tree, as it has grown strong by absorbing many elements for many years. It has taken nutrients from the soil and absorbed sunlight, air and water for a long time such that many leaves had grown on it.
So hack and chop….. To former size
In this stanza, the poet states that we need to do a lot of efforts to kill a tree. According to him a simple stab and chop won’t kill the tree completely. It would only injure the tree, which would suffer the pain with its strength. The fighting spirit of the tree shall soon receive its full strength and with time, the injured bark will heal and the tree will grow again. Green twigs and small branches will grow again on the tree. Consequently, the tree will grow its full size again as it was before being cut or killed. Therefore, it is not easy to kill a tree with these measures.
No, The root is to be pulled out -- ……. For years inside the earth.
In this stanza, the poet points out the exact manner through which a tree can be killed. He states that to kill a tree completely, its roots need to be taken out of the deep soil where it is hiding inside the Earth. The root is the strength of the tree. It gives support to the tree and its most vulnerable as well as the sensitive part. It needs to be snapped out entirely from deep inside the Earth.
Then the matter…. And then it is done.
In this stanza, the poet says that once the roots are uprooted, it will get exposed to the sun and the air. As a result, the roots start dying due to the heat. The roots become brown and the soft surface becomes hard and dry. After some time, it loses its shape and starts twisting. Finally, the tree will die.
Q1. The Poet Has Used Irony in the Poem to Give a Message. Elaborate.
Ans. In the poem ‘On Killing a Tree’ the poet describes a method that will most effectively kill a tree. By stating the method, the poem conveys a message that Mother Nature has regenerative powers and cannot be destroyed easily. Further, trees sustain our lives and hence must be preserved.
Q2. How Can the Tree Get Back to Its Former Size?
Ans. After the tree’s bleeding bark is healed, small branches and bushes will rise from the stump of the tree, which is close to the ground. With time, these tiny delicate branches of the trees will expand and grow to its original size.
Q3. What is the Meaning of ‘Anchoring Earth’ and ‘Earth Cave’?
Ans. ‘Anchoring earth’ refers to the soil in which the roots of the tree are kept hidden. The soil and the roots of the trees form a very tight grip, like an anchor and keeps it rooted. As a result, the tree stands firmly and deeply at a place.
‘Earth cave’ refers to a small region inside the ground where the roots are generally fixed. After the roots are pulled out, the area looks like a cave.
Q4. What is the Important Message that the Poet has Conveyed through the Poem, ‘On Killing a Tree’?
Ans. The theme of the poem is how to complete a job. A half-done job is as bad as not done at all. If we want to finish a tree, we must uproot it. Cutting the limbs alone will not do. The lesson is that a great task needs a great deal of hard work. One must be prepared for it. For example, if we want to understand a book, the simple reading of a few pages will not do. We have to read it completely, underline the important passages and try to understand what the author means to say. It is not enough to grasp a great book by reading it once. We may have to read it, again and again, to grasp it fully.