Thinking about the Poem
1. Can a “simple jab of the knife” kill a tree? Why not?
No, a simple jab of the knife cannot kill a tree. It is not an easy task and takes a lot of time to kill it. A tree takes many years to grow and rises slowly from the ground.
The roots grow deep and hold the tree firmly in the soil. It absorbs sunlight, air and water and after several years it grows to its full size. One single jab will not kill it as new shoots and branches will soon grow back again.
2. How has the tree grown to its full size? List the words suggestive of its life and activity.
The tree has grown slowly, consuming nourishment from the earth’s crust and absorbing sunlight, air and water to reach its full size.
Words suggestive of its life and activity are Consuming, rising out, feeding, absorbing, sprouting, pain, bleeding, heal, expand.
3. What is the meaning of “bleeding bark”? What makes it bleed?
The bark of the tree is hardened, rough and dry. Sometimes, when the bark of the tree is chopped, hacked or jabbed at, it causes the tree to ooze out a sap like substance. A tree is therefore said to bleed.
What the poet actually wants to convey to us is that the tree is very much like a human being who, when cut, feels pain and starts to bleed.
4. The poet says “No” in the beginning of the third stanza. What does he mean by this?
The poet says “No” to imply that it is not possible to kill a tree easily. He means-No, don’t try to kill a tree by repeatedly cutting and jabbing at its shoots and branches. The tree will grow again and sprout new branches and attain its former size. Instead, it has to be uprooted from the anchoring earth.
5. What is the meaning of “anchoring earth” and “earth cave”?
Just as the anchor of a ship holds it in place during storms, the “anchoring earth” holds the tree firmly in its place by grasping onto its roots.
The phrase “earth cave” refers to the depression or the pit into which the roots have burrowed. The roots, the most sensitive part of the tree, stay hidden inside the earth as if in an earthen cave.
6. What does he mean by “the strength of the tree exposed”?
Once the tree is uprooted, the roots are exposed. The roots are responsible for providing nutrition and support for the tree. Pulling it out of the ground would expose it to the onslaught of air and sunlight. This would cause the demise of the tree.
7. What finally kills the tree?
Once the roots, are exposed to sunlight and air, the tree begins to get scorched and choked. It thus starts withering. After getting browned, hardened and twisted, the wood finally dries up. This eventually kills the tree.