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The trees -Analysis
Transcript of The trees -Analysis
Analysis- First stanza
Poem Reading by Philip Larkin
In the first stanza, The line "The trees are coming into leaf" relates to the saying of "turning a new leaf" which shows that it is the start of spring and a new life. The simile "Like something almost being said" compares the growth of the trees to something being said which links to the idea that the trees are at the start of their cycle. The use of "something" and "almost" also gives a sense of uncertainty and that the poet is in the state of two minds. Next the buds are personified as relaxing their shape and spreading out their flowers to receive the sun's warmth, their stage in growth is like humans entering a new stage in life. The line "Their greenness is a kind of grief" shows that the poet is envious of the buds immortality, He is envious that they have the ability to be reborn each season unlike humans who live their life and may die with no chance of renewal.The poet suggests that It is very difficult for humans to start again in life. Even though trees do age and their beauty does not last for ever, they can however renew themselves by growing new leaves every season.
The effects of time-transience of youth
Rebirth-continuous rebirth that the trees are shown to exhibit in spring.Renewal and new beginnings."begin afresh,afresh"
Natural cycle used to compare the life-cycle of a tree to a life-cycle of a human and to distinguish between both.
Immortality/life and death-referring to the human cycle where life and death are inevitable.
Young vs old
by Philip Larkin
About the Poem...
Philip Arthur Larkin was born on August 9, 1922, in Coventry an industrial city in Central England.
Larkin grew up during the 1930s and 1940s, which were marked by severe economic depression followed by the war.
He graduated from Oxford university in 1943 with a first class honors degree in English literature.
Larkin bitterly described his childhood as ‘dull, pot-bound and slightly mad...’
Following his studies, he became a librarian and it was at this time in which he produced most of his published work.
Larkin was greatly influenced by the writers-Thomas hardy.William Butler Yeats and Wysten Hugh Auden.
Larkin always wanted to be loved by women but he lacked the confidence to develop a relationship and marry. Although he had a number of affairs, Larkin feared marriage and family, and never married. ‘Two can live as stupidly as one,’ he said.This led him into developing a morose [gloomy] attitude to life.
He died of oesophagal cancer on the 2nd of december 1985.
He a reputation for being a pessimistic,death-obsessed and darkly humorous observer of humanity.
In stanza two, the poet begins to question the lifespan of the trees and begins to develop quite a pessimistic view on life. He compares the trees life-cycle to a human's lifespan. By answering his own question, "And we grow old? No they die too" shows that even though trees can get rid of dead leaves and grow new ones their life has a beginning and an end. Like humans the trees will eventually grow old and age as well, however they just have the ability to grow new leaves during each spring which the poet describes as being just a "yearly trick". Even with their "trick" the trees age as well as the metaphor "rings of grain" remind us that no matter what we do we still age either on the inside or outside. When humans age it is apparent in their appearance eg, wrinkles and grey hair, however to know the true age of a tree the only way is to look at the patterns of growth rings, Even though the trees true age is hidden inside, it doesn't mean that they don't grow old as they will eventually die too. However the poet is envious that trees can start new by simply growing new leaves and hiding their age.
The "Yet still" could suggest that maybe he has realized the reality of life and also creates a shift in tone as he is about to change his perspective.The comparison of trees to castles shows his admiration for the trees to grow new leaves every spring as castles are known to be mighty and majestic. The next lines again emphasize how the leaves grow again like a yearly cycle.The last line "Begin afresh, afresh ,afresh" portrays the message that no matter what you do there is always the opportunity to forget the past and to have a fresh start. Like the trees which constantly get to start over, what would you do if you could begin your life again? What would you do differently?
"The Trees" consists of three stanzas each with four lines with the rhyme scheme ABBA which is apparent throughout the poem. The continuous rhyme scheme symbolizes the continuous cycle of nature. It begins anew like the trees, which simply grow new leaves once they have reached the end of one cycle.
Philip Larkin's poem "The Trees" is about a tree's ability to be reborn, which is something that Larkin appears to be very envious of.The poem deals with the renewal of life and the disposal of the past.By the poets use of metaphorically relating our lives to the life-cycle of a tree he suggests the fact that our human lives are also cyclical and that life and death are a part of nature.Death cannot be prevailed or escaped by anyone and is a result of the cyclical nature of life. Despite its misleading simplicity on the surface, the poem bears a deeper meaning underneath: the trees that are reborn every year symbolize renewal and hope in contrast to humans who have to confront death eventually. Yet, throughout the poem, Larkin contradicts himself as he delightedly views the picture of the growing trees but then denies the immortality of their youth as a superficial exterior marked by inward aging and an eventual death. "The Trees" demonstrates the temporary nature of youth as a result of the destructive passage of time, one of the recurring themes of Larkin's works.
Initially starts with an optimistic approach.
'The recent buds relax and spread'
Transitions to an envious and cynical point of view.
'Their greenness is a kind of grief'
Hints at realistic concept as he realises that the trees conceal their age and in reality they are also inwardly aging just like humans.
'Is it that they are born again and we grow old? No they die too.Their yearly tricks of looking new is written down in rings of grain.'
Concludes on a positive and hopeful note.
If the last line is read in conjunction with the first line of the poem,we can see that the last line links back to the first reinforcing the cyclical nature of the poem which may be used to imply metaphorically the cyclical nature of life.
The poem has an iambic tetrameter, meaning it consists of four 'iambic feet' (8 syllables per line) this repetition again symbolizes a cycle.
Each stanza contains the same amount of lines and the same rhyming scheme which again displays the cycle of trees and the cycle of life.
The frequent use of full stops at the end of each stanza shows that everything comes to an end and that death is unavoidable.
The four lines per stanza could represent the four yearly seasons, and the twelve lines in the poem could symbolize the twelve months in a year.
Possible Ideas and Viewpoints
Things are not as they might seem on the surface.Sometimes the truth is concealed by outward appearances."Their yearly trick of looking new is written down in the rings of grain."
Nothing is everlasting or immortal.Nature itself "dies" ands begins "afresh".The "last year is dead" implies that the past is gone and will never return.
A human's life is intertwined with nature's cycle and death is inevitable.Just as the humans cannot escape death,trees are not able to either."Is it that they are born again And we grow old? No,they die too."
New beginnings bring hope and a chance of renewal for humans."Begin afresh" suggests the initiation of something new with the past being forgotten.