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The Trees

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by

Amy Stuart

on 31 October 2016

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Transcript of The Trees

The Trees
Context
Poetic Devices
Themes
The poet
Phillip Larkin (1922-1985)

Larkin led a solitary life and hated fame. His poetry reflects the gloom of postwar England and depicts the lack of spirituality of the world at the time.

Larkin wrote about the failures and grief of aging, about stunted lives and spoiled desires.

Larkin distrusted travel and foreign literature. England became his primary subject.
The poem
Published in 1974 in his collection
High Windows -
his last collection before his death in 1985
The Time
Structure
Iambic tetrameter - each line consists of four 'iambic feet' (8 syllables). This repetition symbolizes a cycle.

Each stanza contains the same amount of lines and the same rhyming scheme (ABBA) 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.
Imagery
Birth - 'like something almost being said'

Aging - 'Their yearly trick of looking new/is written down in rings of grain'

Death - 'No, they die too'
'Last year is dead'

Rebirth - 'In fullgrown thickness every May'
'Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.'
Poetic Devices
Simile
Personification
Onomatopoeia
Alliteration
Assonance
Repetition
Tone, Mood
The tone is mostly
pessimistic
.

Larkin's speaker seems to begin his poem in
nostalgic
envy of the trees who are able to begin anew each year, as if returning to youth.

The use of this tone creates a mood of
grief
in the reader for the fleeting nature of youth and vibrancy.
Life Cycle
The primary theme of 'The Trees' is the cycle of life.

This is best demonstrated through the poem's progression from birth to old age, death and rebirth.

This theme is also reflected in the poem's structure and Larkin's use of poetic devices such as onomatopoeia.
Humans and Nature
In order to illustrate the cycle of life, Larkin compares the life of a tree to that of a human.

Techniques that develop this theme include tone, mood, simile, personification and word choice.
E.g - No, they die
too
Youth vs Aging
As the poem moves through stanzas it also moves through a human's life stages.

Beginning with fleeting youth the poem introduces the 'grief' of life's brevity and the process of aging.

By comparing trees to humans Larkin's poem urges it's reader to 'Begin afresh, afresh, afresh' in order to renew the happiness and vigour of younger years.
Phillip Larkin
The collection contained poems on similar themes to Larkin's previous work but took on a darker, more miserable tone
Larkin's poetry uses everyday language of simple words, rhythms and tones in its structure. This fits with rules of Modernist literature.
Larkin established himself as the leader of English Modernism - a literary movement that abandoned romantic views of the world. Instead, Modernist poetry focussed on the pessimism of post-war society.
Full transcript