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On Killing a Tree

On Killing a Tree


It takes much time to kill a tree,

Not a simple jab of the knife

Will do it. It has grown

Slowly consuming the earth,

Rising out of it, feeding

Upon its crust, absorbing

Years of sunlight, air, water,

And out of its leperous hide

Sprouting leaves.


So hack and chop

But this alone wont do it.

Not so much pain will do it.

The bleeding bark will heal

And from close to the ground

Will rise curled green twigs,

Miniature boughs

Which if unchecked will expand again

To former size.


No,

The root is to be pulled out –

Out of the anchoring earth;

It is to be roped, tied,

And pulled out – snapped out

Or pulled out entirely,

Out from the earth-cave,

And the strength of the tree exposed

The source, white and wet,

The most sensitive, hidden

For years inside the earth.


Then the matter

Of scorching and choking

In sun and air,

Browning, hardening,

Twisting, withering,

And then it is done.


Dr. Gieve Patel is one of the prominent Indian poets. His famous works include Evening, Forensic Medicine, and From Bombay Central. He has also penned three plays. He has been conducting a poetry workshop in Rishi Valley School for more than a decade. This poem is taken from his poetry collection ‘Poems’ published in 1966.


Glossary:

jab (v): to poke, or thrust abruptly or sharply with a short, quick blow

crust (n): the brown, hard outer portion or surface

leprous (adj): covered with scales

hide (n) the strong thick outer skin

miniature (adj.): very small


Read the following lines from the poem and answer the questions in a sentence or two.


1. It takes much time to kill a tree,

Not a simple jab of the knife Will do it.


i. Can a ‘simple jab of the knife’ kill a tree?

Ans: No. Simple jab of the knife cannot kill a tree.


ii. Why does it take much time to kill a tree?

Ans: The tree is very strong and its root is deep in the earth.


2. It has grown Slowly consuming the earth,

Rising out of it, feeding Upon its crust, absorbing


i. How has the tree grown?

Ans: The tree has grown slowly consuming the earth.


ii. What does the tree feed from the crust?

Ans: The tree feeds water and minerals from the crust.


3. And out of its leprous hide

Sprouting leaves.


i. What does the phrase ‘leprous hide’ mean?

Ans: ‘Leprous hide’ means the bark of the tree. The outer rough skin with scales.


ii. What comes out of the leprous hide?

Ans: Leaves comes out of the leprous hide.


4. The bleeding bark will heal

And from close to the ground

Will rise curled green twigs,

Miniature boughs


i. What will happen to the bleeding bark?

Ans: The bleeding bark will heal.


ii. What will rise from close to the ground?

Ans: The curled green twigs will raise from close to the ground.


5. The root is to be pulled out –

Out of the anchoring earth;


i) Why should the root be pulled out?

Ans: The root should be pulled out to kill the tree completely otherwise, the tree may grow again.


ii) What does ‘anchoring earth’ mean?

Ans: The tree’s fixation in the earth like an ship’s anchor.


Based on the understanding of the poem, write down the summary of the poem by filling in the blanks.


The poet explains the process of ___________. A lot of work has to be done in order to ___________ completely. It cannot be accomplished by merely cutting it with ___________. The tree has grown strong with the help of ___________ for countless years. Even the ___________ of the tree gives rise to ___________. The ___________ sprouts new twigs and leaves. In a short period, they grow into a new tree. So, to ___________ completely, one should take out its roots completely from the soil. Then they should be exposed to ___________. Only then the tree will be completely killed.


Answer:

The poet explains the process of killing a tree. A lot of work has to be done in order to kill it completely. It cannot be accomplished by merely cutting it with a knife. The tree has grown strong with the help of the earth for countless years. Even the branch of the tree gives rise to boughs. The bough sprouts new twigs and leaves. In a short period, they grow into a new tree. So, to kill a tree completely, one should take out its roots completely from the soil. Then they should be exposed to the sun and air. Only then the tree will be completely killed.


Based on the understanding of the poem, answer the following questions in a sentence or two.

1. What is the poem about?

Ans: The poem is about killing a tree.


2. What are the lessons to be learnt from the poem?

Ans: We must protect the tree and we should not kill them.


3. What are the life sources needed for a tree to grow?

Ans: Earth’s soil, water, air and sunlight.


4. What does the poet mean by ‘bleeding bark’?

Ans: The bark of the tree bleeds when it is cut-out.


5. Why does the poet say ‘No’ in the beginning of the third stanza?

Ans: He wants to insist that, it is not easy to kill the tree.


6. How should the root be pulled out?

Ans: The root should be pulled out completely from anchoring the earth.


7. What is hidden inside the earth for years?

Ans: The main source of the tree, the root which is white and wet is hidden inside the earth.


8. What finally happens to the tree in this poem?

Ans: The tree is killed completely.


Complete the table by identifying lines, against the poetic devices from the poem.


Poetic Lines:

It takes much time to kill a tree.


Poetic Devices / Figures of Speech:

Alliteration – takes, time, tree

Personification


Poetic Lines:

The bleeding bark will heal.


Poetic Devices / Figures of Speech

Alliteration – bleeding bark

Personification


Poetic Lines:

Out of the anchoring earth


Poetic Devices / Figures of Speech

Imagery

 

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