Explanation of the Poem

Stanza 1

The trees inside are moving out into the forest,

the forest that was empty all these days

where no bird could sit

no insect hide

no sun bury its feet in shadow

the forest that was empty all these nights

will be full of trees by morning.

Explanation

The speaker of the poem observes that the trees in his house are moving outside into the forest which has been empty for a long time. It is important to understand that the destroyed forests and the false nature that humans have tried to keep in their houses. Since the forest outside was empty, no birds could sit on the branches of trees, no insects could hide in the trees and sunlight could never disappear under the shadows of the trees. the speaker tells that the empty forest will be full of trees by the next morning.

Stanza 2

All night the roots work

to disengage themselves from the cracks

in the veranda floor.

the leaves strain toward the glass

small twigs stiff with exertion

long-cramped boughs shuffling under the roof

like newly discharged patients

half-dazed, moving to the clinic doors.

Explanation

It seems like the trees work silently in the night in order to complete their mission of getting free from the boundaries of the house. Therefore, they work all night to free themselves through the cracks of the veranda floor. The leaves of the trees try very hard to put a lot of pressure on the glass so that they could break it. The small twigs have become very hard due to applying so much pressure to free themselves. The larger branches of the trees that have shrunk because of being inside the walls and under the roof, where they cannot grow much. They try to move slowly from there and look like newly discharged patients from a hospital, who become half-shocked on coming to the outside world.

Stanza 3

I sit inside, door open to the veranda

writing long letters

in which I scarcely mention the departure

of the forest from the house.

The night is fresh, the whole moon shines

in a sky still open

the smell of leaves and lichen

still reaches like a voice into the rooms.

Explanation

The speaker, who could be the poet herself, sits in her house, the doors of which open to the veranda. She is writing long letters. She hardly mentions in her letters about the trees that are moving out to the empty forest. The poet presents a conflict between man and nature. man uses plants for interior decoration cuts trees to make a house for himself. Through these lines the poet is indicating towards a possible rebellion by nature against man as they strive to go outside the house into the open in a full moon night where the moon is shining in the open sky and the night is very fresh. The poet can smell the leaves and lichens coming from the trees that reach her room like a voice.

Stanza 4

My head is full of whispers

which tomorrow will be silent.

Listen. The glass is breaking.

The trees are stumbling forward

into the night. Winds rush to meet them.

The moon is broken like a mirror,

its pieces flash now in the crown

of the tallest oak.

Explanation

The speaker listens to the sounds coming from the leaves and lichens of the trees. These sounds will not be there in the morning as the trees will move out to the forest in the night and will not be in the house by morning. Now, the speaker can hear the glass breaking due to the efforts of the twigs. As the glass breaks, the trees hurry outside and and in doing so, they fall on each other and get struck at different places. As the trees go in the open, it seems like the wind is moving fast towards them to meet them. The tall trees can finally stand straight as they are free. They are so tall that the have broken the moon into pieces like a broken mirror. The moon now sits like the crowns on the heads of the tall oak trees. Again, the use of moon is an imagery to show that between the  ground and the sky stands the trees, and one can only look at parts of the moon, and not the full moon, from under the trees.

Central Idea of Poem

The poem ‘The Trees’ by Adrienne Rich shows the conflict between man and nature. With the growth and development of society, human beings have used nature for their own benefit and caused a lot of harm to it. The poet wants to give the message that the presence of a few trees inside our homes does not become equal to nature, it is a very false idea of nature. Real nature is outside, in the forests that we have destroyed.

The poem tells us how the trees want to break free from the walls that humans have put around them, and go out in the forest.

Poetic Devices Used in the Poem

Simile : When comparison is used between two words using ‘like’ or ‘as’.

  • Like newly discharged patients
  • Still reaches like a voice into the rooms.
  • The moon is broken like a mirror.

Imagery : Imagery means to use figurative language to represent objects, actions and ideas in such a way that it appeals to our physical senses.

  • Its pieces flash now in the crown of the tallest oak.