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Joyce Kilmer's "Trees"

Joyce Kilmer, born (1886 -1918) in Mahwah New Jersey, was a poet whose admiration for the earth’s natural environment and all it encompassed was fragmented in the form of the poem “Tree’s”. A simple poem whose structure consists of six short verses, reflecting a steady poetic flow with accordance to the rule (A/A, B/B, … ) etc. This flow, known as the cadence, is the rhythmic meter of the poem and is sung like music from a song. More, the run on lines or enjambment provide evidence that further substantiates the poem’s rhythm.

The poem begins thus with the omniscient “I”, that is the speaker in the dialogue, describing an image of a tree held in a fragment of his memory. His affection for this tree takes on different forms of understanding as his ideas are expanded in the verses of the poem. He speaks about the relationship of the tree with the earth, the man’s sense of introspection with regards to the tree, and the almighty power of God.

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These innate human and natural characteristics contrive fundamentally “good” poetic emotions from the poem, and create the predisposition that is in opposition of the argument Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren issue.

Degrees of expression are used with each instant of thought to supply a particular depth to resolve different intensities of signification. If the strength of these elements help to establish the placement of ideas within the poem, then the concept “tree” takes on a signification that completes it.

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The tree’s bough is a reference to the roots that run into the ground of the earth’s foundation. The trunk of the tree kisses the earth and is part of an entity that is palpably human.

This human characteristic has with relation to nature three forms of analytical criteria with regards to the word “Sweet” in the second verse (Line 4). Its first use suggests a delectable taste that falls like a drop of water upon one’s tongue. It is almost like the hue of a flower, that in essence drops like a stream of consciousness. The derivative of these prosodic elements signify the tone form the totality of the linguistic experience that is represented by the position of the vowels. “Sweet” has a syllabic design that enacts a smooth sensation with the tongue.

The vowels differ slightly in tone, the first “e” begins in the “middle” and quickly ascends to a “high”. Within This monosyllable forms part of a linguistic structure, know as the Holonym. This is a particular linguistic form where a part forms a constituent of a whole. “Sweet” forms part of the sensory operation taste, which is a psychological function; this existential theoretical state where a complex idea is stemmed from a simple one is linked to the processes of syntax. Saussure’s: Nature of the Linguistic Sign, is linked to the signification and the signal of the sign.

He states, “the sign is the combination of signification and signal that together forms part of a whole. ” This relationship between the signification and the signal is arbitrary but the mode of behavior that expresses the particular collective habit, endows the meaning of the sign with an “ideal semiological process”. (Saussure 1983: 68). The symbol which exists in close proximity to the signal, as result confines the nature of the sign to the notion of “Tree” built in the context of the poem.

The poet’s speech equipped with the skill to posit himself as speaker, entrusts himself to “I” and is the degree by which man and God have an intimate natural connection. (Benveniste 1973: 223). Kilmer’s use of good diction assigns a quality to the poem that treads lightly; so as to not offend His divinity. This positive affiliation with words expresses throughout the attitude of the speaker and signifies the semantic relation that “lifts” assumes (Line 6). “Lifts ” performs a function in language that is of a particular form of prosodic meaning that represents the idea of saliency, “a conspicuous feature”.

To prove this, take a look at the grammatical structure of the word. Pronounced [lifts], provokes an intonation, the “tone of voice” as Bakhtin says that resides in the internal speech of the mind of the listener and addresses him with the inflected utterance of a “sympathetic witness”. (Bakhtin 1987: 42). The listener in the general sense assumes the position taken by the speaker of the utterance and obeys the conditions set internally within his environment.

The intonation therefore models the mode of the utterance and reflects the choice of words used by the poet to represent his idea. So, it is the utterance that completes the meaning of the sentence and the overall meaning of the poem as a whole. I think that in order to bridge some of the gaps in meaning that are prevalent in some of the conceptions used, further exploration of the linguistic structure is necessary. I would have liked to have used Bakhtin’s theory on the Construction Of the Utterance more to further explain the arrangement of words around the concept “tree”.

This would have clearly modified the verse of the poem and would justify precise and coherent thinking. To delve further into the core of the issue, would require expansion of the prosodic elements in the poem such as the ideas of discourse and pragmatics that would form an intimate understanding of the poet’s thinking and the message that he wishes to convey. The pleasant rhythm the poem sustains in its simplest form parts a goodness of heat and mind that speaks truly about Kilmer’s relationship with nature and unites the idea of tree.

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Joyce Kilmer's "Trees". (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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