The Significance of “On Killing a Tree” Poem in English Literature

English literature is rich with poems that explore various themes and emotions. One such poem that has captivated readers for decades is “On Killing a Tree” by Gieve Patel. This thought-provoking poem delves into the complex relationship between humans and nature, shedding light on the destructive tendencies of mankind. In this article, we will analyze the poem, its underlying themes, and its relevance in today’s world.

The Poem: “On Killing a Tree”

“On Killing a Tree” is a powerful poem that was first published in 1966. Written by Gieve Patel, an Indian poet and playwright, the poem presents a unique perspective on the act of destroying a tree. It explores the resilience and determination of nature, highlighting the futility of human efforts to eradicate it.

The poem begins with the line, “It takes much time to kill a tree.” This opening sets the tone for the rest of the poem, emphasizing the difficulty and perseverance required to eliminate a tree. Patel goes on to describe the various methods people employ to kill a tree, such as cutting its branches, poisoning its roots, or even burning it. However, despite these efforts, the tree continues to grow, displaying an indomitable spirit.

Themes Explored in “On Killing a Tree”

1. Resilience of Nature: One of the central themes of the poem is the resilience of nature. The tree in the poem symbolizes the strength and endurance of the natural world. Despite the relentless attempts to destroy it, the tree persists and thrives. This theme serves as a reminder of the power and tenacity of nature, which often surpasses human efforts.

2. Human Hubris: “On Killing a Tree” also highlights the arrogance and hubris of humans. The poem suggests that our desire to control and dominate nature is ultimately futile. No matter how hard we try, nature will always find a way to survive and reclaim its space. This theme serves as a cautionary tale, warning against the destructive consequences of human actions.

3. Environmental Awareness: Another important theme explored in the poem is environmental awareness. “On Killing a Tree” urges readers to reflect on the impact of their actions on the natural world. It encourages a deeper understanding and appreciation of nature, emphasizing the need for sustainable practices and conservation efforts.

Relevance in Today’s World

The themes presented in “On Killing a Tree” continue to resonate in today’s world, where environmental issues have become increasingly urgent. The poem serves as a wake-up call, reminding us of the consequences of our actions and the importance of preserving the natural world.

In a time when deforestation, pollution, and climate change threaten the delicate balance of ecosystems, “On Killing a Tree” urges us to reconsider our relationship with nature. It prompts us to question our destructive tendencies and seek sustainable solutions.

Furthermore, the poem encourages us to appreciate the beauty and resilience of the natural world. It reminds us that nature has the power to heal and rejuvenate, even in the face of adversity. By recognizing and respecting this power, we can work towards a more harmonious coexistence with the environment.


“On Killing a Tree” is a poem that holds significant relevance in today’s world. Through its exploration of themes such as resilience, human hubris, and environmental awareness, the poem serves as a powerful reminder of our responsibility towards the natural world. It encourages us to reflect on our actions and make conscious choices that promote sustainability and conservation. By heeding the lessons of this poem, we can strive towards a more balanced and harmonious relationship with nature.


1. Who is the author of “On Killing a Tree”?

The author of “On Killing a Tree” is Gieve Patel, an Indian poet and playwright.

2. What is the central theme of the poem?

The central theme of the poem is the resilience of nature and the futility of human efforts to destroy it.

3. What does the tree symbolize in the poem?

The tree in the poem symbolizes the strength and endurance of the natural world.

4. How does “On Killing a Tree” relate to environmental issues?

The poem highlights the importance of environmental awareness and the need for sustainable practices.

5. Why is “On Killing a Tree” relevant in today’s world?

The poem serves as a reminder of our responsibility towards the environment and the consequences of our actions.