Wednesday, March 16, 2022

"Trees" by Joyce Kilmer

Quercus virginiana (Michael E. Arth, 1975) (Wikimedia)

Joyce Kilmer's little poem, "Trees," is beloved by readers, but scorned by critics as "too simple." Many of us can quote the first and last stanzas, and almost nothing in between. Those middle verses anthropomorphize trees, picturing their parts as the parts of a human body: mouth, arms, hair, and bosom. "Mrs. Henry Mills Alden," by the way, was Kilmer's wife's mother.


(For Mrs. Henry Mills Alden)

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.



  • bosom: chest; breast (in the sense of chest)
  • intimately: closely; familiarly



Answer the following question in your own words. Suggested answer is in the first comment below.

1. Name the parts of the tree meant by mouth, arms, hair, and bosom.


These questions do not have "right" or "wrong" answers. They only ask your opinion.

  1. Do you feel that anything made by nature (or God) is superior to anything made by humans?
  2. Do you believe that God makes trees?
  3. Why does the poet call himself a "fool"?

1 comment:


    Questions to Answer:
    1. The "mouth" might be the tree's roots; the "arms" are its branches; the "hair" could be the smaller branches, or maybe the leaves; and the "bosom" may be the trunk, or perhaps the bare branches in winter (which I might have called a "skeleton"!).

    Questions to Think About do not have any single correct answer. However, any answers you give should be supported by what you read or by things you know ("I think... because...").