Gieve Patel’s ‘On Killing a Tree’ is a sarcastic poem about man’s indiscriminate destruction of trees. The tree is presented as an enemy to man. Man is presented as a professional killer who thinks of all possible ways to torture the tree.
The poem begins ironically, describing the crime committed by the tree. For years it has consumed the earth’s crust. Like a thief it has absorbed sunlight, air and water and has grown up like a giant. So the tree must be killed. But it is not an easy task. A simple jab of the knife will not do it. From close to the ground it will rise up again and grow to its former size. It will again become a threat to man. So the tree should be tied with a rope and pulled out entirely. Its white, bleeding root should be exposed. Then it should be browned and hardened and twisted and withered and it is done.
The poem gives a realistic picture of man’s attitude towards trees. The tree is his greatest friend. But man is so foolish that he doesn’t realize the fact that he is cutting his own throat when he cuts a tree.