The Trees are Down Analysis

The Trees are Down

Mew says ‘The Trees’, meaning these are specific trees and therefore makes the poem personal to her. The idea of trees being ‘down’ invokes images of injustice- trees are symbols of strength and majesty; they should not be down.

- and he cried with a loud voice:

Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees - (Revelation)

This is an epitaph from the Bible. It comes from the end of the Bible, which contains visions of the end of the world. Using this quote gives Mew’s poem a sense of authority, since the words are supposedly coming directly from God. It sets the tone of the poem as one which will talk about environmental issues, a topic still a priority today.

Stanza One

They are cutting down the great plane-trees at the end of the garden.

The opening word is ‘They’. They are not given a voice, a personality. Mew does not think they are important enough to, suggesting they are insignificant or doing something she does not respect. We then find out why: they are cutting down trees around her house in Euston Square, London. The adjective ‘great’ implies that the trees were grand and majestic, and held great importance in her life. This contrasts with them being cut down. The line ends with a caesura. This gives emphasis on the finality of the events. She is not euphemistic; she clearly states what is happening. This may be out of anger as she loves these trees and does not want them gone.

For days there has been the grate of the saw, the swish of the branches as                 they fall,

The crash of trunks, the rustle of trodden leaves,

These lines contain lots of onomatopoeia. The sounds made by man, ‘grate’ and ‘crash’, are coarse and harsh, reflecting how cruel their actions are. In contrast, the sounds made by the felled trees, ‘swish’ and ‘rustle’, are gentle and soft. This shows the beauty of nature, making it seem more awful that the men are so easily overpowering and destroying the trees. The fact that the leaves are being ‘trodden’ on suggests the men have no respect for the once mighty trees.

With the ‘Whoops’ and the ‘Whoas’, the loud common talk, the loud                                 common laughs of the men, above it all.

Here we find out who ‘they’ are. They are men, who Mew believes are ‘common’. They show no respect for the trees. The repetition of the word ‘common’ emphasises Mew’s hatred of them because of what they are doing to her beloved trees. She says their voices are ‘above it all’, describing man’s dominance in this situation. The trees, while seemingly powerful and imposing, are helpless against the men’s tools. 

Stanza Two

I remember one evening of a long past Spring

Turning in at a gate, getting out


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