The Sound of Trees. Collection – Mountain Interval. 1916.

I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.

A familiar sound becomes noise

Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?

The poem opens with a question. The poet wonders why he likes the sound of trees yet seems to ‘suffer’ from it. This is because although he may prefer complete quiet, he’s so used to the sound of the trees that the absence of it makes him uneasy. The key word here is ‘forever’. When a constant sound quiets down, the silence is uneasy.

Mark that though he has used ‘sound’ in the title, he does not use it again in the poem and uses only ‘noise’. It seems more like a temporary annoyance. The kind one feels sometimes for children’s chatter. But the underlying love and attachment cannot be missed. ‘Dwelling place’ is also indicative of the connect, the comfort he feels in familiar surroundings.

Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys,

He gets into this mood set by the sound – unchanging, regular. The repetitive sound of the trees make, affects his mood and his tasks seem trite or monotonous.  He slows down due to the dull mood and does not even feel contented with the joys that exist. Like a sound that bothers us in the quiet of night, the ‘listening air’ that he has acquired, makes it difficult for him to shake it off.

How men and trees grow old differently

When trees are young, there’s a tentativeness about them – how long will they survive, how strong will they grow. Then gradually they grow firm and steady and become strong with time. But with humans it’s the opposite. As we grow older, our physical strength as well as our mental faculties begin to decline and the end seems more real.

The sound of trees seems to convey this imminent end. Everything seems worthless and trivial when the trees continually remind the poet of the ultimate reality – his mortality.

An impulsive resolve

I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice

In somewhat an angry resolve, he asserts his belief that he still has the choice to do things in life. That he may yet start on fresh paths, do new things, embark on new adventures. It could mean to free himself from his worldly bonds, to live life on his own terms or to do what his heart desires.

‘Somewhere’ conveys that he still has no definite plans but is sure that he will do it. He also knows that any such step would be ‘reckless’ as it would disrupt the regularity of his life but he seems determined to ‘choose’ and try out a ‘road not taken’. ‘Somewhere’ also suggests his eagerness to get away from his existing circumstances.

The tone of the poem swings from annoyance to philosophical broodings to an angry resolve.

Loneliness

Loneliness rather than the wish to escape seems to be the predominant emotion in this poem. Only a lonely person can be so conscious of his surroundings so as to ‘acquire a listening air’ for a sound that is not new but has been a constant.

The Sound of Trees appeared in the collection Mountain Interval in 1916, three years after Into my Own where he talked of escape. This collection also contained the famous poem, The Road Not Taken, which talks of ‘choices’. Clearly, the poet was dwelling a great deal on the course his life was taking and his conscious choice of the ‘less traveled’ road.



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