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In the poem "The Trees" by Philip Larkin, what do the "rings of grain" show?The Trees...

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zero0master | Student, Grade 9 | eNoter

Posted March 30, 2009 at 1:30 AM via web

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In the poem "The Trees" by Philip Larkin, what do the "rings of grain" show?

The Trees

The Trees are coming into leaf

Like something almost said;

The recent buds relax and spread,

Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again

And we grow old? No, they die too.

Their yearly trick of looking new

Is written down in the rings  of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh

In fullgrown thickness every May.

Last year is dead, they seem to say,

Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 4, 2011 at 7:16 AM (Answer #1)

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Like many of Philip Larkin's poems, "The Trees" focuses on issues of life, death, and mutability. The poem opens with imagery that seems fairly optimistic and pleasant for a Larkin poem, but the reference to “grief” in line 4 (especially since it ironically echoes, through assonance, the word “green” earlier in that line) helps suggest that this will be a typical poem by Larkin.

In the second stanza, the speaker wonders whether the slight grief we feel when we see trees blooming is due to our recognition that trees are born again whereas we, as humans, simply and inevitably age as we move toward an equally inevitable death. He then answers his own question by asserting that

. . . No, they die too,

Their yearly trick of looking new

Is written down in rings of grain. (6-8)

In other words, the rings that become visible when a tree is cut down – the rings that radiate outward from the center of the tree trunk to its circumference – indicate the slow, steady pattern of growth and dormancy, growth and dormancy, that marks the developing life of a tree. Each year, a growing tree adds another “ring” to this visible pattern, so that it is actually possible to determine a tree’s age with great accuracy.

Trees, then, also age, as humans do, although they can refresh themselves, physically, every year. Humans, of course, cannot, although the ending of the poem suggests that humans may be able to refresh themselves in other ways (such as emotionally or perhaps even spiritually, in the broadest sense of that word).

 

 

 

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amitsingh11582 | College Teacher | Honors

Posted September 9, 2012 at 5:37 AM (Answer #2)

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Here "Rings of Grain" means the circles inside the trunks, which shows the age of any Tree.

 

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