What Is “Trees” by Alfred Joyce Kilmer About?

The poem “Trees” by Alfred Joyce Kilmer is about the perfection of nature as compared to anything man creates. He starts the poem with the lines, “I think that I shall never see/ A poem lovely as a tree,” establishing this mindset from the very beginning.

He continues on in the poem to give details about the tree and its place in nature. He personifies the tree in the next two lines as a baby getting sustenance from her mother’s breast, indicating the manner in which nature interacts with its parts.

The third stanza portrays the tree as looking to God, reaching up to Him with arms (branches) in prayer. These line show the relationship of the tree as part of nature with its creator and its dependence on Him.

The next two stanzas talk about the tree in the different seasons. In summer, it is said to wear “a nest of robins in her hair,” demonstrating that the tree gives back to nature by providing a home for other creatures. The poem speaks also of the tree’s coexistence with nature in the forms of snow and rain.

In the final stanza, Kilmer reinforces his opinion of his own contributions as they compare to the bigger picture. He minimizes his poetry as a base piece of work, adding that “only God can make a tree.”

Kilmer’s faith and his love of nature are evident in the poem “Trees.” He volunteered to serve in World War I and was killed in action. The popularity of this particular poem continued to grow after his death, and part of a national forest in North Carolina bears his name.