The Sound of the Discontented

The Sound of Trees


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.

The first question the speaker asks concerning the trees is why do he and others bear their noise all the time (lines 3-4)? Apparently they annoy the speaker to the point of exasperation: “We suffer them by the day/ Till we lose all measure of pace/ And fixity in our joys/ And acquire a listening air (lines 6-9). The speaker and his friends, at one point, had their lives together the way they wished; but the trees’ noise impedes on their tranquility, demanding their attention. They lose sight of their goals due to all the rambling. But could the trees be symbols for a certain group of people? Who exactly does the speaker feel compelled to listen to?  Lines 10-11 say “They are that that talks of going/ But never gets away/ And that talks no less for knowing/ As it grows wiser and older.” The trees represent a specific type of people, those who, in their hypocrisy, speak much truth and wisdom concerning life but who never enact their tenets. They do not reinforce their wisdom by their conduct. They may gain more knowledge in their learning but they fail to apply their knowledge practically. There is a sense of fleeting time, making the issue desperate, since the trees age but never really get any smarter. And the specific moral in these lines points to experiencing life and not remaining dormant. The speaker believes it is important to leave the confines of traditional wisdom and make a name for oneself. This is particularly true if the dominant morality ironically works against the very thing it is supposed to defend. Freedom would be preferable against such an irrational double standard. The world waits, waiting to be explored.

As the poem progresses, the listener learns that the speaker is no different than the hypocrites which he is condemning. He himself needs to break free from society’s chains and live. In lines 16-17, the trees swaying is compared to the swaying of the speaker’s head. Despite the fact that the trees are currently rooted, they want to move and be in constant motion. The speaker wants to usher in a new existence for himself, even if that means rebelling against the prevailing morality. After all, the speaker desires to make a “reckless choice” (line 20). What he wants would never be approved by others. Yet these same others want to be reckless as well. Can they not make up their mind? What do they want: subservient obedience to mindless authority or liberty?

But the speaker does not want to act alone. He wants to wait until the trees have “a voice” (line 21). It would better if the public rebelled against dominant wisdom together instead of in isolation. But the question remains: will the speaker depend on others forever? Or will he leave all the mindless idealism and live on his own? People tend to face this question. Especially when they decide to dedicate themselves to their goals without question and in disregard to those who keeps others from living their dreams. You can stay still. Or move.


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