(For Mrs. Henry Mills Alden)

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Joyce Kilmer's poem Trees


  1. Greg Foote says:

    This is a good example that many, many folks like warm
    fuzzy piety in their poems. This is true of many Catholics and Kilmer was one. For many, many people religious piety is attractive as a reassuring comfort.
    On the other hand, it is reasssuring how many, many
    people really love trees and other manifestations of
    nature in spite of the fact that our culture is so hostile to nature. This set of pleasing couplets is
    as anthropomorphic toward a tree as most humans are
    with their Gods. (Not just Christians, but Hebrews,
    Arabs, and oodles of ancient pagans including the Romans and Greeks.It’s quite common, if not universal.)
    I, too, love trees, am a defender of our National Forests, and have an Indian name of Livingtree. Kilmer’s partly human tree has robins in her hair, a
    breast with snow on it, lives intimately unsheltered
    with the rain, hungrily presses her mouth to suck the
    sweetness of the ground she stands on, and prays with
    outstretched leafy arms which have no axillary hair
    where they branch from her trunk. True, humans so far
    can’t make a tree and still leave that to whichever God
    they fear and respect, though cloning may already have happened since Kilmer’s time. As for comparisons, comparing nature’s features with the human art of poetry is a perfect instance of “comparing apples and
    oranges.” Trouble is, I fear many people who dearly
    dote over Kilmer’s lines may not give a rip about the
    rampant forest destruction going on around the bent
    world. Finally, there is the put-down of us poor human
    fools who pour our puny creative impulses into the
    various arts and sciences…..Kilmer’s widowed young
    wife, Aline, actually wrote a superb lyric on the loss of her husband in WW I and buried in a military cemetery in France. Look for it, “I Shall Not Be Afraid.”

  2. michael says:

    did you know that paul robeson recorded this as a song?
    you’ll never regret listening to it.
    analysis is unnecessary- it’s all so self-explanatory.
    in england — look at an oak
    in north america –look at the redwood
    Every country has an example of its very own.
    while looking , relax – then recite the poem and then ponder – you’ll find the Hand Of God.
    Take It and enjoy the rest of your life.

  3. HADEEL says:


  4. kimberly says:

    this poem is amazingly beautiful.Can anyone tell me where I can find info to analize it, I need to teach it to my class but I don’t know much about it. I’m in the 8th grade can anyone help?

  5. WILLIAM Doak Ramsey says:

    Just going back in time thru my 1940’s Prose & Poetry School book and remembering how we had to memorize and then recite this beautiful poem. My wife and I are both in our 80’s and yet this poem still rings to us with such grace. Doak Ramsey, Greeneville, TN

  6. Don Burke says:

    I first heard this poem in high school in New Brunswick, NJ, Kilmer’s hometown, in the early 60’s. For some reason I always remembered the first two lines and the last line! I had forgotten what beauty laid in between.

  7. bob says:

    i think it is a good poem and i like the ryming couplets the subject is a bit stange. i lke how it talks about trees as though there poems

  8. Rao says:

    I was stunned by the beauty of this poem when I read it first time. This certainly is, one of the most beautiful poems I have ever read.

  9. mona riza says:

    i had memorized this poem since i was a grade school then when i was in college we were asked to anayzed it in our subject literature. since then i had loved this poem. i first heard this poem when i was 12, and it was my grandmother who recited it to me. she’s 75y/o

  10. Biswajit Nayak says:

    A wonderful poem! Only a poet like Joyce Kilmer can write such a poem.

  11. Kimberly Joyce says:

    So I was talking to my mom last night about this poetry project I have to do for English… and my mom suggested I use one my my great, great grandfather. At first I was sort of rude to her, having no idea that he would be famous, and I told her that I would pass on the idea. After telling me I was named after him, She told me to look Joyce Kilmer up on google. Sure enough, I did. And sure, enough, I… Kimberly Joyce Devitt… am the great great granddaughter of Joyce Kilmer. HOW COOL!

  12. Les T says:

    “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer has always been a favorite of mine since memorizing it in grammer school in the early 1940’s. I have also sung it as a vocal solo several times. At that time I had little knowledge of the lasting effects that the thoughts and maxims of the old poets would convey to me throughout my life. We thought then that it was only a task to perform to get a passing mark. Little did we know the lasting effect that the poet’s thoughts would have on our lives. While reading poetry is not my favorite pastime, the poems that we memorized in our youth have been a lasting treasure.

  13. sheila says:

    First heard this poem at summer camp about 1961- The first couple of lines have never left me. To read the complete poem was like seeing an old freind–

  14. shailja says:

    Is a beautiful poem. Read it during my schooldays – but remember still the lyrical beauty of the words.

  15. Mary T. says:

    Went to visit my grandfather today at a nursing home in VA….he’s 91 years young! He was looking out the window and shared this poem with me. Said he learned it as a young boy in school. I learned it as well! A precious memory for me!!

  16. Juno says:

    The first time I ever heard this poem was on a Disney movie! Um, I think it is called ‘Melody Time’, it is sung on there. Later that day I heard my husband reciting the poem word for word. It seems that he has loved the poem ever since grade school, when he first heard it, and even though he just barely heard me play the movie for the kids, it sparked his memory of the poem. It really is beautiful! And to hear my husband, as big and gruff as he is, recite such a lovely and flowing poem, is miraculous!

  17. Tess says:

    this porm was certainley written by joyce kilmer although there may be some similarities to other poems, it is one of a kind. I am pretty sure that this poem is complete. My grandmother, born in 1910 ( 94 and still alive) recites this poem often to me. I have never heard more lines then what is posted here. She has the whole thing memorized and even sings it too!

  18. Rev. Carlson says:

    I’m doing a funeral this Friday for aman who loved trees and asked that this poem be read during his memorial service. Can anyone else tell me anything a about this author? Is there another verse beyond what’s in the post?

    Thanks for any help you might provide.

    Dearborn Congregational Church, REv. Carlson

  19. Rev Anne says:

    I always thought this was written by Robert Frost?
    is there another poem that uses the line I’ve never seen a poem as lovely as a tree?

  20. Donna Stenwall says:

    We were required to learn this poem in school. I remember it as being written by Longfellow. Did he write one like this?

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