by Phillip Larkin
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Meaning … It is spring time. New tender leaves appear on the branches as the tree goes through its annual process of regeneration and renewal. The cone-shaped buds unravel themselves as they open up. Gradually, their colour morphs into green. For the discerning speaker, such a journey in the life of a leaf is anything but a harbinger 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 rings of grain.
Meaning … The speaker asks us to steer clear of the confusion. One should not think that leaves proceed to the prime of their life as we, humans, inexorably walk towards our graves. Their looking green and fresh is nothing but a deception, because they too wither and die. It is an annual ritual that continues till the tree lives. After each graying and shedding of leaves, a concentric circle appears in the outer edge of the trunk.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
Meaning .. The ‘castles’ are the secure foliage of the trees where birds, insects and other forms of life find sustenance and shelter. The trees branches sway in the wind. By May, they look the densest. They seem to declare that one year has passed, and they have appeared to celebrate the beginning of a new year.