Summary of The Prayer of the Woods
About the poet:
An anonymous poem means that the name of the pet who has written it is unknown. Similarly, “The Prayer of the Woods” is a poem that you can see etched on sign posts at the beginning of forest trails all over North America but nowhere is the name of the poet mentioned. That is why it is called an anonymous poem.
About The Prayer of the Woods:
“The Prayer of the Woods” is said to be an English translation of a Portuguese poem. This original Portuguese poem is known as “Ao viandante”, which roughly translates as “to one who passes by” or “to the person who passes through this place”. It is said to have been written by a poet known as Veiga Simoes in the month of May in 1914. This Portuguese poem is inscribed in stone near a tree inside the walls of the Castelo de S.Jorge, a castle in the capital city of Portugal, that is, in Lisbon.
The Setting of The Prayer of the Woods:
This poem is usually seen at the start of forest trails. Hence, it serves as a message for travellers along those trails. Those trails are heavily wooded, and very often, the trees growing along those trails are cut down for their wood. The poet imagines himself to be a tree in this poem, and one of those that grow along a certain forest trail and one that is liable to be cut down as well. Hence, the environment in which it grows is its natural habitat, but it is an unsafe place. This entire poem is an appeal to the human race to make that environment safe by requesting human beings never to cut down trees.
Stanza-wise Summary of The Prayer of the Woods:
The poem consists of 4 stanzas. Each of these stanzas is again made up of 3 lines. Hence, the entire poem consists of 12 lines in total. This poem is written in the first person, but the speaker of the poem is not the poet himself. The poet imagines himself to be a tree, so the speaker of the poem is that tree.
I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights,
The friendly shade screening you from the summer sun,
And my fruits are refreshing draughts quenching your thirst as you journey on.
In this stanza, the tree tells the travellers it provides the logs that we human beings burn in our fireplaces in order to make our houses warm on a chilly night in winter. The tree also says that it provides shade beneath itself for human beings from the scorching sun during summer friends. In such a situation, the tree is our only friend. As travellers keep going on their way, they become thirsty from exhaustion. At that time, the fruits growing on the tree can cure them of their thirst. The juices of those fruits are the only thing that can quench our thirst.
I am the beam that holds your house,
The board of your table, the bed on which you lie,
And the timber that builds your boat.
In this stanza, the tree talks about how it provides building materials for human beings. Trees give us the wood with which we build beams that keep our roofs and floors in position. Wood is also used to make the boards that constitute the tables on which we keep our food. Wood is the base for the beds on which we lie down at night. If we need to travel from place to place, we need boats, and the timber used to build such boats are also made from trees.
I am the handle of your hoe,
The door of your homestead, the wood of your cradle,
And the shell of your coffin.
In this stanza, the tree continues to give evidence for how useful it is to the human race. We human beings use the hoe to cut down our crops, and the blade of the hoe may be made of metal, but its handle is made of wood. The doors leading to our houses are also made of wood. The cradle in which we put the most loved members of our family, that is, our children, is also fashioned out of wood. When our lives come to an end, we are put in coffins and even the outer casing of the coffin is made out of the wood of trees.
I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty.
Ye who pass by, listen to my prayer:
Harm me not.
In this stanza, the tree says that it is both kind and beautiful. It provides food on which mankind can survive. It also provides flowers that we adorn our houses with during social gatherings or religious ceremonies. Hence, the tree plays an integral part in human lives. These qualities are qualities that the tree believes are appreciated by travellers. That is why it requests the travellers who are passing next to it not to cut it down.