Discuss the significance of “The Orange Tree”
“The Orange Tree” by John Shaw Nielson is a delectable poem to feast your mind upon. But before we delve into the meaning behind it, let us understand a little more about the author.
John Shaw Nielson was one of the finest lyrical poets in Australia who wrote a great deal about the natural world and the beauty in it. He took a keen interest in colours and the use of synesthetic imagery in his poetry. He had a mind that spun faster than the teacups at Disneyland, and this fantastical drama buried in his mind he attempts to convey in his poems.
I interpret this poem to be about silence:
“The young girl stood beside me.
I Saw not what her young eyes could see.”
The first two lines are important as they show an adult and a child looking at an orange tree, however, the child can see things that the adult cannot. It is known that children interpret the world differently to adults, their imaginations thriving upon things that they don’t quite understand yet.
The adult then begins a barrage of questions asking for the child to describe the moment.
“Is it, I said, of east or west?”
I believe there is a sense of irony here as usually, it is children with their curious nature who ask all the questions about the world. However, here we have the reverse with the adult asking the questions. The constant flow of questions leaves the child to say:
“Listen! the young girl said. There calls
No voice, no music beats on me;
But it is almost sound: it falls
This evening on the Orange Tree.”
The empathetic statement “Listen!” is almost a sound. The child wishes for the adult to just listen as she silently reflects upon her experience with the Orange tree. The adult does not understand her experience and continues to bombard her with questions.
After asking the adult twice to “Listen!” she gives up.
“Silence! The young girl said. Oh why,
Why will you talk to weary me?
Plague me no longer now, for I
Am listening like the Orange Tree.”
In a bustling world, people often forget to be silent and just listen to others and the world around them. As the adult asks questions, he ignores the child’s plea to simply listen as he does not understand what she sees. I believe there is a call here to embrace what comes with a reflective acceptance like that of a child.