Forests fire poets' imagination

Forests are vital not only for food and biodiversity, but our energy and creativity also find expression in them

By Deepanwita Gita Niyogi
Last Updated: Tuesday 21 March 2017 | 12:53:46 PM

A sacred grove in Bhopal, India. Woods and sacred groves have featured as an integral part of our culture, religion and literature
Credit: Deepanwita Niyogi

“Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost”— Dante’s Divina Commedia

Forests—dark, deep and mysterious—have fired human imagination since time immemorial. Apart from supplying food and firewood to millions of people worldwide, woods and sacred groves have featured as an integral part of our culture, religion and literature. For American poet William Cullen Bryant groves are divinity’s dwelling place as he says in A Forest Hymn, “The groves were God’s first temples”.

Woods have been celebrated in English poetry from Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,…”) to Tennyson’s Tithonus (“The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,…”). In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the reference to Birnam wood is fraught with symbolism; it is not only a standing picturesque scenery, but becomes a moving force heralding the protagonist’s doom. In Shakespearean comedies (As you Like itA Midsummer Night’s Dream) characters find the sylvan surroundings amidst trees as the perfect backdrop for romance and happiness.

As we celebrate the International Day of Forests on March 21, which coincides with World Poetry Day, it is time to realise that forests are vital not only for food and biodiversity, but our energy and creativity also find expression in them. Trees offer us solace and also drive our passion. As Shelley writes in the Pine Forest of the Cascine:

We paused amid the pines that stood

The giants of the waste,

Tortured by storms to shapes as rude

As serpents interlaced

As concerns over deforestation grows, we must make it a point to save all kinds of forests—tropical, alpine, boreal, temperate etc—from destruction. Apart from being nature’s powerhouse, forests are vital for the flow of man’s creative energy.

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IEP Resources:

State of the World’s Forests 2016: forests and agriculture- land-use challenges and opportunities

India State of Forest Report 2015

Water, forests, people – building resilient landscapes

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