"The Trees" as written by Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, and Alex Lifeson...
There is unrest in the forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas

The trouble with the maples
And they're quite convinced they're right
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light
But the oaks can't help their feelings
If they like the way they're made
And they wonder why the maples
Can't be happy in their shade?

There is trouble in the forest
And the creatures all have fled
As the maples scream 'oppression!'
And the oaks, just shake their heads

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights
'The oaks are just too greedy
We will make them give us light'
Now there's no more oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet,
Axe,
And saw


Lyrics submitted by crackermcnacca

"The Trees" as written by Alex Lifeson Geddy Lee

Lyrics © OLE MEDIA MANAGEMENT LP

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The Trees song meanings
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116 Comments

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  • +8
    General CommentThese lyrics are high poetry. The meaning is actually very simple. We are not all equal in every way. Any attempt to artifically create universal equality is ultimately doomed to failure. But no matter how inequitable life becomes, death awaits us all. In the end, we all end up the same.
    Samoanon March 03, 2003   Link
  • +3
    General CommentWow, you guys are WAY off. Hmm, where to begin?

    First of all, Dr Rhythm, you have much to learn about Libertarian political ideology. No Libertarian would EVER espouse forced equality among citizens, and certainly not between nations. Libertarian political philosophy is basically centered on the concept of the government staying out of citizens' business economically as well as socially.

    Other than that, you are almost on task, Neil Peart did believe strongly in Libertarian views, however, the song is about Communism, and a fictional dispute between trees represents the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The theme of the song is self-determination, something Peart felt very strongly about after reading some of Ayn Rand's work.

    Many of Rush's songs, especially those written by Peart have anti-communist lyrics; the message is the same in The Trees as well as The Temples of Syrinx, Freewill, and Xanadu.
    nemton February 22, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI just noticed something important about the lyrics today. In the beginning, the maples say the oaks are "just too lofty," implying they realize it's not the oaks' fault they are getting the lion's share of sunlight. After the union is formed, however, sentiment changes to "the oaks are just too greedy" implying the oaks have decided to take the sunlight for themselves. It shows how a dissenting underclass can miss the message entirely.
    nemton September 09, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI've been listening to these guys for 23 years. Love 'em. My adolescence was spent listening to this rock and roll instead of the "sex and drugs" variety. They helped form my libertarian leanings and inspired me to read Ayn Rand. My gain, indeed

    I don' think we should be too restrictive about who the oaks and maples are. They are any groups who have differences beyond their control (they can't help how they are made). One group feels the other gets what they want. Any artificial means of equalizing will make both groups equally deficient. We will not be made equally great, only equally mediocre. It is a libertarian anthem - not just about business. In whatever attribute a government tries to make people equal, it will only make them equally deficient - equally poor, equally unemployed, equally uneducated, equally victimized....

    I used this song in a poetry project in high school some 20 years ago. I interpreted the differences as racial - my teacher commented that it might not just apply to race. In retrospect, I think my interpretation might have betrayed a bit of racism on my part to assume that one race was inferior to another, as the Maples apparently were to the Oaks.

    I love a rock song that makes me think. Few do.
    8992Tigeron July 20, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis is one of the best Rush songs ever!

    Can't force everyone to be equal because not everyone is equal in all ways. The attempt to do so is doomed to fail.
    saintpacoon May 27, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentSamoan’s got it better than most people. But still off a bit from what I think. Specifically, the part he refers to as how death awaits. Before I sat and read the lyrics, the death idea was what I thought.
    For me, the lines "For they passed a noble law/And the trees are all kept equal/By hatchet, /Axe, /and saw." does not show death as a natural equalizer, as shown by the first line shown (noble law). The only way to make things equal is to cut the best (the oaks here) down to the level of the others. You can only raise people up so far.
    And yet, this is what is happening in America these days - cutting down the superior via standardized testing, race-specific scholarships/grants (none specific to whites, though) from places like LULAC and NAACP.

    About the whole song:
    His sarcastic portrayal of the maples: "the Maples scream `Oppression!` " and the "noble" law, and "And they're quite convinced they're right" as pertaining to the maples, not the oaks.
    I found that you really need to read the lyrics to get the sarcasm, picking up lyrics from his singing leads one to think he takes the position that most every other popular musician of the time.
    It really is a refreshing change compared to everyone else on the "maple's" side.

    Man, that's long.
    hargalatenon March 22, 2003   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationPeart's political views are irrelevant regarding these lyrics, because its about trees arguing.

    That's it.
    tienon June 03, 2009   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI think that this song symbolises judgement on what kind of class we are.
    Metaphorically, the oaks symbolise people who are upperclass, and the maples symbolise people who are working/lower class. Neil peart describes the oaks as taking all the sunlight, which I think represents money, the uperclass people get more money just because they are seen as bigger and better.
    He ends the song with 'and the trees are all kept equal, by hatchet, axe and saw.' this shows that, once brought down to the same level, everyone is equal, everyone should have the same rights and not be judged on how much money you earn etc.
    Puckers2811on December 28, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe maples screams oppresion and ask for equal rights but when your method is violence and taking something by force (hatchet, axe..) then you become what you're fighting or worse.

    It reflects the world today and how they use to solve problems.
    Agoseion February 14, 2012   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationTo be fair, I don't think it's about the social disparity between the Oaks and the Maples.
    It's simply a critique to the modern day world society.
    Biologically speaking, oaks and maples in the wild have adapted to their own niches and can happily live without interfering with each other.
    In this case however, trees become a metaphor of human society, where individuals always want more, despite they can live peacefully in their current situation.
    The end result of this competitiveness for light is that both parties are equally harmed and none of the two actually gains anything from the upheavel.
    Just my interpretation.
    Girottoon July 16, 2012   Link

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