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, edited by Ronyklee

"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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119 Comments

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  • +7
    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
  • +5
    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
  • +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
  • +3
    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 15, 2012   Link
  • +2
    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
  • +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 21, 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 28, 2010   Link
  • +2
    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
  • +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 CommentI think this song has less to do with owner vs labor, or upper vs lower classes, or even men vs women, USA vs Canada, or UK, or what have you.

    This is a song about people, period.

    The message that this song is trying to get across is the fact that everyone is made differently, and we all have our talents and gifts. Everyone has the ability to achieve whatever is in their nature.

    The Oaks are those who have realized their nature, and have gave to the world and themselves according to their talents. Not necessarily being rich, or owners of production.
    Rush would consider themselves Oaks. A painter who has worked hard to succeed to make a career for him/herself, is an Oak.
    Heck, a factory worker could be considered an Oak, if he's happy being a "workin' man", and works hard, saves right, to have a better life for himself.

    It's not so much about class or job or place in life, as it is a mentality.

    The Philospher and the Ploughman, each must do their part
    to sow a new mentality, closer to the heart

    The Maples are those who are miserable in life, having not realized their talents, and determine that their lives are worthless and meaningless, and blame the Oaks for this.

    The Oaks are happy with how they are made, and the Maples are clearly not.
    The Maples have determined that having more light is in their nature (even though it's not, their nature is something different), thus it is their due right to have more light. So they scream oppression, and demand that all trees are cut down to the lowest common denominator, so that everyone is equally miserable.

    Rush's general philosophy is not really about capitalism vs communism, or being libertarian or Ayn Randian for political reasons, but rather more of a choice of mentality.

    Here's some lyrics from Rush's song "Freewill" that also illustrates this point.

    "There are those who think
    That they were dealt a losing hand
    The cards were stacked against them
    They weren't born in Lotusland

    All preordained
    A prisoner in chains
    A victim of venomous fate
    Kicked in the face
    You can't pray for a place
    In heaven's unearthly estate"

    These people are the Maples.

    Here's some more lyrics, from "Fly By Night" that helps illustrate the Oaks.

    "Fly by night, away from here
    Change my life again
    Fly by night, goodbye my dear
    My ship isn't coming and I just can't pretend"

    The Oaks know their ship isn't coming, and they don't pretend they will "have theirs" by punishing someone else, or taking it from them, so they change their life, make something out of themselves.

    Anyways, I hope that my point is being understood.

    I also think Tom Sawyer is pretty much the epitome of their philosophy at the time. Tom Sawyer was definitely an Oak. :-)
    Tannhauser1911on November 24, 2013   Link

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