When Great Trees Fall

When Great Trees Fall

English Poem Stanza Wise Explanation

Maya Angelou

 Summary of the Poem:

‘When Great Trees Fall’ by Maya Angelou is a moving poem that discusses the impact lost loved ones have on the living.

In the first lines, the speaker begins by using an extended metaphor to describe a natural scene. She speaks about the reaction of animals when ‘great trees fall’. They hide, hunker down and ‘lumber after safety’. The metaphor compares the death of loved ones to the monumental shifts that occur when large and powerful trees fall in the forest. As the poem progresses, she moves on to directly speak about ‘great souls’ and how human beings react to loss.

The third stanza discusses one’s inability to breathe and the sharpening one’s memory undergoes. The poem concludes with a message of hope and renewal, suggesting that after a loved one’s death that “We can be…better. For they existed”.

Back to top