I Saw in Louisiana A Live-Oak Growing: Summary & Analysis

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I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,
All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches,
Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous leaves of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself,
But I wonder’d how it could utter joyous leaves standing along there without its friend near, for I knew I could not.
And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it, and twined around it a little moss,
And brought it away, and I have placed it in sight in my room,
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends,
(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,)
Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love;
For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana solitary in a wide flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend, a lover near,
I know very well I could not.


      Summary. I Saw in Louisiana A Live-Oak Growing, is a lyric shows the poet’s observation of an oak' tree which he comes across in Louisiana in New Orleans. The poem is a branch of the ‘Calamus’ portion of Leaves of Grass. It is on a comparative note. The poet illustrates that the oak tree can exist alone whereas a man being a social animal, it is impossible to exist as a solitary figure in this world. He is similar to the ‘Oak tree’ in the fact he is ‘rude, unbending, lusty’. But unlike the tree he needs company in society.


      The poet sees the oak tree in Louisiana. It appeals to him. It stood towering alone shedding, forth rich green lustrous leaves. He is surprised that the tree though alone stands rich in growth. It does not look desolate. It is not the case with human beings. A man is part and parcel of society. The poet cannot be apart from society. He constantly thinks of his friends and comrades. A man cannot lead a solitary life.

      The tree is rude, unbending, lusty, the qualities which the poet attributes to himself. He is surprised that the tree put forth green lusty leaves although it stood alone.

      He breaks a twig of that oak tree with some leaves on it, entwined it with a little moss and brings it home as an emblem of remembrance. He asserts it is not a reminder of his companions, but it is a reminder of ‘manly love’. This ‘manly love’ made people consider him a homo-sexual. It may stand for all human love. The twig reminds him of all the trees, which enjoys loneliness and still puts forth green lusty leaves. The ‘greenness’ may suggest the fertility aspect. It may also suggest what Miller states: “Both this token (The twig) and the live-oak itself (the live Oak glistens there in Louisiana solitary in a wide flat space) seem clearly phallic symbols.... It may be a physical symbol of a spiritual love which transcends the earthly love of men and women” ...

      It is not the same with human beings. Man has to live with his friends, lover and companions. He affirms the fact that man like him needs to live in company. He cannot just grow a solitary figure like the Oak-tree which he saw in Louisiana. A man simply cannot thrive alone. He has to have company, love, friends, and live in society.

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