What kind of metaphor is "trees in the wind"?

I saw God in the Forest

Teachin' Tai Chi

To the trees in the wind

Bowing to the sea

Excerpt from http://www.bensollee.com/panning-for-gold

What I find odd is that the reference is "trees in the wind" and not just a word and the referee is not obvious, because it doesn't seem to be comparing it to anything and the intended can be just "trees moving with the wind" instead of "tree in the wind" as if the trees are flying in the wind. What's the intended effect and what kind of metaphor is this if it indeed is a metaphor? I am talking about "trees in the wind" specifically and not "teachin' Tai Chi to the trees in the wind".

  • I've added to my answer, after your edit.
    – wetcircuit
    May 25 '19 at 19:07
  • Actually "Trees in the wind" is the only phrase that is not a metaphor in this poem. It's literally trees swaying in the wind.
    – SF.
    May 28 '19 at 13:08
  • 1
    Hi Blackbird. This is not really a writing question as currently posed. It should probably be better asked on Literature SE instead (questions about existing literary works are not on topic here). May 28 '19 at 19:57

It's Personification.

While it is a type of metaphor, this is called personification. The intent here is simply to describe the random movement of the tree branches with a sense of purpose. Although "God" is mentioned as the teacher, the poem is not describing something holy or religious, rather the slow, intentional martial arts motions of Tai Chi.

From the link:

Personification is not merely a decorative device, but serves the purpose of giving deeper meanings to literary texts. It adds vividness to expressions, as we always look at the world from a human perspective. Writers and poets rely on personification to bring inanimate things to life, so that their nature and actions are understood in a better way. Because it is easier for us to relate to something that is human, or which possesses human traits...

"Trees in the wind" specifically is not a metaphor, it's just a figure of speech or an idiom.

  • Does "in the wind" mean it's flying or it's wavering under the influence of the wind?
    – blackbird
    May 26 '19 at 12:54
  • 1
    @blackbird, it's skipping an implied verb: "trees (blowing, bending, waving) in the wind…", like "a woman in leather" skips a verb "wearing", and "frog in a blender" skips a verb "spinning" – there is an action or activity that is implied. The idiom that would mean the trees are flying would probably be "trees (up) in the air..." or "trees in the sky".
    – wetcircuit
    May 26 '19 at 14:16
  • Ah, ok, makes sense now.
    – blackbird
    May 26 '19 at 14:26

More explicitly stated, the metaphor is that the trees move to and fro in the wind because God (using the wind) is teaching them Tai Chi.

The imagery is the trees of the forest moving in unison like we see a group of people in the park move in unison when being led in a Tai Chi class. God is the instructor leading the trees.


Actually you need to look at that phrase in the context of the whole poem. From God's repeated statement that He has forgotten where he put things it becomes clear that God has lost His people and forgotten who they are. Instead of to men, He is speaking to nature.

So the trees aren't a metaphor, but in fact they are just trees. They bow to the sea in the same way that men used to bow to God, but the trees just bow before the wind, without any meaning or intent.

  • You've posted a lot of answers, I'd recommend signing up for a full account to make it easier to track your reputation and badges. Currently, you're at risk of losing access to your account the next time you visit, and ending up with a new one.
    – F1Krazy
    May 28 '19 at 12:51
  • @F1Krazy I'm not really interested in reputation. I'm just here for a few minutes because I'm bored. I'm leaving already.
    – user39471
    May 28 '19 at 16:34
  • Awww. That is a shame. I do hope you change your mind!
    – F1Krazy
    May 28 '19 at 17:11

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