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The Trees by Rush

Album: HemispheresReleased: 1978
  • Though it seems to be steeped in meaning, according to lyricist/drummer Neil Peart, there is no meaning at all in this song. When asked in the April/May 1980 Modern Drummer magazine about whether there is a message to this song, Peart said, "No. It was just a flash. I was working on an entirely different thing when I saw a cartoon picture of these trees carrying on like fools. I thought, 'What if trees acted like people?' So I saw it as a cartoon really, and wrote it that way. I think that's the image that it conjures up to a listener or a reader. A very simple statement." (thanks, Thomas - Pittsburgh, PA)
  • This was used as the B-side of the US release of "Circumstances" as well as the UK release of "Spirit Of Radio."
  • This song is made up of three distinct time signatures: 6/8, which is used through most of the acoustic sections, the traditional 4/4, which is used in the heavier lead guitar sections, and an unusual 5/4 time signature used in the instrumental bridge. (thanks, Zach - Horn Lake, MS)
  • This song is referenced in the comical online role playing game Kingdom of Loathing. The description of the item Maple Syrup is: "There is unrest in the forest, there is trouble with the trees. Which means plenty of tasty treeblood for you." (thanks, Suzan - Rochester, NY)
  • Ricky, from The Trailer Park Boys, references this song in the episode "The Spirit of Radio" when he says that he doesn't like Rush because they're "Always singing about trees and stuff like that." (thanks, James - Vancouver, Canada)
  • This song can be seen as a extremely over dramatic representation of how Canadians feel about Americans. Note the maple leaf is at the center of the Canadian flag. (thanks, George - Manassas, VA)
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Comments: 70

Neil Peart may have said this song doesn't mean anything and is just a story about trees, but I think he just doesn't want the band to be labeled in any certain way because of his particular beliefs. He knows the emotional, irrational rampage people would go on against the band, which is unfortunate that we live in a world like that.

Anyway, this song is about the failures of socialism, social justice, collectivism etc. The maples are the "oppressed", or rather those in society who are struggling economically or in some other way. Not only that, but they also feel as though the successful people in society, the oaks, are the reason they are struggling and can't make it to the "light". So the maples spend all their time making excuses and blaming others for their failure to reach the light instead of putting that same time and effort into working hard to make it on their own. The oaks ignore the pleas of the maples because they are not responsible for the life of the maples. Every living creature, from a tree to a human, has to be responsible for his or her own life. It is how we all learn and grow, and without it we begin to just limp along like zombies. What is really cruel is to just completely provide for/take care of people because then they never learn to take care of themselves. They become dependent on others, and if you are dependent on someone else for your livelihood then they have control of your life. Teaching people to play the victim instead of encouraging them to reach their goals is not compassion. They never get to know their true capabilities or how special they really are. The oaks are just trying to live their lives. They know it is up to them to reach the light or not, and they have taken advantage of it. They can't help the fact that others fail to see this opportunity. Also, the line about how the oaks wonder why the maples can't be happy in their shade refers to how successful people make everything better for everyone, not just themselves. They grow the economy and create jobs and they wonder why people can't just be grateful for that and instead have to bash them. The oaks "just shake their heads" when the maples cry oppression because they know that they are in no way oppressing the maples. They are doing the head down, sad, head shake (hopefully that makes sense) because they know it is not up to them to make the maples succeed and they only wish the maples saw how much potential they had to be just as successful as they are. Especially in a free country such as the United States, there is nothing keeping anyone from being successful, except for their own preconceived notions that they are somehow oppressed, inferior, incapable. There are no laws (in the U.S) that prevent any person from achieving anything with their lives, they just have to make the right choices and put in the effort. So, eventually in a society like this the "oppressed" (the maples) form a union and continue to whine and complain and fight for "equal rights". Even though (in the U.S) everyone has equal rights. Like I said, there are no laws here that prevent a certain race or gender from achieving a good life. It is all in your head. Eventually the maples they get their way and have legislation passed to try to "solve" the problem of the oak oppression. The trees are all kept equal by cutting down the tall oaks to the level of the maples. It happens the same with humans when legislation is passed to try to "solve" the problem of oppression and inequality. Instead of encouraging the ones struggling to work harder to achieve the success that others have, the successful are stripped of their achievements until they are down to the level of the struggling. Then everyone is equally struggling! How lovely.

Another thing, this has nothing to do with democrat or republican. I am a very liberal person. I actually see socialism as the conservative, closed minded philosophy. It inhibits progress and is all about promoting one certain type of human personality. It also teaches to just bow and obey to authority figures. The libertarian and laissez faire capitalism philosophy is the liberal one that promotes progress and encourages people to be unique and to think for themselves and stand up to authority. I am sorry for people who feel they are oppressed here in the United States. I am a women and I come from a lower middle class family. I had to work for everything. Yes, it was hard, but life is hard and full of challenges. You shouldn't see that as some set back. It a learning and growing experience. Yes, I may have experienced times when people discriminated against me because I was a women, but I never let that hold me back. Like I keep saying, there are no laws preventing anyone from succeeding. I simply ignored those people and went on with my life. I busted my ass to get an engineering degree and now I make more money than most men I know. I can comfortably take care of myself and will the rest of my life. But I worked really hard to make it here and I don't think it's very fair that I should have to give up what I continue to work hard for everyday to others. It's not that I can't afford it or that it hurts me, but it's the principle that it's stealing and stealing is wrong. It is not good to promote something like that. I will freely give to charity, but I shouldn't be forced to give my money to people who didn't earn my degree and don't go to work for me everyday.
Rachel - Columbus, Oh
Without reading every single comment above, as it would be too time consuming, I get the general impression that the argument might be between the Canadians and the Americans, or could be a tale about class inequality or just a quaint story about trees. Whatever the intention when writing the words, sometimes an artist gets back more than what he/she bargained for. History is riddled with profound, unmeaning insights into the human condition or history or philosophy where the author will deny this or that inference but, that don't get them off the hook as people like to read into things despite the original intention. Re The Trees.....I was listening to Hemispheres in 1982 when my dad, and industrial worker and natural socialist, picked up the sleeve and began reading the words. His only fleeting comment was about this song. He said, "Ah, the Canadian Maples and the English Oak's! This is the story of the Canadian independance struggle." I was coming toward a political understanding myself at the time and got what he said immediately. I read the words again myself and took them a stage further. Not only was this a struggle for independance, where the Maples wanted their equal rights, (The Candian bourgoisie wanted to rule themsleves against British Imperialist domination) to see off the rule of the British/English Crown, but that the decisive struggle would only be settled when the working class comes on to the scene of history and brings about a socialist revolution (Hatchet, axe and saw, i.e. Labor/Labour in the UK). I though this was geneius. Not only did the song recognise the struggle between equaly greedy national sections of the ruling class, but that the only real unifying and progressive force would be the working class. If anyone doubts the message, if there is one of course, then I would refer them to the writings of Leon Trotsky and Lenin, who both talked about the inability of the capitalists to carry out the national democratic revolution in the modern era and that only the working class had the ability to settle the colonial revolution for good. Of course history has moved on and these colonian disputes, in the main have been settled, but the process of class struggle is far from over. The capitalists in the UK and Canada are playing a reactionary role in their own back yards, but they are completely bound to one another and complete against one another via the global economy. It is only the working class which has the force of numbers and their position within production in every country which can settle the argument, as suggested in the song, once and for all. Yes indeed, The Trees will all be kept equal with "Hatchet, Axe and Saw!". Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to loss but your Trees!Steve - Morpeth, United Kingdom
Neil Peart:

"I was working on an entirely different thing when I saw a cartoon picture of these trees carrying on like fools. I thought, 'What if trees acted like people?' So I saw it as a cartoon really, and wrote it that way. I think that's the image that it conjures up to a listener or a reader. A very simple statement."

So, he writes a piece where trees are arguing over what was for humans a very hotly contested issue (and still is today). It's clearly demonstrated in the story that fault exists on both sides of the debate, but no one involved sees it, because of their own personal bias(carrying on like fools). As a consequence of failing to see things from another perspective and void of personal incentive, and thus refusing to compromise and cooperate with each other to find a real solution, suffering ensues for all.

...pretty foolish if you ask me. In a sense, these guys can't seem to see the forest for the trees! ...BWAHAHAHA ZING! ...Oh, I slay me!

Maybe the most poetic thing about "The Trees" is this: That is exactly what happens every time someone discusses the "true meaning" of this song.

People assume that the song contains a moral lesson or bit of wisdom (it does...at their expense), but bring in their own bias and preconceived notions
about politics and society and completely miss the lesson. ...indeed they become the lesson. The "Oak" listeners see the song from a sort of libertarian free market perspective and insist that this is the true moral of the story ("Those egalitarian Maples couldn't just enjoy what fate gave them and screwed everything up for everyone"). The "Maple" listeners see the song from a sort of socialist perspective ("Those greedy Oaks didn't want to share, so the Maples revolted and now everything is fair"). Lastly and possibly most hilarious is the third group -which is composed of members of the other two groups, but which happened to pick up on the "implied" message that belongs to the opposite group. These people say: "I don't like the song/band because it/they send a negative or wrong message". This is truly awesome, because these people were perhaps more perceptive, yet somehow despite or even because of that, they are thinking even more irrational and biased. The one thing that everyone agrees/insists on is that there is some "true" meaning, and that Neil's explanation of the moral lesson is a wishy-washy dodge. If you read the lyrics though, what he stated is practically screaming out at you! This song is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

You can claim that a story has some new meaning for modern times, or that the meaning one gets from a song is a personal and unique matter. While it's true that humans do this, it is still irrational and fallacious behavior. The author, even if he specifically intendeds to mislead you, has something to convey which has escaped you. That's why we put pen to paper in the first place: to convey! Missing the point is particularly important in this story where "missing the point" *is* the point.

Q.E.D., Neil!

...and sorry about the bad punctuation and grammar. ;)

You know what? Just for s**ts and grins, lets analyze it. This is way beyond the line of what was intended, but lets see if we can find even a hint of a "right" party here:

...For the maples want more sunlight [sounds like a reasonable request]
And the oaks ignore their pleas. [failure to listen to others viewpoint/turning a blind eye/lack of compassion]

The trouble with the maples,
(And they're quite convinced they're right) [the fact that this is stated implies otherwise / righteous indignation fallacy]
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light. [assigning malice or abuse where there is none / failure to realize circumstances, while poor, are simply that way and not anyone's fault]
But the oaks can't help their feelings
If they like the way they're made. [nothing inherently wrong with this, but...]
And they wonder why the maples
Can't be happy in their shade. [denial or failure to recognize that a problem exists/food with no nutritional value/ let them eat cake / trickle down/ argument from privilege fallacy]

There is trouble in the Forest,
And the Creatures all have fled, [obviously creating problems for everyone else/loss of prosperity due to conflict]
As the Maples scream oppression, [again righteous indignation fallacy/if you're convincing no one, yell louder/mob mentality]
And the Oaks just shake their heads. [again shutting down/failure to listen]

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights. [again, nothing inherently wrong with this, but...]
"These oaks are just too greedy;
We will make them give us light." [Use or justification of force to take something/mob mentality]
Now there's no more oak oppression,
For they passed a noble law, [Obviously sardonic statement considering...]
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe, and saw. [a situation that is bad for all trees/ implements partly made from trees used to fell trees/trees suffer and enemies of trees thrive/chasing the devil/cure worse than the poison]

Notice that the entire time no one attempts to put forth a solution. Just to flog a dead horse a few more times, I have to respectfully disagree with Jennifer:

"We cannot assume Neil Peart's meaning and intent of the lyrics, as he did not provide one."
Yes he did, actually. Clearly, and "on the record". It's just that -like in the song, everyone refuses to listen.

"Canadian vs. American argument this stems from nothing more than American contempt towards [sic] Canadians"
Actually, this argument is typically put forth by Canadians who have a bit of contempt for Americans and their behavior socio-economically/industrially (earliest I can remember was Acid Rain back in '84 ...I was ten. Ahh, the eighties! I like the argument connecting "Maples" and "Oaks" to each nation, that's clever. Nevertheless, I don't think that it was intended to be taken as the main point -if it was even intended at all.

"The lyrics never imply that the Maples kill the Oaks."
No, but the implication is pretty clear that they are not simply tools to keep the peace. The trees are "kept equal" by trimming them with the tools. This applies to *all* trees. It is an example of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face or "chasing the devil" as I said before. But you get double bonus points for saying "'branches' of government" and genuinely not intending the pun. That made my day. ;)

Look, you can work the angles and come up with several meanings if you like, but the story is a tragic tale of poetic justice. It's a literary device that has been used since ancient times and the structure of this story fits the mold. Again, we have the author essentially confirming this. What's more is that by refusing to listen to this and reading in personal bias, the listener essentially creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, which is yet another form of poetic justice. Dude, levels within levels! I'm ...like ...totally geekin out over here! o_0

And yes, if you want to know why most poets/songwriters are intentionally vague in this manner, it's because they are trying to get you to do your own thinking. Aside from making the tale actually readable, this also happens to be the remedy for most of the world's problems. It's a pastime I tend to endorse.

Someone mentioned the French Revolution: YES! ...and you don't even have to read those boring old history books! If you want another example of this story writ large, I suggest you read Scaramouche. Unlike the sunlight, its distribution wasn't presided over by morons, and consequently it is free to all at Project Gutenberg.

So, alles klar? Good. Glad I could help. You are welcome, Internet! Now go forth my children, and read! ...READ!

"He was born with the gift of laughter, and a sense that the world is mad." ...and sweet Jesus, was he f***ing right!

...EYNS TSVEY DRAY DUPA!!
Chris - Nola, La
My favorite Rush song.I love the intro,the changes,& of course the words.Different ways to be interpreted,from what I've seen on here.Excellent playing on this one.Dane - Green Cove Springs Fla., Fl
We cannot assume Neil Peart's meaning and intent of the lyrics, as he did not provide one. Our attempts to assign meaning and interpretation to the lyrics are nothing more than inferences, shaped by personal experiences and personal political beliefs. That being said…I find fallacy in the following interpretative comments:
1. Canadian vs. American argument this stems from nothing more than American contempt towards Canadians (this contempt towards Canadians is not one shared by most Americans, but rather one shared by a very small population of Americans, and the origin of their contempt lacks any real basis. Maybe this small percentage that dislike Canadians has something to do with our former President, George W. Bush's Canadian bashing campaign relating to Canada's unwillingness to refusal to Bush's request to enter into a pre-emptive war and invasion of Iraq. I am sure we will never forget Bush's ridiculous freedom fries comments made in retaliation towards Canada for not acquiescing to his demands. Lest we forget that Canada was only one member of the majority of NATO members that disagreed with Bush's shock and awe pre-emptive strike and subsequent invasion of Iraq.
2. Nazi's, Communists, Marxists, Socialists, Fascists Arguments To label or equate our Government to any of the aforementioned is nothing more than extreme political commentary used as a means of manipulation by the Republican/Conservative/Independent parties to demonize the Democratic/Progressive/Liberal parties in order to win elections. The irony lies in the fact that those who call Democrats, socialists, Marxists, fascists, communists, etc. are no different. Both republican and democratic citizens benefit from and enjoy the protections of many social programs that are federally funded and subsidized by our federal income taxes, (e.g. police/fire departments, public parks, libraries, and schools, social security benefits, Medicare & Medicaid, etc.). I doubt that any of us would want to live in a country absent these. OH AND to the guy that made the comment on the how the NAZI'S formed a noble law because the Jewish had better jobs WHAT ROCK DID YOU CRAWL OUT FROM UNDER?
3. Maples are simply just whiney, envious and not willing to work to achieve on their own merits what the Oaks have and demand it be provided to them based on those reasons This is such an outrageous over-simplification and outright denial and/or ignorance of the long history of oppression and racism towards minorities in our country. Have you forgotten the monstrosities and discrimination towards minorities, some which were only addressed less than 40 years ago, such as public lynching's, segregation, lack of voting rights, slave-trade to name a few. Did anyone miss the word Oppression within the lyrics? The noble Law passed was to end that tyranny against the minority (by the way, our Constitution was written for the protection of the minority from the majority, not the other way around). The axe, hatchet, and saw are just metaphors referencing possibly our 3 branches of Government in regards to the Constitutional amendments and acts passed by those 3 branches that were necessary to enforce equality for minority groups. How anyone could argue that discrimination, violent oppression, public lynching's, slave-trade and ownership are things that should just be accepted and tolerated by the maples and they should stop whining since that was how they were made (actually, this is the society that the Oaks created for the maples and forced them to endure which has nothing to do with how they were made) if the Oaks (or those who claim the maples are just whiners) were forced to be slaves, murdered and lynched simply because they were Oaks, denied the right to vote, denied jobs simply for being an Oak, etc. I would guarantee the Oaks would rise up and demand the same rights afforded to their oppressors, the maples (wearing the show on the other foot). The very reason equal rights and LAWS were demanded and passed were so that the minority, the oppressed, could even have the simple equal opportunity to achieve and obtain the very same jobs, etc. that the oaks have been afforded all along and the maples denied. I don't understand how passing laws that allow for equal opportunity for all results in bringing us all back down to the lower standard because it's EASIER than bringing us all up to greatness. ACTUALLY LAWS FOR EQUALITY RAISES THE STANDARD FOR OPPORTUNITY OF GREATNESS FOR ALL IT DOES NOT LOWER ANY STANDARD FOR ANYONE AND IT IS HARDER TO PROVIDE EQUALITY...THE EASIER ROUTE WOULD HAVE BEEN TO STICK WITH THE OLD STANDARDS OF OPPRESSION.
4. The Maples kill the Oaks by passing a noble law, by hatchet, axe, and saw??? The lyrics never imply that the Maples kill the Oaks. The lyrics state that through this noble law passed by our 3 branches of Government (hatchet, axe, and saw) through enforcement of such the trees are all made equal by ___, ____, &, _____. Geez! I cannot believe how many stupid, racist, bigoted, people there are out there. I am actually surprised that you feel no shame in your comments. Were you raised by wolves....or maybe you are just a Spawn from Rand Paul & Sarah Palin.
Jennifer - Dallas, Tx
Wow! That is all I can say when I read such hate. Conservatives are about "equal opportunity"?...Liberals are communists? What a bunch of creeps. There is no such thing as "equal opportunity". It does not exist, it is only an ideal. And whether you want to believe it or not I can tell you that a janitor works much harder for that small income he earns than one of those "fellows" sitting on a conservative, right-wing, radical, political-lobbyist, "think-tank" so-called organizations. Anyone could be a "fellow" on a think-tank....all you need is an opinion. What a bunch of jerks. Some people actually can't afford to go to school, some people have sick parents or siblings they must support...what is wrong with all of you? You must not get out of the house much or maybe you are just so blind because you have never faced hardship in your own life yet! And I emphasize "YET"! Some day you may find yourself on the opposite side of this argument. I could easily call you all a bunch of fascist, greedy, pigs...because that is exactly what you sound like. It is "you" who are "whining" and for what reason?...It seems like you have what you need in life. All I hear is hate. I prefer love. Whatever happened to love?Jennifer - Dallas, Tx
I'm with Becky and her interpretation. I think you are all being too hard on her. What is it about her comment that angers you so much? Is it that she is right and at some point we all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and recognize that we have a responsibility to one another, not because we are made to, but rather because it is the "right" thing to do...it is called humanity. Something I think this country is greatly missing these days. Does it really "hurt" you that much to pay another $5 or $10 each month in taxes so that someone less fortunate than yourself can have a chance at a future or just basic health care? Sorry, but without legislation people and corporations would not do the "right" thing. Imagine a world without regulations...would you trust that the city was keeping your water and air clean just out of the goodness of their hearts? Surely you are not all that stupid. I listened to Rush in Jr. High and High school and I can assure you that Becky understands the metaphor, as it can also be applied to many other inequities found in our culture today.Jennifer - Dallas, Tx
Two things to note: The album was released in 1978 when the Soviet Union was the world's biggest fear; and the "Maples formed a Union" is a reference to the evolution of Communism from an idea to an actual system of government (the Workers' Party).

The Oaks are the "haves" and the Maples are the "have nots". The Maples bitch about the unfairness of life and so a law is passed (not by the Oaks) where the whole lot of them are "made equal" by chopping away everything that everyone has. It's a caution against Communism; you can't make everyone equally prosperous, you can only make them all equally poor.
Spirals - Earth / Infinite Universe, Mn
Obviously if Rush had something in mind when theyt wrote the song, they are keeping it to themselves as all of the interest and speculation is good to keep the interest alive. Without the definitive explanation, we are all free to put our own spin on the lyrics.

To me, "Trees" a commentary on the liberal concept of equal outcomes, in contrast to the conservative view of equal opportunity. While the Maples have an equal opportunity for sunlight, being less gifted than the Oaks, are not able to acheive the same stature and are thus not able to accrue the same benefits as the Oaks.

In the same way, the expectaion of equal outcomes in society propmt the less abled and or less motivated to covet the acheivements of the true producers in society. These prople attempt to gain through litigaion and legislation what they cannot hope to attain themselves through haed work and calculated risk taking.

Rather than inspire the Maples to acheive more, we tear down the Oaks to force equality. Both the Oaks and Maples are worse off in the end.
Jim - Bridgeville, Pa
What really interests me about the fact that the quarreling trees are cut down in the end "by hatchet, ax, and saw" is that the handles of these tools are usually made of *wood*: the trees provided the tools for their own destruction.Kate - Albany, Ny
Although it's not really "about" women's rights, I think it's kind of an interesting take on the lyrics. The Oaks are men, the Maples are women...men ruled the world and couldn't understand why women wanted to be treated as men. They saw submission to men as women's "natural" place in the world...kept from the sunlight, but protected from it as well (why can't they just be happy in the shade?). Just another take on things. :)Lisa - Rockford, Il
Whether Neil Peart intended for there to be a message in this song or not, there sure seems to be one there. Yes, one could argue that it's about one group being oppressed by another - be it racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, religious, sexist, or many other forms - I think the REAL meat of the message is in the last line. When legislation is used to maintain fairness, everyone suffers.Lisa - Rockford, Il
I watched the new rush documentry called "rush beyound the lighet stage" and they talk about this song and the lyrical meaning comes from the JRR tolken lord of the rings books from those walking trees, neil peart reads alot of books and got it from these books.Josh - Ottawa, On
That's the great thing about this song... it is subject to so many personal interpretation and debate, and that's why I really like it!

As far as Becky's statement - WOW! Is this your first RUSH song, kiddo? I suggest you spend some time getting to know Neil's lyrics before making such a profound [and horrifically absurd) statement.

Then again, you certainly provoked some debate over "your" lyrical meaning so Neil has done his job once again! I love these guys!
Aidan - Boiling Springs, Pa
Funny thing is that I think he accomplished exactly what he was after with this song. He purposely left the meaning open in that he stated this is what happened. It was never defined as to weather it was good bad or indifferent.

Why would he do this?

My theory is that he wanted people to debate this and knew that one would either put a liberal or conservative spin on it depending on their preference. This in turn would make the song more popular by creating conflict. That is why he refused to tell his intentions of the meaning of the song.
Fred - Seattle, Wa
Obviously open to interpretation, but I've always heard it as a dual warning. There is definitely a warning to the "lower class", that the rules affect everyone, and violence or force may not be the answer. But there is also a warning to the "upper class" regarding the treatment of the lower class. If they fail to acknowledge legitimate problems, then they bear equal responsibility for the outcome.Daniel - Binghamton, Ny
I always believed this was kind of a song against socialism. Even if Neil Peart said there was no meaning possibly it was subconcious. Being that Neal and the Band are really objectivists(pretty close to a Libertarian) and are big fans of ayn Rand that is how it strikes me. It seems to me that the Oaks are the rich not because of cheating or stealing but they get ahead because they are smarter have better ideas etc. They like how they are made. The maples on the other hand are complainers and whiners who can't get ahead because of being lazy stupid or maybe just unlucky. So instead of striving to be like the oaks they decide even though they are the minority that the oaks need to be brought down and redistribute their wealth. So they pass the "Noble Law"(sounds like sarcasm to me) which makes everybody worse. This is just like socialism and communism. Bring everybody down to a crappy level stop competition, goals, and rewards for good work. So they get cutdown and everyone is worse off. This is how it has always seemed to me. I definately see it as a much more conservative song than liberal song. How people can see it as liberal and how you would actually have pity for the maples is beyond me! Maybe the maples should work hard to to see the benefits instead of complaining about everything else. They need to mind their own business.Josh - Flagstaff, Az
Wow Becky, Pickere, WI. Are you kidding me!?!? White people are as racist to blacks as blacks are to whites. I grew up in a place called Jackson, Mississippi and that is the most racist town you will ever see. If your white and go into the "black part of town you will be shot! and the other way around too.Jacen - Orlando, Fl
The thing I think of most when I listen to Rush,is three great muscians, Neal Pert in particular, he has to be one of the best drummers I've ever heard, he is so smoothe, and never misses a break, he emulates the great Buddy Rich, a great jazz player. Watch and really listen to his drum solos, he is the best. I remember sitting in my friends basement and "trying to emulate him" on the drums. He has to be up there as one of the best, just like Eddie Van Halen on the guitar! A true original,and very creative.Steve - Coon Rapids, Mn
In my opinion, Rush never wrote a song that didn't have some meaning to it, therefore I have to disagree with "Ben of Canada". I totally disagree with Becky that this is a racially divided song, Rush never seemed to be into that. I tend to agree more with "Mike of Mountainlake, WA.,however,when I first heard it back in '78, I always felt it dealt with any governments/big business' oppresion of the common man (something the majority of us can relate to) and sell records to the majority. Even today, you can see that policy as our jobs are sent overseas for lower wages. The government or more likely, big business' who control more of this country than our government, make the decisions. The end of the song, hatchet, axe and saw, represent the controls they will impose upon us if we oppose them.Steve - Coon Rapids, Mn
uhh becky, not all whites are racist kkk members.I'm white (not Latin like most Miamins) and I despise the kkk. I am not racist at all!Chase - Miami, Fl
The trees represent conflicting races, cultures, and diversity in the world. The fight for sunlight is like fight for equality. Although one group of people may ask for equality, other races and cultures may ignore them and continue to show a prejudice.

The feeling of being the pure race and majority comes into large conflict when they must coexist with the minority. The Oaks cannot control how tall they grow, just how a black or white man cannot control the color of his skin. The minority like the oaks will soon wonder why the maples can't just be peaceful and enjoy their shade or equality.

With all of the fighting, the other creatures of the world will not be able to peacefully coexist with the same fighting and conflicting races. The maples want change, but the oaks ignore their pleas and continue to fight

The maples peacefully come together (forming a union) to talk to the oaks and work out an agreement for equality (sunlight). A peace is made between the people (the trees) Under law and consequence, the people (trees) are kept equal.
Andrew - Detroit, Mi
Uhhhh, Becky? Um, Yeah, you don't know what you're talking about. Ahh, first off, "whites" being the "upper class"? Ever heard of Oprah, yeah she's the richest woman in the world. Ever heard of rap stars and athletes who makes millions a year? Yeah. Well, I'm white, and I aint never seen no kind of money like that. So, shut the h/ll up about that horse spit. Secondly, uhhhhh, when you say "minorities," you also mean "poor." Am I right? Hmph . .. Well, you tain't never spent no time 'round the Mississippi delta, for there aint nuthin' but "po' white trash," honey. And, then go on into the Apalachian mtns. Get some reaaaalllll po'ness there, "girl-friend." and, Lastly, Maples and Oaks aren't that different in height or thickness. They're both two of the biggest trees you will ever see. There isn't much difference. So, what argument are you really talking about here. Whatever it is . .. Leave this Song out of it.Jeff - Casa Grande, Az
What do the last lines mean by hatchet ax and sawChris - California, Wa
The song is about the racism/wealth/social classes/ and political problems. Looking at it as a racial problem, the maples are the minorities, who are longing and begging not to be discriminated against, but the white people, the oaks, are ingnoring everything they have to say, and are refusing to recognise them as their equil. Looking at it from the wealth perspective, the poor low class people "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" the upper class pepole are content with their lives as wealthy upper class people , and just don't understand why the lower class people can't be in pure bliss just being in their 'shadow', or in their sheer presence. The last verse of the song, states;
"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"


The minorities and the lower class people,(who tend to be the same people), are fighting back now. They have formed sort of a picket line, for lack of a better word, and are revolting against the whites/upper class. Growing weary of the maples rants the upper class people, grant them equality for fear of a civil war. Now, the trees, if you will, are all viewed equally, and are kept that way by force.
Becky - Pickere, Wi
Big ED,why is it so hard to believe that these three dudes are from Canada? We have a lot of great musicians up here.Rod - Edmonton, Ab
This is for big Ed. Hey Ed the Beatles are the greatest band ever there is no question about that. But I am a huge RUSH fan they are without a doubt a band of superior talent Hemisheres is a watershed moment in rock History sadly only people with a high degree of intelligence know this.Russell - Detroit, Mi
This song is about the French Revolution our World history teacher and a huge rush fan, we disected it if you dont know about the french revolution read up about it and it really makes sense when you read the lyricsBrent - Boulder, Co
when i heard the song i thought it had a beautiful intro and sweets riffs and it was overall good. i started to listen to the lyrics and thought about it as an analogy towards people. the oak trees seem to be the conflict for the maples...the maples believe that the oaks are taking up all the room and the sun...and i thought of canada, the maple leaf in the center of the flag, and the US...i dont know much about the both of them, but they might be arguing or something, it could also be people that just feel crowded or that theyre not getting enough attention and the oaks are taking up their kool aid...but it could also simple just be a song about some trees??lolNaenae - Alabama, La
I forget where I heard it, but I was told this song was about the women's rights movement in the U.S. Neil must have a good laugh over the exotic explanations to the meaning of lyrics he wrote on a whim while working on something else.Jason - Thousand Oaks, Ca
2112 is one of the best albums ever recorded in music history. After I read "Anthem" which is where Neil got the idea for 2112; it made so much more sense and you can clearly see the ties of the two materials. Neil is definitly a genius in every musical sense. Lyrics, music, arrangments...everything just turns into something beautiful with NeilAllison - A Little Ol' Town In, Mi
melody: The album you mention is named "2112", and is meant as a direct challenge to (and on) religion. At the time, Peart was heavily influenced by the writings and ideas of Ayn Rand, who thought religion was useless and harmful to society (still a core Objectivist belief today).Zivo - Jenkins, Ga
I have always thought of the song as an analogy of how ignorant masses can sometimes use government to hold back, or even destroy, a person's individuality.Mike - Escondido, Ca
I suspect that Neil perhaps wrote this as a personal amusement-notwithstanding the amusement he must experience if he ever reads others comments about his lyrics and their 'meaning'.Greg - Shandon, Ca
May I suggest something that some may consider profound? I suggest that Mr. Peart wrote this song (and many others as well) in such a way that those who really listen to the lyrics could interpret it in a way that would appeal to (and reflect, perhaps) their own life experiences. In other words, you can individualize the lyrics to suit you.......personally. Realize also: Alex, Geddy, and Neil are just human, with the same fallibilities as the rest of us.Greg - Shandon, Ca
just one thing needs to be said, RUSH is the GREATEST band of all time ! these dudes are still jammin' to this day, putting out hit after hit. how can 3 dudes from canada put out such powerful music? blows my mind!!!Big Ed - Pulaski, Tn
While I can see how people with essentially anti-democratic tendencies would interpret this song as an endorsement of feudalism, I just can't see how the author of "Bastille Day" and the lyrics of "Power Windows" would share that sensibility. I know Peart was a devotee of Ms. Rand when he was younger and stupider, but I have to agree with his comments in Modern Drummer. His attitude is more cynical.John - Havre De Grace, Md
Having wealth is fine, just please, don't poison our waters, factory farm (torture chambers for animals), rape other countries, or oppress people because of their gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Becoming wealthy through theft and deceit (ENRON) and through annihilating other groups of people is not my idea of wealth earned the "American" way.Gdg - Chicago, Il
I think that this song has to do with the greed of the wealthy who, many times, achieve their wealth through dishonest and neglible ways, (i.e, "blood diamonds", factory farming, raping the environment, child labor, selling out the innocent both here and abroad, etc.) but in turn, want the others who are just striving for some sunlight to simply be happy with their lot. When the unfortunate ones have had enough and start a revolt, the government steps in a levels everyone. If only the incredibly wealthy just would not take advantage of the middle and working classes...Gdg - Chicago, Il
I always thought the song had something to do with equality.Dave - Coal Valley, Il
Hey lari,

the govt doesnt step in and redistribute anything that is earned in true communism or socialism. So, check your facts before you try to lowball a belief system.
Adam - Mechanicsburg, Pa
It's not nice to make fun of trees :-) No, seriously, this song is awesome. I find it hard to believe that the song isn't about anything as Peart said, though. It seems like it's clearly a dig at socialism and liberal ideology.David - N.providence, Ri
I love this song. Whether Neil meant it to have meaning or not, it does to me. The key point to me is that in the end, the maple's call for equality destroys the very thing that enables them to prosper, the oaks, so that both are now left in a worse condition than before. We need the "oaks" to drive industry and create opportunities to the "maples." You can never truly create equality amoung humans because each of us is born with different drives and means. Pushing equality squashes the spirit of those who are highly driven while it encourages laziness on those who are not. Why should a man/woman work hard if the government's going to step in and redistribute wealth?Lari - Dunwoody, Ga
The song is an attack on the socialist movement in Canada. The maples (the candian maple leaf). The maples formed the union to make everyone equal, but instead of helping, everyone is brought down to the level of the maples, by hatchet axe and saw.Matt - Bloomington, In
Relating nature to how, us, humans act.Karl - Midland, Mi
Benn, from Canada is so right.
That's almost exactly what I got from the song after I listened to it a couple times.
Karl - Midland, Mi
did anybody know this song was playing in the satinists kids basement on king of the hill when bobby went down to see them? Thanks for your time!Mischa - Winnipeg
I'm in agreement with Ben; even if these lyrics weren't meant to be, they are deep and profound. They describe society and stupidity of human nature.
It's great. I love 'em.
Cameron - Plymouth, Wi
Even though there is no meaning at all in this song, these Lyrics are incredible! They are deep and profound even if they weren't ment to be.
I liked having the point of view from both the Oaks and the Maples as well. The Maples wanting more light, and the Oaks not understanding why. Life is so much like that. The ignorant never can understand what's going on and continue to make others miserable eventually leading to horrible results - in the song's case death.
Benn - Toronto, Canada
from a perspective of forestry (i am a forest tech) if you look at the silviculture (biology) of trees, maples naturally co-exist in the understory and are called "shade tolerant" trees. they can live and even thrive well under the canopy of oak trees which are considered "shade intolerant" or they need full sun light to grow well. to me this means the rich "the oaks" will ony be supressed if there is some other greater force place upon them due to the fact that the poor "the maples" will still survive under the rich " oaks" but only when the greater force comes along will the poor be able to "grow" or become equal.Forestry Rocks - Huntingdon, Pa
The line "The maples scream oppression but the oaks just shake their heads." reminds me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail when the peasants are being "oppressed" by the king. Great movie, great song too.Travis - Phoenix, Ny
Tensions between the US and Canada??? Yeah.... Boy, if there's ever been an international powder keg for our times, it's got to be that extremely volatile situation there between....um, Americans and Canadians. It makes Israel/Palestine look like a love-in, huh?Ash - Charleston, Wv
I see this song as the irony of communism. The bickering from the maples that "the oaks are just too lofty" is a reference to class envy. As another poster has written here, it would be easier to chop the oaks down, in other words "tax the hell out of the rich and give it to the poor." All the trees were made equal in the end by "hatchet, ax and saw." Class warfare had ultimately destroyed the forest. The 2120 album is another great reference to the deception of a communism, anti-religion and anti-self-expression.Melody - Sr, Ca
i think this is a good song but its kinda funny hearing a song entirely devoted to treesPhil - Niagara Falls, Canada
The Oak tree is not the American national tree, it's the English national tree.Keewa - Fairbanks, Al
Hearing this song as a kid I really never tried to understand the lyrics as to a political or social viewpoint. As an adult I can see where you could probably base a lesson in college around this tune. I never thought about the whole Canadian/U.S. thing before reading it on here. I always looked at it as big corporations overshawdowing the small independent ones. I'm not a fan of corporations, so maybe that has something to do with it. Regardless, this is one of my all time favorite Rush classics. The cow bells alone are worth giving it a listen. No one drums quite like PeartDee - Indianapolis, In
This song stands as a great metaphor for many things. The beauty of it is that it is really not about anything in particular as Neil eluded. Just a funny little story he came up with.Rich - Knoxville, Tn
As for Rush's take on US-Canada relations, it seems hard to believe that "The Trees" would really be written about that, but hey, what do I know...? What I do know is that on June 2, 2004 in Columbus, Ohio, Geddy made a rather warm and supportive speech about America. He expressed gratitude for the support the US fans have given since the very early days. I guess in light of some petty squabbles (particularly since the Iraq War) and general "growing differences," Ged wanted to project a positivity about things. Nice, really.Brian - Taipei, Taiwan
Love the soft keyboard-driven middle section in this song...Jesse - L.a., Ca
The trees' tensions represent the tensions between the US and Canada. The Oak is the US national tree. The maple is Canada's national tree. It is as simple as adding one plus one.
This is one of my top two musical themes. It was the first song each of my children was exposed to when leaving the hospital few days after they were born.
Emilio - Seattle, Wa
I notice everyone saying it's rich vs. poor, or vocal minority vs. The People, making it some Big Political Commentary, but really, it could be seen as about any issue where one group is bigger, has more, etc, vs. another who lacks.

First thing I thought of, though, when I heard it was the Nazi regime. They said the Jews were taking all the good jobs, were responsible for the depression, etc., so they "Passed a noble law"...
John - Pleasanton, Ca
my friend said that this song has to do with the Canadien government..he's a big rush fan,and the lyrics can relate back to governmental decisions,so ill go with thatRyan - Albion, Ny
I was reading these boards and FINALLY found a place for my 2cents. The most interesting thing I found about this song was how the Maples instead of becomming inspired BY the Oaks to "become higher" and rise to their level. The found it easier to just cut the Oaks down. I see that as like being the government INSTEAD of pushing people to all do better and get themselves ahead. They pass "LAWS" that are intended to bring us all back down to the lower standard because its EASIER than bringing us all up to greatness. Could be AGE/RACE/RELIGION but I don't think The Boys had any of these things in mind when this was written JUST another awesome song.Steve - Marietta, Pa
Of course there is meaning to it. It's about envy. It's about cutting down the fittest, most productive, strongest, richest, smartest, tallest, most virtuous to benefit mediocrity. And the humans are all kept "equal" by the redistribution of wealth, racial quotas, and brutish government regulation.

The song certainly doesn't make me feel sorry for the murderous maples and their axes.
Ron - San Jose, Ca
Ok kids, how about this, the liberal maples whined until the government stepped in, imposed an asinine ruling, and cocked it up for everyone. Everyone suffers for the rants of the vocal minority. Lesson to be learned here. It's not about what's best for you at the expense of everyone else, but what will benefit you by taking the path that benefits everyone (good citizenship)Kevin - Glasford, Il
I think the funny thing about the song is that everyone seems to feel sympathetic to the Maples. But. listen to the lyrics, the Maples are unhappy only because they are in the shade of the Oaks. The Oaks have done nothing other than be themselves (remember, the Oaks "like the way they're made). In the end, the grumbling of the Maples (forming an union and demanding equal rights) does, indeed, lead to the trees all being treated equally. However, the trees are equal now in death. What are the great equalizers? Hatchets, axes and saws (the natural enemy and killer of trees). So all the Maples did was to have a "Noble Law" passed that led to the demise of all trees. So, I personally don't see anything to side with the Maples.Louis - Youngstown, Oh
Many critics rubbished this song after it was used as the B-side of "The Spirit of Radio", accusing Rush of having Nazi leanings, and being Fascists in disguise.Dave - Cardiff, Wales
This song, in my opinion has nothing to do with American/Canadian relations, but rather w/ the social discrepecies of the monetary classes. Oaks=Rich Maples=poorJeremy - Cincinnati, Oh
I belive this is about tensions between canadians and americans. The canadians being the "maples" and the Americans being the "oaks" and how the americans are trying to divert all the water from the rivers in canada into the states for the water shortages in california. although this is not what is does relate too as this song was written a while ago, i belive it could be representeded about that nowEric - Calgary, Canada
Although there may not be a meaning to this song per-se, I get an image of maybe rich and poor, or white collar and blue collar. We hear that the "little" guy is complaining about the "big" guy and the big guy is discouraged that the little guy doesn't appreciate the "advantages" of having "them" over "them". But in the end, the little guy manages to persist in "leveling the playing field to achieve some measure of equality (in forming a union) but the moral is the "trees" are all kept equal by hatchet, axe and saw - meaning that fate falls equally on all, everyone dies whether they are rich or poor, white collar or blue collar.Mike - Mountlake Terrace, Washington - Usa