'Gathered by the River,' by Denise Levertov

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The double shame in man's war against man is the residual effect on nature; an innocent ,

helpless bystander. The sense of potential devastation is the prevailing tone throughout the poem,

'Gathered by the River,' by Denise Levertov.

The spoliation caused by nuclear war is not limited to the loss of human lives. Nature can take a

comparable amount of time to recover from a nuclear holocaust. The impact of war victims to humankind

is negligible as compared to years of recovery required to reinstate the slow-growing trees. When

Levertov notes, 'the trees are not indifferent' (l 13), she is saying that nature has a huge stake in the

outcome of man's tendency towards self-destruction.

'[I]f our resolves and prayers are weak and fail / there will be nothing left of their slow and

innocent wisdom' (ll 49-50), demonstrates the trees' awareness of how lengthy their recovery time can

take. They listen incredulously to mans' promises that he will not make this deadly mistake again, but

worry he is too weak to honor their promises.

Levertov is implying there should be harmony between man and nature and the nature of how

mankind conducts itself can have long-range effects on the course of nature. For example, we now know

how the destruction of the rain forest in South America is affecting the percentage of oxygen available

around the globe. Man's wholesale destruction of these areas for financial gain, despite the negative

results, is a study of the nature of man's inhumanity to man. Do we not all breathe, even those who fell

the trees?

Man is not completely in control, however. Nature's ability to wreak havoc on the environment

of all living things in the form of earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters should be a wake-up call

to humankind.