Neil says it has no message:
"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."
My High School English teacher presented the lyrics of "The Trees" to us amongst poems we were to write essays about, pondering their meaning. She took it to be about the US civil rights struggle, asserting that the Oaks where the whites and the Maples the blacks, and that the reference to "shade" below was an obvious allusion to skin color:
"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"
Others have interpreted the Oaks as the UK and the Maples as Canada and see this as being about Canada's struggle for independence from Britain, and others see the Oaks as a metaphor for the US overshadowing Canada, the Maples (both seem dubious interpretations to me; what does the 'noble law' refer to in this context?).
Of course, some interpret the song as an obnoxious endorsement of Ayn Rand school libertarian political philosophy, and see the oppressive oaks as both the heroes and victims of the story; they ought to dominate the lesser Maples, but are unjustly cut down to size by the 'noble law', informed by a naive sense of equality that leads to all trees being destroyed.
Edited by rftag, 27 June 2015 - 01:06 AM.