Herman Hesse: Trees As “Most Compelling Preachers”

Hermann Hesse’s Trees: An Anthology of Writings and Paintingsposthumously published in 2022 – is a selection of journal entries, essays, poems and paintings. It is a testament to his love affair with nature, trees in particular. The book’s appeal lies in its beautiful descriptions and brevity. Primarily focused on anecdotes and observations without a clear thread between them, this book is best experienced and felt above all else. The focus is on writing style. This is prominent in the poem “My Heart Greets You”…

          I heard within your leaves the whisper
          Of songs I sang when I was young

Hesse also appeals to what would become the modern conservationist. He describes wanton destruction of nature, consumerism and unplanned urbanization in unsparing terms: in particular, he derides the “stout and cowardly refusal to aggressively pose questions.” This urge to question makes its way throughout the entire volume. In other words, he seeks what his existence means in the face of natural beauty, natural impermanence and human meddling in that process. Thus, while he does not offer solutions, this short volume will reawaken your own infatuation with the natural world and urge you to defend it.

Hesse’s books are universally introspective. This book takes that introspection and applies it to an urgent, necessary topic: the importance of savoring natural beauty before it fades away either by human hands or natural processes. Indeed, after finishing the book it is impossible not to come away from the book with his introductory message that “trees…have always been the most compelling preachers” and not see our imperative to protect and cherish all species.