by Virginia Woolf
"The Oak Tree"
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
This poem serves as a talisman for Orlando. Written painstakingly over the course of four hundred years, we can view "The Oak Tree" as a record of Orlando’s life and evolving literary style. It is finally finished and published after Orlando’s marriage to Shel. Is there a connection? We certainly think so. By marrying Shel, Orlando makes her peace with the spirit of the age (in other terms: society) and simultaneously comes into literary maturation.
Now we need to talk about the title of the poem. Although an oak tree changes throughout its entire life, it still remains the same tree, rooted to the same spot in the ground. This parallels the life of the poem, which, although it grows in length and changes over time, remains a single poem. What’s striking, however, is that we are never given any excerpts from the poem. We must base our speculations on Orlando’s life and character as we watch them unfold.