In the poem "Our Casuarina Tree" by Toru Dutt, why has she written 'a creeper climbs...'? Instead, she might have written 'a climber climbs'! Does it imply anything?

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    "A climber climbs" would seem oddly repetitive and pleonastic. Is there reason to think the specific words "a creeper climbs" have any particular significance? – Rand al'Thor Feb 16 '20 at 9:57
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    A "creeper" is a much more common word for a vine (which is what she is talking about) than a "climber". – Peter Shor Feb 16 '20 at 14:13

The context for this phrase is:

Like a huge Python, winding round and round
The rugged trunk, indented deep with scars,
Up to its very summit near the stars,
A creeper climbs, in whose embraces bound
No other tree could live. But gallantly
The giant wears the scarf, and flowers are hung
In crimson clusters all the boughs among,

A ‘creeper’ is

A plant that creeps along the ground, or (more usually) one that ascends a supporting surface, as ivy and the Virginian Creeper (Ampelopsis hederacea)

Oxford English Dictionary

In this sense it is synonymous with ‘climber’, and Google Books Ngram Viewer suggests that the two terms have had broadly similar popularity in English:

Nonetheless I think the choice of ‘creeper’ is significant because the plant is compared to a python, and ‘to creep’ means:

To move with the body prone and close to the ground […] Formerly said of snakes, worms, and other creatures without limbs

Oxford English Dictionary

so that ‘creeper’ emphasizes the snake-like behaviour of the plant in a way that ‘climber’ would not. And a third sense of ‘creeper’ is

One who moves stealthily […] or proceeds in a mean and servile way.

Oxford English Dictionary

which suggests the way that a parasitic plant depends on its host for support and yet slowly and inimically strangles it.


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