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Birches

Robert Frost

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stupid!
2003-05-26
Added by: jay
i think that al of you are retarded if you can come up with such wacky and off the wall interpretations of the poem! where in the world do you get sexual innuendo?! i think it is simply a poem about the innocence of childhood!!
2003-07-03
Added by: kate
I doubt any sexual innuendo, but I think its more than about childhood. I think its a bit darker. Possibly Frost is thinking about suicide when he talks about being launched from earth. even if he doesn't mean to kill himself he is clear that he wants to start over.
Great Poem!!!!!!
2003-12-13
Added by: Mullet Master
First published in the Atlantic Monthly in August 1915, Birches was later included in the Mountain Interval volume. Birches was received well by critics and the general public. At this time, Frost’s dexterity as a poet was becoming evident to the critics and poets of the time. Birches is a perfect example of a Frost poem, it carries the essentials that were his trademark. As a pastoral poet, his trademark consisted of the rural country side in America and its personage as themes. Typical for Frost poems, the scenes of Birches are rural. Presumably, it is set in New England, which is riddled with the native tree and it being the longtime home for Frost. Frost was born in San Francisco on March 29 1963, but his family moved to Massachusetts in 1885 after his father’s death. It was in New England where he spent his childhood and his last days. The poem is a short narrative of his life as a youth in New England, frolicking with the Birches in the rural. At the time Birches was written, Frost had just arrived to America from a three year stay in England. His absence of his dear native home might have contributed to the reminiscent quality the poem has. Till this day many critics exalt Birches as one of Frost’s finest works; others protest, claiming that it is “lyrically second rate” to his other work.
Frost structures Birches in six sections. In the beginning of the poem, the first six and a half lines consist of an introduction. Frost briefly writes of birches that have presumably been bent by a boy having fun. Then, in the next thirteen and a half lines, he describes birches that have been bent by ice storms in graphic detail. Frost then takes a quick break to rethink his thoughts for two lines before continuing. Following this, eighteen lines are then dedicated to describing the boy and his frolicking in swinging on the birches. After, for thirteen lines Frost writes of how he once was that joyous boy. Finally in the summary, he contemplates his thoughts in the last six lines.
In the first six and a half lines of Birches, Frost writes about bent birches that he sees among straighter, darker birches. As he sees them, he begins to delightfully imagine that a boy has bent them in frolic. He imagines the boy swinging on them, his imagination turns into a fantasy then into daydream. However, he quickly comes to his senses and knows that it is not the boy, but the “ice-storms” that “bent them down to stay” in that manner and not a boy; only ice-storms could do that. He wakes himself out of the daydream with a shot of reason. It is his wishful thinking that draws him to delusion.
Describing the birches in the next thirteen and a half lines, Frost gives a vivid description of the trees that incites the imagination. He describes how the birches become crusted with ice from rain. The ice causes the tree’s bark to buckle and crack. When the sun rises, the ice begins to melt and break, which causes a miniature shower of crystals to fall from the birch. Frost describes this phenomenon similar to the “…inner dome of heaven had fallen.” By this he means that the phenomenon is so beautiful it is as if gems from the out skirts of heaven were falling on earth. The buckling and cracking of their trunks causes the birches to bend downwards into the decayed brush. After this, they bend far down, they don’t break and “…never right themselves…” again. Frost continues the description with a great simile; he makes the comparison to the bent birches drying their leaves in the sun with a girl on her hands and knees drying her hair in the sun. The arched spine of the girl become the birches bent trunk while her wet hair becomes the wet leaves.
Frost uses a metaphor for life; the rural man which is more oriented with nature versus the modern man, which is technologically oriented. The ice becomes a metaphor for modern man’s idealism while the birch becomes the natural person. Frost implies that modern mans ideology is artificial, saturated with technology and ideas contrary to that of nature. Frost is saying that when mankind adopts the modern man’s ideology, after a while that we become engulfed in unimportant, artificial meaningless beliefs; enclosing them in a delusional shell, shutting everything else off. This causes people to ignore, not value, and take nature for granted; but at one point they realize the way of the modern man is not the right way. When he speaks of the “…inner dome of heaven...” he speaks of people eventually coming to realize at the near end of their lives that it was not worth it, they didn’t enjoy the fruits of nature and life. They want to trade it all to have a new start, a reincarnation to set things right, but once they realize that it is too late they become depressed and fall apart, like the ice crystals on the birch. Everything comes tumbling down, but they keep on living, depresses and regretful, never again being themselves. This is represented by the birches never righting themselves.
For two lines, frost takes a break from his daydream. In these two lines, he has somewhat of a rethought. Here again his fantasy world is abruptly cut off as he slips into logic. As he spoke of the natural process of how birches are bent with ice storms, he realizes the logical explanation for this occurrence. The shot of logic destroys his wishful thinking and grounds him to reality. He wants to believe that it was a boy, who bent them, but logic does not allow it and he realizes it.
Then Frost gives a vivid description of the boy who he imagines as the one who induced the birches to become bent. Imagining that this boy is one who was in route to fetch his father’s cows but decided to engage in some frolicking with the birches, Frost describes him. This boy Frost imagines, lives so deep in the rural area, that he does not know any games but those of his own imagination. This boy has ridden all of his father’s birches so much that he bends them for good, taking the “…stiffness out of them…” Frost’s imaginary boy has been bending birches for so long that he has turned it into a science. By describing the boy’s bending of birches, he gives him the essence of a ballerina in movement, with grace and beauty.
This boy that Frost speaks of is more than just a boy from a rural area, this boy represents Frost, stripped from all modern ideologies, his natural self. When Frost uses the word “prefer,” he means that this is what he imagines of himself. Frost writes “Some boy too far from town to learn baseball…”, by this he means distant enough to be influenced by meaningless activities that do not allow him to be himself. He continues to say that his imagination soars beyond the seasons, beyond nature, it is the only thing that can conquer nature; a baseball cannot do that. It’s the imagination and not knowledge that matters.
Afterwards, Frost reveals that he once was a “swinger of birches”, and dreams of going back to being one. He creates a simile of the journey of life to a walk in the woods by saying that when he’s down, he escapes and becomes a swinger of birches. Frost goes on to say how he would like to go into his daydreams for “a while” and come back, but he realizes that he needs to be in reality because that is where his loved ones are now.
A symbolism arises when he makes the simile between the journey of life and the “pathless woods.” The “pathless woods” become the unknown critical decisions and responsibilities of life that arrive as one enters into adulthood. While walking through the pathless woods, we are bound to walk into “cobwebs” that “burn and tickle” our faces. The cobwebs are the trials and tribulations that are feared because of their casting of unknown consequence, regardless of choice; they generate great anxiety or doubt in us. Frost continues, saying that “…one eye weeps…” because of a branch that “…lashed across it open.” The branch becomes a metaphor for past decisions or anxieties that at one time or another have made us cry or feel pain. Presumably, they are our disappointments of the missing of certain quotas.
As he speaks of leaving “earth for a while”, Frost speaks deeply of life, death, and happiness rather that just fantasizing. Frost is saying that he would like to die and reincarnate himself as a birch swinging boy to begin all over again. This boy is one who is happy and carefree of responsibilities and opinions. Or he could mean that he wishes to reincarnate himself, to begin all over again and not make the same mistake. He continues by saying that if he does die, he does not want the Most High or the God thinking he did not value his life when he died. He does see the beauty and goodness of life. He just wants half of the wish; he wants his eternal rest and not come back because he’s too worn out in this world and wants to rest.
In the final section, Frost states that when the time comes for his death, he would want to go in to his afterlife by climbing a birch tree with “black branches” and a “snow white trunk”. He would like to climb till the “the tree could bear no more.” As he climbs he says that the top of the birch would bend with its tip back down, setting him “down” again. He wishes to come and go in this way. It ends as he says “One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.”
In the last section of the poem, Frost speaks metaphorically of how he would like to depart in this world. When he speaks of climbing the birch with black branches and white trunk, he speaks of innocence. He is saying that he wants to leave the earth as a child, full of joy and innocence. The child’s innocence and joy is at its peak when he is at play, bending birches. The black branches and snow white trunk represent the black and white world of the child, it is simple and easy. As one enters adulthood the gray shaded areas enter. Frost then continues by saying that this state of being, as one leaves for the afterlife, is the purest way to leave the earth. In some slight way, Frost speaks of incarnation; a rebirth of the soul.
Throughout the entire poem, Frost has a reminiscing and wishful tone. He speaks of his childhood as a swinger of birches which is a symbol of his innocence. Frost does not show any other emotions other than the hope of happiness or melancholy throughout the poem. The tone also shifts gears often, switching from a happy fantasy to a harsh reality. For example, in the second section of the poem, Frost describes the birches being covered in ice. As he describes them in ice, he uses pleasurable language. Using phrases such as “…the breeze rises…,” “…the sun rises…” and “…inner dome of heaven…” to describe the trees covered in ice. The word heaven radiates the idea of pure and untouched, virginity. As he describes the ice breaking and it’s touching of the earth, his words and tone change. Using words such as “…heaps of broken glass…” and “…dragged to the withered bracken…”. Toggling of tone occurs throughout the poem. The tone mimics not only the structure of the poem, but also Frost toggling between fantasy and reality.
Frost uses simple language in Birches to ease the reader, relax and fade into his world. This allows the poem to become a bridge between Frost’s emotions and experiences with the reader’s, allowing a unification of mind, body, and soul. The rhythm of the poem has an iambic pentameter blended with irregularity of speech. In the first four lines, Frost starts out regular. The poems wording, rhythm and tone are all aligned to give a harmonious quality. This harmony gives the poem a celebration of life, that appreciates its ups and even its downs. It’s as if this poem is a meditation of Frost. The rhythm is similar to that of deep slow breaths that one gives in an altered state of mind. This incites the idea that this poem is the last words that Frost gives as he lies, slipping into his eternal sleep.
Furthermore, Birches is a perfect example of a Robert Frost poem; it uses imagery from rural America to incite an allegory, full of emotions and sensations. The structure is well created; the sections fade in together like thoughts being pondered. The imagery gives the poem a natural essence. Birches is not only about old man Frost remembering his swinging of birches. It’s a return to earth, appreciation of nature. It’s about Frost being himself, lifting the veil of life and death, human’s greatest experiences. He talks of the childhood innocence and the burdens that are attached to adulthood. It’s an insight into Frost’s being. The poems tone, wording, and rhythm gives a vibe celebrating life, including its ups and downs. Birches is more than a poem, it is life. Tupac Shakur once said “Reality is wrong, dreams are for real”.
An essay analyzing Birches
2004-01-22
Added by: Jane Freedman
Childhood means many different things to different people. It could be symbolized by summer nights catching fireflies or times at the beach with grandma or selling lemonade at the street corner. For Robert Frost, it is symbolized by climbing birch trees. He immortalizes this memory in the poem Birches, along with some somber thoughts about aging and death.
The beginning of the poem is about walking in the woods, seeing bent birch trees and thinking back to the days when he was young and climbed them. At first he is rational, and realizes that they could not possibly be bent by a young boy, but that the ice and snowfall must have bent them over. This symbolizes his old-age cynicism about life, and how he can’t even allow himself to think a happy thought- “I would like to think some boy’s been swinging on them/ but swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay/ As ice storms do [...]/ But I was going to say when Truth broke in/ With all her matter of fact about the ice storm/ I should prefer to have some boy bend them [...]”
He then dwells into the memory of climbing birch trees. Parts of this memory also symbolize the actual obstacles and experiences children encounter throughout their short lives. “One by one he subdued his father’s trees/ By riding them down over and over again/ Until he took the stiffness out of them,/ And not one but hung limp, not one was left/ For him to conquer [...].” This refers to the hurdles that people encounter throughout life, particularly childhood, and how they eventually jump those hurdles and just end up encountering more, and jumping those, until their lives end. When all the trees are limp, there is nothing left for the boy to do, and in this sense, his life is over... he has died. Another phrase in the poem, “He learned all there was/ To learn about not launching out too soon [...]” symbolizes children’s rush to do everything independently. It is another phrasing of the common saying “look before you leap”. Children are always so eager to leave the coop until they actually do, and then they regret it. This line talks not only about the lessons children learn, but also about that feeling of longing and regret felt when looking back on childhood.
The last part of the poem brings the reader back to the present-day, and reveals Mr. Frost’s thoughts. He compares the troubles in life, particularly later life, to a bad walk through the woods-- “Where your face burns and tickles with cobwebs/ Broken across it, and one eye is weeping/ From a twigs having lashed it open.” At this point, the poem takes a turn for the somber, and Frost begins to talk about his desires to either go back to childhood or stop living.
This poem was most likely written after Frost’s wife died, and at the time, it is no wonder death was also on his mind. Although there are many happy memories expressed in this piece, throughout the entire text, and especially at the end, there is subtext feeling of sadness, of looking back at childhood and knowing that it is over, and looking ahead at the future and seeing only a grim life followed by a grimmer death. When reading the poem, one cannot suppress the depressed feeling of hopelessness and yearning for a past that can never be again. Frost seems tired, as if all he wants to do is lay down and die. This is especially expressed in the end of the poem, “It’s when I’m weary of considerations,/ And life is too much like a pathless wood [...]/ I’d like to get away from Earth for awhile/ And then come back to it and begin over.”
Yet although Frost wants to stop living the life he has, he doesn’t want to just leave life altogether. He wishes for a rebirth, a reincarnation of a sort. He wishes to find love again, so he can put the death of his first love behind him. Yet, he would rather live the life he is living than to be deprived of life altogether. “May no fate willfully misunderstand me/ And half grant what I wish and snatch me away/ Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:/ I don’t know where its going to go better.”
As Frost says at the last line of the poem, “One could worse then be a swinger of birches.” This is the first optimistic phrase in the last part of the piece. You see that Frost has finally accepted aging and death, and now looks back on childhood as a time to remember and cherish, yet he still looks forward on life hopefully. This is a phrase all readers should take into their hearts-- be what you want to be, and love yourself for being you, and accept it. “One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.”
Birches
2004-02-12
Added by: Ronnai
Robert Frost incorporates the recurring motif of youth.
Poem
2005-06-01
Added by: Stephanie
The man wishes to climb the birches "towards heaven" but is swept back down to earth by the bending of the trees. This instigates the idea of reincarnation and never reaching that higher being but simply rejoining life on earth again for a second chance.
2005-06-03
Added by: Steve
If you replace the R in birches with a t the poem actually becomes interesting
Birches
2005-10-26
Added by: Brittany
The last line in the poem "One could do worse than be a swinger of birches" means that one could do worse than question there faith.

This poem is really about questioning faith, if there is a heaven, or does reincarnation occur. It is also a reflection on the stages of his life as well though.

There are also some sexually parts of the poem (line 19&20, and 24-35) but Frost does not want that to be the main point. He is just describing adolescents.

Frost uses connation to show the rising and falling in a persons faith. In line 10 the enamel is used to represent a person starting their walk with God (Neutral). But than in line 11 it he uses crystal as a high point in his faith (positive). Later on though he takes a drop in his faith where Frost uses glass (negative).

Beginning on line 21 he says "Truth broke in with all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm" He is trying to state that you don't come back and that there is no such thing as reincarnation.

The central image of this poem is the boy climbing the birch trees.

The controlling metaphor would be in line 55 “And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk” because though out the poem he is talking about what happens when you die, and birch trees. This also could be refering to Genesis 28:12, when Jacob dreams about a ladder to heaven.

As you read through the poem Frost mixes Truth and Fiction. From the beginning of the poem to line 20, that is all truth. From line 20 to line 41 is fiction. And from line 41 to the end is a mix of the two.

Lines 41-44 "So was I once myself was a swinger of birches. And so I dream of going back to be. It's when I'm weary of considerations, And life is too much like a pathless wood" This part of the poem means that he once questioned his faith and wants to go back to doing so when he's unsure of what will happen after he dies.

The bible verse that reflects the whole poem is Ecclesiastes 3:11 it says "Yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end."
ha
2006-02-06
Added by: sam
i think yall r all full of it. yall must b real nerds to actually sit there and argue about some stupid poem. i dont care if there are sexual innuendoes or not, i think everyone is entitled to their own opinion and what one person says isnt going to change their mind about what they think the stupid poem is about. yall are just a bunch of pathetic nerds who probably haven't had a date in a year or two!! and if any of yall have any objections i will b glad to tell u off again if u want to email me!
Philosophical meanings of "Birches"
2006-10-18
Added by: Prof. John.T Berkeley
This poem has many philosophical levels. I find ths poem quite informative and stimulating in the sense that "Birches" are a form of deciduous vegetation, such that loses its leaves in the winter, and the boy is a homosapien of an Albino descent, which contrasts the white color of the ice. The ice storm nevertheless, however, in turn, allegorically repeats itself by the use of euphamism to represent the oddity of ice and water changing state with the seasons. Robert Frost's name also has a significant resemblance in ice, in the sense that Frost is a light film of ice on one's discontentment, which does not in fact insulate but more make "soggy". Please email me if you want to discuss this piece of literature. Thank you.

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