Birches

Birches

by Robert Frost

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
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
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
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. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself 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
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
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 it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Summary of Birches

  • Popularity of “Birches”: Robert Frost, a great American poet wrote ‘Birches’. This poem is known as one of the best literary pieces, for its themes of natural beauty and memory. The poem revolves around the beautiful, birches trees that are bent toward the ground. It also tells about the speaker’s past experiences associated with those trees. Its popularity, however, lies in that it deals with the subject of a carefree life.
  • “Birches” As a Representative of Natural Beauty: The poet illustrates how the dark and bending trees catch his attention. When he glances those birches bending left to right in the forest, he thinks that the boys swinging caused bends in their branches. Later, he realizes that these bends might also be caused by ice-storm as the weight of ice forces them to bend toward the ground due to the pressure.
    Although he imagines both situations, he prefers the first one recalling his memory of how he used to swing on the trees from side to side and from the earth up to heaven. He uses his active imagination to make readers feel the joy of swinging on birches trees. Also, he compares his life with a pathless wood and desire to get an escape into those carefree days of childhood. Therefore, he dreams about swinging in the birches to get away from the pains of life.
  • Major Themes in “Birches”: Nature, memory, and childhood are the major themes of this poem. The poem speaks about the poet’s encounter with those beautiful trees. It illustrates how he associates two different ideas while looking at the bent branches of those beautiful trees. The beautiful widespread bends in the branches remind him of his beautiful past days. Also, he imagines how natural calamities can transform the actual appearances of the objects. He desires to be the swingers of birches as he was in his childhood.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Birches”

Literary devices are tools used to convey emotions, ideas, and themes in a poem or a story. With the help of these devices, the writers make their texts more appealing to the reader. Robert Frost has also employed some literary devices in this poem to capture the beauty of birches trees. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been stated below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /a/ in “Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—”.
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /l/ in “Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells”.
  3. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to inanimate objects. For example, in line sixteen, “So low for long, they never right themselves”. As if the trees are human and can correct their postures but not they are not willing to do that.
  4. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. For example, “As the” in the first stanza of the poem is repeated to emphasize the point.
  5. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound if /c/ in “As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel” and the sound of /b/ in “When I see birches bend to left and right”.
  6. Simile: Simile is used to compare something with something else to make the meanings clear to the readers. For example,

“Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “When I see birches bend to left and right”, “To the top branches, climbing carefully” and “And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk.”
  2. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought or clause that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it moves over to the next line. For example,

“And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.”

  1. Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a device used to exaggerate a statement for the sake of emphasis. For example,

“Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust.”

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Birches”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem

  • Stanza: A stanza is a set of lines or verses in a poem. ‘Birches’ is a single stanza long free-verse poem with fifty lines without any stanza break.
  • Free Verse: Free Verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below can be used for children when discussing ‘life’ in rural areas. The description would help them understand the blissful life of those areas.

“I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.”