Summary and Analysis: Birches by Robert Lee Frost.

Birches by Robert Lee Frost : Summary and Analysis.


    Summary and analysis: birches by robert lee frost.


Birches can be regarded as one of the most famous, admired and thoughtful of Frost’s poems. From the description of an ordinary incident, it proceeds to convey a profound thought in a simple manner. It is, like most of Frost’s poems, simple in form and style but complex and deep in thought. Frost has written it in blank verse which moves rhythmically, and is highly suitable for the conveyance of its deep thought.
When the speaker sees bent birch trees, he likes to think that they are bent because boys have been swinging them. He knows that they are, in fact, bent by ice storms. Yet he prefers his vision of a boy climbing a tree carefully and then swinging at the trees crest to the ground. He used to do this himself and dreams of going back to those days. He likens birch swinging to getting away from the earth awhile and then coming back.


When I see birches bend to left and right
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
The title is Birches, but the subject is birch swinging. And the theme of poem seems to be, more generally and more deeply, this motion of swinging. The force behind it comes from contrary pullstruth and imagination, earth and heaven, concrete and spirit, control and abandon, flight and return. We have the earth below, we have the world of the treetops and above, and we have the motion between these two poles.
Soon the suns warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Youd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
The warmth of the sun makes the fragments snow that look like crystal shells, fall down from the birches like such big heaps of broken glass that one thinks that the inner dome of the heaven has been broken into pieces and has fallen down in the shape of shattered fragments of its broken glass.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
The birches are bowed down to the dry fern growing on the earth, because of the load of snow on them; but they are not broken . However, they are bowed down so much for such a long  time that they cannot straighten themselves. Their trunks lie arched or bent down in the woods even several years later, and keep their leaves trailing on the ground, like the girls who sit on their hands and knees, spreading their hair over their heads to dry in the sun.
Frost also imbues the poem with distinct sexual imagery. The idea of tree-climbing, on its own, has sexual overtones. The following lines are more overt:
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.
As are these more sensual:
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.
The whole process of birch swinging iterates that of sex, and at least one critic has noted that “Birches” is a poem about erotic fantasy, about a lonely, isolated boy who yearns to conquer these trees sexually. It is a testament to the richness of the poem that it fully supports readings as divergent as those mentioned here—and many more.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
While the poet was describing the phenomenon of ice-storm bending the birches, he thought that he would prefer to think that some boy who was looking  after his  cows, and who had lived too far away from the town to learn and play urban games like base-ball, had found a game-swinging birches which he could play all alone.
One by one he subdued his fathers trees
For him to conquer.
The boy played the only game he had found, i.e. swinging birches. He had climbed all the birches owned by his father, and bent them by swinging up and down till they all become limb and none of them could stand erect. All their stiffness was gone, and not a single tree was left unconquered and unbent by the boy.
He learned all there was
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
The boy learnt not to swoop down from a point high up in the air towards the earth swiftly, and thus causing the tree to fall down on the ground. He used  to climb its top branches in a poised manner or carefully balancing himself with the same pain and care that one bestows, while filling  cup to the brim, or even above the brim. Then he used to fling himself forward with his feet stretched forward, and passed gently through the air to touch the ground.
And so I dream of going back to be.
And then come back to it and begin over.
The poet himself was a swinger of birches in his boyhood; and now he dreams of becoming birch swinger once again. When he is troubled by the worries of the earth and when he is tired of considerations, when life becomes unbearingly painful to him, when some twig pinches his eye, and the cobwebs burn and tickle his face, he likes to find an escape from this earth for some time, and the to come back to it again and begin his life  afresh.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
The poet wishes that nobody including his fate should misunderstood his desire to escape from this earth, or think that he wants to get away from here never to return. In his opinion, the earth is the right place for love, and he does not know of a better place in this respect. He would like to go towards heaven by swinging up on a birch-tree, and brings him down and sets him on the earth again. It would be, he believes, good for him both to go from, and come back to, the earth as one does while swinging. If a man does not like to be a swinger of birches and live in the two worlds of fact and fancy, he may be a worse man than a swinger of birches.
Two more items to consider: First, reread the poem and think about the possible connections between getting away from the earth for awhile (line 48) and death. Consider the viewpoint of the speaker and where he seems to be at in his life. Secondly, when the speaker proclaims, in line 52, Earths the right place for love, this is the first mention of love in the poem. Of what kind of love does he speak? There are many kinds of love, just as there are many potential objects of love. Try relating this love to the rest of the poem.

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