The poem, Birches, by Robert Frost evokes all of the senses. Whether it is the rhythmic flow of the poem or the mere need to recite the words for a clearer understanding, the images that flood the mind are phenomenal. Imagery is an essential part of poetry. It creates a visual understanding of the overall meaning of the poem and gives a glimpse into the unsaid mind of Robert Frost. The imagery also paints a scene of cold wintry days and warmth of summer nights. Robert Frost, while knowing the realistic causes behind the bent birch trees, prefers to add an imaginative interpretation behind the bending of the birches.
He also uses the entire poem to say something profound about life. The message that Frost could be implying is that life can be hard and people can lose there way, but there will always be innocence, love and beauty in the world if people look for it. Frost uses imagery to convey this meaning throughout the poem. In the first section of the poem, Frost explains the appearance of the birches. Frost wants to believe that the branches of the birches bend and sway because of a boy swinging on them. However, Frost suggests that repeated ice storms are what bend the branches.
Frost compares the breaking away of the ice from the trees to the dome of heaven shattering (Line 13). This could be a metaphor for life using imagery. The ice can symbolize difficult times that come in life, while the ice breaking away may represent renewed hope for the future. Initially, the forest scene describes, "crystal shells Shattering and avalanching on the snow crust- Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away" (10-12). The words "shattering and avalanching" (11) give the feeling of calamity and perhaps fear or sorrow. A disturbance in the universe is suggested by the "heaps of broken glass" (12) that make it seem as if "the inner dome of heaven had fallen" (13).
Frost also lends sound to hi description of the branches as they click upon themselves As the breeze rises (7-8). This may be a spin on the idea that problems and experiences "click" off of people, however, the click is not a snap implying that problems do not break people. Frost further explains the branches bend because of the ice, however, they do not break. This can also be compared to life because many people have problems and frustration. However, they do not break under lifes enduring tosses and turns. Rather people bend to the situation that is in front of them, and reposition themselves to evenly distribute the weight.
Frost again adds beautiful imagery while comparing the bent branches trailing their leaves on the ground to girls on hands and knees throwing their hair before them to dry in the sun (18-19). These passages help to connect the natural and more permanent structure of the birches to life. By comparing them to living beings to show that life flows through all things. Frost then suggests that he would rather imagine a little boy causing the bending of the branches by swinging and playing on them. Frost continues to connect the flow of life from human to tree.
He begins to tell a story within the poem. It is a story of a little boy living in a rural territory. The boy could be on a farm, going out to do his chores, like fetching the cows, but he does not want to because of both the beauty of the woods and his wanting to play. The little boy is in a secluded environment, when he is forced to entertain himself. He has become accustomed to playing on his fathers trees, one by one he would conquer them all.
He has been a frequent swinger of the birches and has taken the stiffness out of them and caused the branches to bend. Frost goes on to say, He learned all there was to learn about not launching out too soon And so not carrying the tree away (32-33). The little boy knows exactly how far to bend the branches without breaking them. Just as there is a breaking point for all people, it is a delicate balance. Frost uses the image of filling a cup to the brim and even above the brim (38) to illustrate to the reader just how close the boy is to breaking the branches.
Then in the next section, when he envisions a young boy playing on them, the image of summer comes to mind. Frost goes on to say Summer or winter the little boy played (27). This helps to illustrate how the defining times in a persons life cannot be narrowed down to a specific event. Rather, it is an era surrounding the specific events in which a person learns life lessons, and then the person must choose to break or bend. In the final portion of the poem, Frost deals with the image of an adults perspective of the birch trees and how it relates to adult life. Frost is reflecting back to a boys innocent childhood experience.
The adult yearns to return in time to a carefree life. He says its when Im weary (43) and he seems to have lost his way, that he would like to get away from earth awhile (48) and then come back to relive this joyous, carefree period in his life. Frost goes on to say, May no fate willfully misunderstand me And half grant what I wish and snatch me away Not to return. Earths the right place for love: I dont know where its likely to go better (50-53). These lines suggest that bad things can happen on earth, however beauty, happiness and love still exist.
They are constantly bending to keep the delicate balance between life, nature, and truth. However, the frustration of life sometimes makes it "too much like a pathless wood" (44). After disclosing that he himself has been "a swinger of birches" (59). The speaker confesses that he yearns to return to those days in his imagination to get away from the frustrations, the shattering of real life. The last line, "One could do worse than to be a swinger of birches" (59), sounds relaxed, thoughtful, resolved. After he takes a mental vacation into the forest, the adult comes back to reality refreshed, ready for love and ready to face reality again.
For Frost, the character in this poem is taken back to his carefree past by the birch trees. Frost uses imagery to helps us understand what is occurring for the young boy and adult. Poetry helps people to cross the thresholds of time also. Further, poetry allows us to experience beauty and find a path to a feeling or desire. Birches by Robert Frost is an example of such poetry. It is rich with beautiful and profound images.
In an age of disbelief, Birches evokes feeling, a reminiscence of innocence; it speaks to what is human in everyone. Work Cited Frost, Robert. Birches. The Bedford Introduction to Literature.
Ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins. 2002.