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
The poem Birches by Robert Frost opens in a simple, easy and colloquial style. The speaker oversees the bend birches and subsequently imagines that some boy has been swinging them, resulting in their bending down in such a way. But soon the reality strikes and then the birches can’t be bent down permanently by swinging as they are done by the ice- storms. In other words, it is not the boy but only ice- storm that can bend birches forever. “ But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay”. He brings forth the opposite of reality and fancy, which continues in other parts of the poem.
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.
Here the reader is addressed and says that he must have witnessed the birches full with ice on a sunny winter morning after the rain. The blowing of wind makes the birches swing up and down with clicking sound. The eyes on the birches shine and bring out many colours as the rays of Sun are refracted in passing through it. Soon the warmth of Sun increases and the eyes on the birches is shaken and breaks down like a piece of glass. Here, the breaking of eyes has been compared to shattering crystal and glass that falls like an avalanche. This is the first clue of destruction in the poem.
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
The burden of ice on the birches cause them to bend down very low, almost touching the ground, but they still not break. It is said that their trunks lie arched in the forest for several years and they keep their leaves trailing on the ground just like girls sitting on their hands and knees, spreading their hair over their heads to dry in the sun.
A beautiful example of a simile is observed in these lines as the poet compares the bending down of the birches to the girls on their knees, spreading their hair over their heads to dry them. This brings out the fragility and the vulnerability of the birches.
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,
Even though the speaker knows about the reality of the bending down of birches but once again we see to his fancy of the birches having bend down only by swinging by some boy. Taking the imagination further, he thinks of the boy, looking after is cows and living far away from the town to learn baseball, devised a game for himself that is swinging.
The word river is very important here as the poet rejected the narrow limitations of the outside world but still, it is necessary that these have their own limits. Likewise, the boy is separated from other players and has to play alone.
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
Now we find that the speaker rejects the reason behind the bending of the trees to an ice storm, instead, he denotes it to be the work of the boy, even though he knows the boy’s limitations. The boy “subdues” his father’s trees “ riding them” until he takes away their “ stiffness”. This makes him victorious over the trees: “ not one was left for him to conquer.” This closer analysis of the boy’s skill suggests that the speaker himself has been a swinger of the birches in his boyhood.
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,
These lines are composed of a description of the boy’s technique for climbing and bending of the birches. His climbing of the tree is compared to the metaphorical filling of the cup to the brim or even above the brim. “Ge always kept his poise… carefully” indicates the same care taken up by the poet in construction of the poem.
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
In a pleasant, the speaker recalls his boyhood days when he himself was “swinger of birches”. When life becomes full of chaos, thoughtless, lifeless, full of confusion and uncertainties, he would wish to escape from this world and transcend to the next world of imagination.
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:
These lines reflect the crux of the poem where the poet makes his thematic statement. He says that he would like to go up as an escape from tensions and worries, but only for a while that is temporary:
“ I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back and begin over.”
The message of the poem is clear: balance your earthly duties with the spiritual aspirations.
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.
The speaker climbs up the tree to reach “ heaven”. It suggests us to grab an opportunity to “ get away from the earth” for a while but again come back to real-world as stated by the tree remaining grounded. “That would be good both going and coming back”. Limits lay the existence of real-world and that the leap of imagination must also check to the conditions of certainty.