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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.
Ice-storms do that. 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-coloured
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.

Short Poem Analysis

"Birches" by Robert Frost is a contemplative and vividly descriptive poem that explores themes of nostalgia, imagination, and the interplay between reality and the realm of the imagination. Through its evocative imagery and introspective musings, the poem delves into the complexities of life, memory, and the human desire for escapism.

The poem is divided into several sections that follow the speaker's train of thought. It begins with the speaker describing the bending of birch trees due to ice storms, and then shifts to a whimsical exploration of the idea of a young boy swinging on the trees.

Frost's use of sensory imagery, such as the description of the "inner bark" of the birch trees, creates a tactile and visual experience for the reader, bringing the natural world to life.

The speaker reflects on his own experiences and memories, contrasting the playful imagination of childhood with the weightier concerns of adulthood. The imagery of the "swinging" boy evokes a sense of freedom and carefree abandon, highlighting the idea of using imagination as a form of escape.

The poem's shift from a nostalgic recollection of boyhood to the present moment underscores the notion of the passage of time and the inevitability of growing older. The speaker acknowledges the need for both truth and imaginative fantasy to coexist in life.

The closing lines of the poem, "One could do worse than be a swinger of birches," offer a wistful observation about the value of seeking balance between the responsibilities of adulthood and the innocent joy of childhood.

"Birches" invites readers to reflect on the power of imagination to provide solace and respite from life's challenges. The poem captures the tension between the longing for escape and the recognition of the real world's demands. Through its intricate imagery and introspective tone, the poem encourages contemplation on the dualities of human experience and the role of imagination in navigating the complexities of life.

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