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My Understanding Of Birches Poem

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Reaching For the Heavens From A Birch

Robert Frost published “Birches” in 1916 and to this day it remains one of Frosts most anthologized pieces of work. Consisting of 59 lines the poem describes a man who passes by birch trees that appear to be bent. The speaker thinks back to his childhood where he would swing from the trees and float to the ground. He would like to believe that this would be true but the truth is that an ice storm had bent the trees with ice that had stuck to the trees weighing them down. This ice eventually cracks falling to the ground, but refracting the suns rays displaying a magnificent array of colors. Despite knowing the truth the speaker chooses to believe that young children have bent the trees like he had done. He wishes to again climb the trees to escape the world for a while, and climb toward the heavens, but float back down to earth where there is love.

“Birches” is written in blank verse meaning it has no rhyme. Like most of frosts poems though it is written in iambic pentameter meaning it consists of lines of five feet, each foot being iambic, meaning two syllables long, one unstressed followed by a stressed syllable. This is where Frost uses his sound of sense (McNair, Wesley, Sewanee), an example of this would be “Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells” and “shattering and avalanching on the snow crust”.

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The poem seems to have a sort of conversational flavor to it. It shifts between reality and the speaker’s imagination using words such as you and I. As the poem opens he tells us what he believes happened and we are finally told what really happened. The speaker believes that the children climb to reach the heavens but fall back down. The love that he describes is for live and himself. This shows Frosts agnostic side and the fragile belief in heaven (Fagan).

“Birches” centers itself around many themes such as youth, spirituality, balance, and the natural world we live in. It teaches us how to deal with impulse, spontaneity and structure. The speaker wishes he was a boy again and talks of climbing to the heavens (Tuten, Zubizarreta) but can only climb so far because the tree is rooted to the ground just like himself, forever stuck on this planet.

I can somewhat relate to Frosts poem in the sense that I to have wanted to escape this world on occasion, though not by climbing trees. Sometimes life can throw too much at you, and you want to get away from your worldly responsibilities and somehow shut out everything and clear your mind. Though this is not reality and Frost tells us that, as high as you can climb you and the tree are rooted to the earth and must eventually fall back down to reality.


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