The poem Birches by Robert Frost portrays an image of a child who plays on a old birch tree engulfed by ice. Frost is able to illustrate what appears as a mundane activity and turn it into something with a much deeper meaning((Analysis of Birches by Robert Frost, Bartlebly) The language used in Birches is very literal, but by analyzing each line as well as the authors word choice, we can start to uncover the important themes and interpretations of the poem.
Frost is not only writing about nature in this poem, but also uses nature to compose ideas that relate to human nature. In Birches, Robert Frost uses visual imagery, varied verse structure, and illusions to create the characteristics of a modern poem. Robert Frost took the unbeaten path when writing Birches throwing orderly verse, subjectivity, and imaginative elements out of the way in order to create one of the best poems during the Modern era ( Poets.org, Guide to Romanticism).
Immediately in the beginning of the poem Frost evokes the reader with a sight When I see birches bend to left and right. (Frost, Line 1) Frost wishes the bends in the birch tree were caused by a young boy swinging on them But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay as ice-storms do. (Frost, line 4-5). Frost wishes to show the symbolic nature of how life tends to weigh humans down as they grow old through visual imagery. The use of imagery in poems was brought to light during the Modern era and Frost was no exception (Link, Eric Carl). Frost uses descriptive imagery to describe how the sun’s warmth shatters and breaks the ice as if the inner dome of heaven had fallen. (Frost, line 13). Frost clearly wants the reader to see the symbolism between the sun and the ice. While warm sun rays provide the reader with a sense of relief, the ice is a symbol for the hardships we face throughout our lives. In order to live in the future and not the past one must break free of the ice and support the people around them. Birches is written in blank verse meaning that there is no rhyme to the poem, but it does have iambic pentameter. Frost finished writing Birches in 1916. Only 15 years after the Modern era had began, Frost was leaving the old ways of strict verse and diction and beginning the movement of free verse. His close selection of syllables and line length give the reader a sense of all of the action taking place. We see this when Frost begins to compare humans to birch trees. When he says though once they are bowed So low for long we get a sense of how people and birch trees are similar. When humans have loads of stress on them it often feels how birch trees feel when they are being weighed down by their ice coated branches. Humans and birches bend with the stress adapting and overcoming challenges in order to not snap. Frost compares bent branches trailing their leaves on the ground to girls on hands and knees that throw their hair Before them over their heads to dry in the sun. (Frost, lines 18-20). This comparison is made to reinforce how humans are similar to birch trees. Towards the end of the poem Frost begins to recall his own childhood. He tells the reader that So was I once myself a swinger of birches (Frost, line 41) and how badly he wishes he could go back to those carefree times that he dreams about it. When life is weary of considerations Frost suggests his regret in not being able to swing on birch branches because the responsibility of adulthood is a constant weight barring him down. He is unable to climb the trees to heaven like he was able to do as a young boy when he needed time to reflect and than come back down as the person he wanted. Frost is not able to imagine the view of the boy swinging from the tree because he keeps coming back to the truth: the bends are caused by winter storms, not by a boy swinging on them. NEEDS TRANSITION…Religion was important for Frost, as well as being something that was implemented more and more into poetry along with allusions to the bible during the modern era. These two things set victorian romanticism and modernism apart. (Watkins, Floyd C) Religion becomes important in the end of the poem when Frost says May no fate willfully misunderstand me And half grant what I wish and snatch me away Not to return. This shows Frost yearning to be taken to heaven with no return, showing us his belief in God and the importance of religion to him. Frost reverts again to the truth realizing earth is the place for him to be, yet he wishes he could be climbing towards heaven on a birch tree. The poem Birches by Robert Frost describes nature in a way that is clearly translated to the struggles we face everyday. Frost shows his longing to go back to a simpler time through the imagery of a ice covered birch tree and a innocent child in order to show the hardships we all have to go through. The use of visual imagery, free verse, and illusions as well as allusions to religion and the bible make up the characteristics of a modern poem.