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Birches Analysis

Author: Poetry of Robert Frost Type: Poetry Views: 10697

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Mountain Interval1916When 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.


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| Posted on 2012-09-19 | by a guest

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We think the theme of Birches is \"youth and old age\". Frost is trying to express his anxiety and troubles of adult life. He is longing to return to simple child life and be carefree.

| Posted on 2012-02-15 | by a guest

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I agree with one of the earlier comments. It is interesting, the controversy between the child and the man - how the child uses the birch trees as a playful activity while the man uses them as a temporary escape of life. Maybe that references to another line in the poem, when he talks about the \"twig that lashed his eye open\", maybe the twig represents \"life\", and how all of life\'s difficulties have blinded him from how he used to see the world, as an innocent child. I don\'t know..I honestly do believe that poetry wasn\'t meant to have only one meaning. Poetry no longer becomes yours when you put it out into the world, then it is anybody\'s interpretation.

| Posted on 2011-11-09 | by a guest

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Words are weird: one word can have multiple meanings. Poems are weird also: one poem can have multiple meanings. Apparently a words meaning can change depending on how you use it. One might suppose the same to be true of a poem. When I\'m masturbating I think this poem is about masturbation. When I\'m engaging in sexual activity, then this poem is about sex. When I\'m looking at the stars this poem is about life the universe and everything. How I use it makes it mean.

| Posted on 2011-11-03 | by a guest

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frost describes how growing up changes your attitude. to the boy climbing the birches was a form of play for the man it was a temporary escape.

| Posted on 2011-05-22 | by a guest

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can anyone name some figurative lagnuage in the poem?

| Posted on 2011-04-27 | by a guest

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observe the meter.
the sound is as important as the meaning, perhaps with this poem even more important.
the confidence that is created by the boy, who tackles the proud and impressive trees is not mimicked by the rhytheme of the lines, the meter is broken up with triadic impulses and the way in which the lines are enjambed creates uncertainty.
I\'m not going to attempt to discern the meaning of this, i feel that\'s too personal for it to matter to anyone else. however, one must observe the fact that the meaning and the rhythm is juxtaposed. so perhaps, frost is encouraging us to take a closer look.

| Posted on 2011-04-25 | by a guest

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hidden messages are all over this poem,, but which one can you see?

| Posted on 2011-04-21 | by a guest

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“girls on their hands and knees that throw” “some boy” “by riding them down over and over again until” “the stiffness” “hung limp” after having “filled a cup up to the brim” - i think the poem is about prostetutes.

| Posted on 2011-04-04 | by a guest

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I think the tree plays two roles, one as the person, as Frost, saying people get weighed down in life by many different things, and its better to be weighed down by boys swinging, playing. Life ages us, even the good stuff, better to be aged thru love and living life, than the opposite. The tree is also just the tree while the swinger is Frost himself, wanting to leave life behind for awhile and swing upward and onward, but even though he sounds depressed and hardened by life, acknowledges the beauty of this world and wants to return to it, only rejuvenated.
I decided to post this opinion made by another guest becasue I definitely agree with it and would like to complete it. This poem is simply another playground where Frost can display his favorite tool : the use of irony. This poem is full of it. Now read again and start lookin.

| Posted on 2011-02-28 | by a guest

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the poem is a reality of life and is pregnent with layers of symbolism.in order to create a balanced and stable personality on has to face the troubles of life.

| Posted on 2011-02-22 | by a guest

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I think Frost is using the Birch trees as a metaphor for his poetry. As a boy, he wasn\'t like other boys; not playing baseball or being with other boys. Climbing the birch trees was like reaching beyond earthly things to bring a bit of his poet\'s understanding down for others to see and understand. In that way he was \"subduing his father\'s trees\" peraps in a religious sense. Using birch trees is poetic in itself since the bark of the birch can be used as paper. Although he, the poet, brings the tree down to earth, it is the ice storms, or life\'s hardships, that make us appreciate the poetry and connect with it thereby keeping it forever bowed down before us.

| Posted on 2011-02-03 | by a guest

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Hmm I am only 15 years old, and i think that we can all derive a different meaning from this poem. I dont think poetry s supposed to have one clear meaning, it is different for everyone. For me, i think he is talking about life. The birches being his life. He doesnt like the idea of his life being weighed down by the frost, instead he wuld rather it be him swinging the \'birches\' in whichever wasy he pleases. Also explaining that sometimes life gets you down and you have to come back and try again. Im sure some people would dissagree with how i viewed this poem, but each to his own.

| Posted on 2010-12-31 | by a guest

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I find all of these interpretations so interesting. I think easch individual brings to it their own history and draws meaning from that. I read it once, quickly, and first thought, best thought, I concluded it was about falling in love. I am at an age also where passion is waning, and love is for the young. I was once a climber of birches. and comes a time, to let go. all of that excitment. which he concludes so eloquently for all of us.

| Posted on 2010-12-22 | by a guest

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has it occurred to you imbeciles that this poem could offer two dominant effects?
the sexual connotations of the poem are inarguable, yet they are in no way vulgar. what can be seen is an example of the Oedipal complex. the boy is unconsciously suppressing his urge to dominate his father by weighing down the trees. at an unconscious level, the boy has castration anxiety. the phallic imagery is presented in how 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.
the Oedipal complex is an age-old and widely explored Freudian theory.
at the same time this is occuring, we see that the boy is swinging on the birches as one would \"swing\" between options in life. throughout the poem we see oppositions of the motions, \"birches bend left and right,\" \"summer or winter\", etc.
in contrast to The Road Not Taken, the narrator says \"life is too much like a pathless wood,\" where options are not presented as clearly as A and B, and that one has to forge their own path.
at the same time, the narrator wishes to \"get away from earth awhile / and then come back to it and begin over.\" departing from a judeo-christian sense, te narrator is swinging back and forth between reality and fantasy in his wishes to \"get away from earth,\" which is almost heretical and presents reincarnation as he wishes to \"come back to it and begin over.\"
also, the narrator says in the last several lines that \"Earth\'s the right place for love: / I dont\' know where it\'s likely to go better.\" in which we see another opposition to christianity, as heaven is synonymous with god who is all loving. in this we see Frost swinging between christianity and something else, just as the boy is swinging, and the narrator again returns to christianity as in the end of the poem he isays he would like to swing \"Toward heaven\" approching, but never reaching it.
there is more than one option to explore here. readers need to keep an open mind.

| Posted on 2010-12-09 | by a guest

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No poem has ever made me want to stab myself in the eye more.

| Posted on 2010-11-22 | by a guest

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People commenting that finding sexual connotations in poetry is crude, or vulgar.. or even childish sure CANNOT be students of literature. It shocks me that you honestly think that identifying a sexual theme is a \'reduction\' of a piece of \'high art\'. It goes against any philosophy of poetry that Frost and his contemporaries had to assume that his themes are high and nobel ones. So much art explores sexuality and it\'s ridiculous to see the theme as in any way debasing to art.

| Posted on 2010-10-11 | by a guest

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thanks for all your comments. It's been really helpful. I really agree with the idea that the poem is about Frost reflecting on the carefree nature of his childhood and being 'a swinger of birches' and the idea of him getting closer to God. Does anyone know if Frost was a religious man? ('towards heaven') I also feel like the poem is partly about the blissfulness of ignorance and the sadness of when your fantasies-the way you thought the world was is contradicted ('truth broke in with all her matter of fact about the ice storm'). It's a bit like the feeling a little kid gets when he/she finds out that santa isn't real.

| Posted on 2010-05-25 | by a guest

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wassup man im fresh meat at hardaway and im doin a oral commentary on this. the author feels that when the ice-storms come, but times arrise. but when the sun comes out again.all the troubled times are swept away... idk where u guys comin from wit the sexual connotation stuff

| Posted on 2010-05-12 | by a guest

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Although people prefer to read furthest into the sexual connotations of the poem, I believe Birches is about personal struggle between what is wanted, needed, and longed for, and what is necessary throughout stages of life.
It is unfortunate that our society only thinks of sex when analyzing such a beautiful and historical work, and how much our humanity seems to be moving backward, into the fascinations of an overused taboo.

| Posted on 2010-05-04 | by a guest

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(for those that associated the poem with masturbation) It is what is in the heart that is poured out through mouth- hey guys you are rather reading your own version of the poem than what is out there. Do not be cheap. Grow out of animal spirit and be human.

| Posted on 2010-04-27 | by a guest

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(for those that associated the poem with masturbation) It is what is in the heart that is poured out through mouth- hey guys you are rather reading your own version of the poem than what is out there. Do not be cheap. Grow out of animal spirit and be human.

| Posted on 2010-04-27 | by a guest

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I am currently writing my Coursework that is due in tomorrow and i believe that none of the views spoken of are wrong, although some of them are a bit tenuous. My main theme in my essay is that the poem is about how to live your life to fulfill your spirituality and to escape reality; 'Truth' and take a break form it all which will allow you to enjoy yourself and the return to reality ready for it. I also think that Frost is saying you must return to live your life, and also because Earth is the 'right place for love'.

| Posted on 2010-03-21 | by a guest

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The poem is about different ways of living in part and in larger part about escape, and Frost's desire to return to the easygoing whimsical ways of his childhood for a time period before returning to Earth. That said, there are definitely overt sexual overtones there and it seems, for the most part, to be a specific reference to masturbation.
Does that mean the poem is about masturbation? No. The act of masturbation by a relatively young boy is, in a certain light, a natural and innocent act. Sexual discovery is an important piece of the poem. It's not the focus of the entire poem, but it is not a negligible component either. Its reference doesn't destroy the beauty of the poem, but complements it.

| Posted on 2010-01-03 | by a guest

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I deplore the fact that this beautiful poem is reduced to masturbation. Would the fourteen-year-olds posting please leave this site? I'm not an "ancient relic" but simply someone who actually appreciates literature. Sorry for believing this poem is about two different ways of living (hence the swinging)--in the harshness of reality(ice storm) and the comfort of imagination. And yes, it is about life. Sorry for finding a less shallow meaning to this poem.

| Posted on 2009-12-20 | by a guest

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The previous comment is clearly ignorant of Frosts motives surrounding this poem and is arrogant to perceive that his interpretation of the poem is correct when the nature of Frosts poetry is highly ambiguous and allegorical. One who had studied Frost more thoroughly would acknowledge the hardships he endured in later life, with only two of his children outliving him. Although his childhood was tainted with the death of his father when his was merely eleven the years previous to that incident would perhaps have been his most enjoyable, and due to that I feel that this poem refers to that period of time.
Although I can observe the sexual connotations illustrated by Frost I feel that the main thrust of his argument encompasses ideas of a retrospective view of his childhood, in comparison to the struggles of later life, and would not have clouded such a time with vulgar propositions of masturbating and sexual experience. For example, in the line: Until he took the stiffness out of them, could easily been seen as portraying a sense of masturbation. However I feel that it more strongly relates to the idea that children conform the world to their own needs.
It is clear that Frost has divulged a huge amount of care and consideration into this poem, and although he often attempts to fool the reader in his verse, he would not create such complex images purely to achieve a childish joke. Lines such as,
Youd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen, referring to Ptolemaic astronomy, a belief, held previously, that the worlds were surrounded by crystal spheres, stress this, and many other examples of complex imagery and ideas can be found.
To conclude, those posting comments ridiculing potential connotations, oblivious to more important meanings should take a more profound view of poetry and appreciate its complexities maturely

| Posted on 2009-11-19 | by a guest

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Does anyone here actually know how to analyze a poem or what??
It's not about "life." That is so shallow and foolish to think. "Well," you will say, "That is only my interpretation of the poem." Well sure, but you interpreted it wrong.
The poem is about masturbation. If you want to interpret it as some pouting rhyme about the trials of life, whatever, but that's not the real meaning of the poem.
Also its not some perverted thing that you giggle about, its natural to do, and at least Frost wasn't scared to even talk about it.
I was going to memorize this poem for speech class, but as I read over it about fifty million times, I realized what it was about and decided to stick with something a little less sexual.
There is a great progression of the thoughts in this poem though, and his transitions are so smooth.

| Posted on 2009-10-05 | by a guest

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I think the tree plays two roles, one as the person, as Frost, saying people get weighed down in life by many different things, and its better to be weighed down by boys swinging, playing. Life ages us, even the good stuff, better to be aged thru love and living life, than the opposite. The tree is also just the tree while the swinger is Frost himself, wanting to leave life behind for awhile and swing upward and onward, but even though he sounds depressed and hardened by life, acknowledges the beauty of this world and wants to return to it, only rejuvenated.

| Posted on 2009-09-06 | by a guest

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trust me when i say that if someone wants they can find sexual connotation in almost ANY PIECE of writing...its really stupid, i.e white - ohhhh sperm. give me a break. I feel like we are degrading this poem and insulting the poet. When has a poem ever been written about masturbation??? please tell me - id love to read it.

| Posted on 2009-08-30 | by a guest

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you guys are right- the poems about masturbation- you should read- nothing gold can stay- its about orgasms

| Posted on 2009-08-14 | by a guest

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Maybe he masturbated so much he filled a cup...

| Posted on 2009-08-04 | by a guest

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The poem is about love. When young we learn love through our dominant parental figure. We attach to that love. We swing from the birches as we experiement with the wavering sensations of love and sometimes hate. I believe Robert Frost was heart broken that the young natural love he was experiencing took him back to a place where love was uncomformatable as a child. And now as an adult he reflects and asks the question. If only.I had been kinder and understood the parent as a person being mother or father. It is in understanding our parents are people...They have already experienced the path of youth and have blundered like all. And looking back we sometimes wish we could be young and innocence while knowing the wisdom of age.What could be better than a "swinger of birches"

| Posted on 2009-07-26 | by a guest

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I have to write a commentary on this for a grade 10 exam, so imagery and diction, and themes are needed. THe only imagery i could find is relating childhood to birch trees... adn i don't even think that is right. Diction could be the way he takes things that seem to be from his past and writes them from his different stages of life. A Theme could be childhood.
Thats all I got from this poem though... :P

| Posted on 2009-06-22 | by a guest

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ok so he's talking about his childhood, how birches were only bent becuase boys were swinging from them. it was when he was a child that he "conquered" all of his difficulties, by climbing to the top of all the trees "the same way one would carefully fill a cup" so he pushed life to... the highest it got? (not a good explination for that) byt he was careful with what he did becuase if you fill the cup too full it could overflow and it would be ruined... and now that he is an adult the trees are only bent by reality, and he walks in a pathless wood and the twigs hurt his eyes, and he cannot see the same way as he did when he was a kid, becuase he doesnt climb the trees, he just wanders through the forest
that was long

| Posted on 2009-05-21 | by a guest

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I feel that this poem is about life. much like the trees we can get weighted by life and its roles but also we are the boy or we need to be. Having fun carless and free. free from being the bent trees he is truely free to move up threw the branchs and swing off to new ones but the tree is bent, no longer able to move or grow upward. The sky is the limit or is it the top of the tree? that he is getting to trying to get higher and higher

| Posted on 2009-05-13 | by a guest

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it might be worth mentioning the freudian reference to the boy 'subdueing' his father's trees one by one

| Posted on 2009-05-04 | by a guest

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The one that makes the most sense is masturbation, but I asked my teacher and said it's related to war... I'm stressing out, because only a few lines relate 100% to war, and it would be too offensive to put sexually-themed things in school (10th grade)... damn Shoop!!

| Posted on 2009-04-23 | by a guest

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i think this poem is so fun and plz people so masturbating ur self

| Posted on 2009-03-25 | by a guest

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Go outside.
you're a rusty relic of times gone by.
I can relate to this poem as I too enjoy masturbation
ihr seid alle spasten.

| Posted on 2009-03-20 | by a guest

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I think the Fathers Trees were the ladies his father was with...I dont know

| Posted on 2009-03-16 | by a guest

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