The Mysterious Bending of Trees

“Birches,” by Robert Frost, is an archetypical example of a Frost poem. Frost’s poems are normally characterized by beautifully evocative descriptions of nature that form a very clear picture in the reader’s mind. On first reading, many of his poems seem to be just a portrayal of events that occur in nature.

However, there is normally another deeper meaning to the poem, mostly relating to the human condition. “Birches” seems at first reading to be a description of how a line of birch trees becomes bent and bowed due to natures intervention, and then describes how Frost would rather have the trees becoming bent due to a little boy playing on them. Looking deeper into the meaning of the poem, Frost seems to be praising the resilience of the birch trees and also he describes how the young boy learns to amuse himself while he grows up.The first part of the poem describes what has actually happened to the trees, how they look and what caused the current bent over appearance. The birch trees have become bent over because of ice that has formed on the branches and leaves, which have, over a period of several years caused the trees to bend over. Frost describes how after rain has fallen on a winter’s day, ice forms on the branches, pulling them down with the weight of it. As the sun rises and warms the air, a breeze picks up which causes the ice to fall off the boughs and gather under the trees as if part of heavens dome had fallen to earth. This section of the poem is typical of Frost’s vivid description of nature that he does so well in many of his poems.

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Frost does not seem to like this actual, colder version of the “Truth.” He would much rather the trees have reached their present bent over state because of the play of a young boy living on a farm. The boy lived too far from town to play sports with anyone, so he would have had to play by himself, making his own fun.

This would seem to be a reflection on Frosts own New England upbringing, and he is narrating what he used to do when he was a boy, living on a farm away from town. He would climb to the top of his father’s birch trees and would overpower then one after another by bending them over with his weight and then jumping off before they would break. Eventually, the boy had vanquished the row of trees and they lined up, bent over, a testament to the boys loneliness growing up. In the last part of the poem, Frost reminisces about his own childhood, when he too was a “swinger of birches.” When he is tired of life’s tribulations he looks back o and yearns for the days when he would also play among the trees and enjoy himself.

Frost seems to almost want to return to his youth, but asks that fate not take his request seriously, as deep down he would prefer to stay where he is in life. He would like to climb the trees again though, climb towards heaven and then fall down again, which would seem to be a satisfying way for him to pass the time. This poem is set in the countryside, much like where Frost grew up, so it is especially significant in providing the reader with a private picture into the poet’s childhood and how he matured. The poem has a cheerful tone throughout, first beautifully describing the birch trees then looking at a young boy playing amongst them. In this poem Frost makes use of his “fooling” to provide the reader with a descriptive picture of New England life which is also more than it seems, being a metaphor for his childhood life.Bibliography: