I believe so much of poetry enlists the senses, beginning with the sense of sound. Whether its the rhythmic flow of the poem or the mere need to recite the words for a clearer understanding. The sense of sight cant help but participate while one reads a poem. Its like asking an artist to paint how he feels. Imagery is a key part of poetry creating a visual understanding. In the end poetry give a voice to the unsayable in our lives and indeed to life itself. After reading Birches by Robert Frost, my senses were reeling. The poem reads beautifully and is soothing to the ear. The imagery also paints a scene I have witnessed many winter days, growing up in the mountains.
Robert Frost, while knowing the realistic cause behind the bent birch trees, prefers to add an imaginative interpretation behind the bending of the birches. He also uses the entire poem to say something profound about life. I feel it is indeed a message that, yes life may get hard, and we may lose our way, but there is still innocence and beauty in our world. We just need to remember.
In the first section of the poem, Frost explains the appearance of the birches scientifically. He implies that natural phenomenon makes the branches of the birches bend and sway. Frost suggests that repeated ice storms are the real culprit to the bending branches. He however, takes the ordinary and mundane and makes it extraordinary, even comparing the breaking away of the ice from the trees to the dome of heaven shattering. Frost also lends sound to his description of the branches as they click upon themselves As the breeze rises. Frost explains the branches are bent by the ice, but do not break. Frost again adds beautiful imagery comparing the bent branches trailing their leaves on the ground to girls on hands and knees throwing their hair before them to dry in the sun. Frost, like an artist, paints a picture so beautiful of the birch trees that I cant imagine anyone reading this poem would not have a desire to see a birch in the icy winter for themselves.
Frost then suggests that he had rather imagine a little boy causing the bending of the branches by swinging and playing on them. He begins to tell a story within the poem. It is a story of a little boy living in a rural territory, possibly a farm, going out to do his chores, like fetching the cows, but gets side tracked by both the beauty of the woods and his wanting to play. Because the little boy is in a secluded environment he is forced to entertain himself. He has become accustomed to playing on his fathers trees, one by one he would conquer them all. He has been a frequent swinger of the birches and has taken the stiffness out of them and caused the branches to bend. Frost goes on to say He learned all there was to learn about not launching out too soon And so not carrying the tree away. The little boy knows exactly how far to bend the branches without breaking them. Frost uses the image of filling a cup to the brim and even above the brim to illustrate to the reader just how close the boy is to breaking the branches. We all have filled our cups to the top and then had the challenge of carrying the cup without spilling the contents. Frost again has used a simple comparison to make his point. I, like Frost, prefer the explanation of the bent birches being caused by a little boy swinging on them. Little boys and trees seem to go hand in hand.
I find it interesting that in the beginning Frost sees the birches in the winter, covered with ice. Then in the next section, when he envisions a young boy playing on them, the image of summer comes to mind. I see this as saying, the times that we bend, are not defined by the seasons. Good times and those bending (hard times) transcend throughout the times of our lives. He goes on to say Summer or winter the little boy played. The defining times in our lives cannot be narrowed down to a specific event. It is an era surrounding the specific events in which we are tested/pushed to the breaking point, then we must choose to break or simply bend.
In the final portion of the poem, Frost deals with an adults perspective of the birch trees and how it relates to adult life. Frost is reflecting back to a boys innocent childhood experience. The adult yearns to return back in time to a carefree life. He says its when Im weary and he seems to have lost his way, that he would like to get away from earth awhile and then come back to relive this joyous, carefree period in his life. He goes on to say dont get me wrong, I dont want to leave earth not to return for the things he loves best the birches are part of the earth. I am moved by the line Earths the right place for love. This line to me is HOPE. I think Frost is saying that as bad as things can get on earth, beauty and happiness and love still exist. I see the bending of the birches without breaking, as a symbol of our lives. So many people are pushed to a breaking point in life with stress, heavy burdens to bear and yet we survive and dont break. However, as we mature, we are changed or forever bent by these events that never allow us to return completely to our former selves. We can choose to let these events break us or we can let the icy/hard shell break free from us and find what lies beneath has grown with character and wisdom. We all have things that remind us from time to time of a more carefree, happy period in our lives. When we remember, we cross the thresholds of time and distance. We like the Swinger of Birches wish if only I could go back and relive that special time. For Frost, the character in this poem is taken back to his carefree past by the birch trees.
Poetry helps us to cross these thresholds of time also. Poetry allows us to experience beauty and find a path to a long ago buried feeling or desire. Birches by Robert Frost is an example of such poetry. It is filled with beautiful, profound images. In an age of disbelief, Birches evokes feeling, a reminiscence of innocence. It speaks to whats human in all of us.