Birches Robert Lee Frost
The poem ‘Birches’ is written by Robert Frost who is a great American poet. He is also known as the ‘Wordsworth of America’. Frost says that a good poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom. The poem ‘Birches’ begins in delight. It begins with delightful description of the ice laden birches swaying left and right during the winter season.
Birch swinging is an everyday country sport of the village boys in America. But this birch swinging has been used as a metaphor of the poet’s desire to swing away from the difficulties and pains of reality into the comforts of fancy or imagination, only to come back and meet the challenges of life with energy.
The poet knows the truth about the bending of the birch trees. Ice storms do that. In the winter season when snow falls on the birch branches which are heavily loaded and slowly all the branches bend left and right. After that they never straighten themselves. But the poet does not want to believe the truth about the ice storm. He prefers to believe that a village boy has been swinging the birches and this is why the birch trees bend left and right.
The poet describes the beauty of the birches laden with ice during the winter season. When wind blows on a sunny winter morning, rainbow colours appear as the ice is cracked and crazed. By the end of the winter, when the sunlight becomes warm, the ice deposited on the branches begin to melt down. It looks like a beautiful water fall with crystal shells falling from the top branches down to the earth. People may think that the ‘inner dome of heaven had fallen’. It was a wonderful sight of the Nature!
The poet compares the bent birches to girls who try to dry their long beautiful hair in the sunlight. The girls stand on hands and knees and throw their hair before them over their heads.
The village boy in the poem is the poet himself. So there is an autobiographical element in the poem. The village boy was alone and had no other games to play except swinging on the birches. He does not know any other games. Every morning when he takes his father’s cows for grazing out and in the evening when he returns home with the cattle, he swings on the birches. Throughout the year he goes on swinging and he becomes an expert in the art of swinging. Gradually the stiffness of the trees disappears and they are very flexible for him to swing for a long time. He climbed carefully from the lower branches to the top most branches one by one and he always kept his balance with great care caution as if one fills a cup up to the brim and even above the brim. When the swinging is over, the boy jumps down to the ground safely.
Now the poor village boy has grown to become a great poet. But ‘life is like a pathless wood’ for him. He has been suffering from various problems and difficulties of life. He is tired of many considerations in his daily life. So he wants to escape from the earth for a while. He plans to go to heaven by swinging on the birches. But he is a great lover of this earth. So he prays to God that he wants to get spiritual power from heaven and let him come back to the earth again to start a new life with great energy and power from God and return to the earth. He is afraid that he may be granted half of the prayer and not to return to the earth. But the speaker wants to come back to the earth, because the earth is the best place for love.
In concluding the poem it gives us wisdom. The swinging is between two limits. One limit is created by the realities of the outer world. The second limit is a self made limit. It is created by the mind and imagination. Therefore one needs a perfect balance between the two limitations. And the swinging is better than all other games and entertainments in the world.
1. What do ice storms do to the birches? - ans. Third paragraph of the essay.
2. “They click upon…..turn many coloured” - ans. 4th paragraph
3. What are the bent birches compared to? - ans. 5th paragraph
4. “Truth broke in …the ice storm” – What is the ‘matter of fact” truth? – 3rd paragraph
5. What is the advantage of birch swinging over many other forms of sport?
Birch swinging is a village sport which takes the speaker to his childhood days. This sport is better than all other sports and games which are expensive and have many disadvantages. In this game there is imagination and the speaker swings on the wings of imagination or fancy and keep away from the harsh realities of life and swings to the comfortable fancy which is his heavenly place where he gets spiritual energy from God and comes back to the earth to challenge the problems of life once again.
6. How does the poet picturize the joyous abandon of the birch swinger? The poet picturizes the joyous abandon of the birch swinger in poetic language. The village boy climbs to the top branches of the birch trees by swinging and he conquers every branch and reaches heaven and enjoys the spiritual energy and finally jumps down to the earth
7. What is there to learn to be an expert at birch swinging? – One has to learn many things in order to become an expert at birch swinging. First of all one should learn not to launch out too soon. Secondly one should be very careful in keeping the balance when one goes up higher and higher to the top branches of the trees. One’s enjoyment is over-brimmed, but should be still under control and finally jumps out.
8. “So was I once myself a swinger of birches” What is the mood reflected in this line? – Now the speaker is suffering from many problems and difficulties of life and wants to go back to his childhood days by swinging on the birch trees once again in his imagination. The mood reflected here is nostalgic.
9. What does the speaker wish to do when ‘weary of considerations”? – 7th paragraph of the essay.
10. “My no fate willfully misunderstand me” What is the likely misunderstanding? – ans. 7th paragraph of the essay.
11. “One could do worse than be a swinger birches” – explain This line is taken from Robert Frost’s famous poem titled ‘Birches”. Birch swinging is an everyday country sport of American village boys. The poet has used the birch swinging as a metaphor of his desire to swing away from the harsh realities of life into the comfort of fancy. This sport is better than all other sports and games which are expensive and have many disadvantages. In this game there is imagination and the speaker swings on the wings of imagination or fancy and keep away from the harsh realities of life and swings to the comfortable fancy which is his heavenly place where he gets spiritual energy from God and comes back to the earth to challenge the problems of life once again.