Frost Commentary: “Birches” Quotes Commentary

Alicia Wei

What kinds of imagery is used in the poem and to what effect? Frost uses the paired imagery of the temperature of the sun and the ice to represent the difference between his own thoughts and reality. His own thoughts seem to be of a yearning for a life free of responsibility, or at least obtain a break (the ice). However, reality comes in and deters him from such thought (the sun) by shedding light on the inaccuracies of his thoughts and brings him back to reality. This nearly creates a sense of despair from the speaker’s point of view because all he wants is a little break.

“Soon the sun’s warmth makes the shed crystal shells / Shattering and avalanching on the snow crust” (lines 10-11)

Frost uses the paired imagery between the bent trees and the upright trees to represent the wavering confusion the speaker seems to “One by one he subdued his father’s trees By have for the pleasures of childhood and the riding them down over and over again” (lines harsh reality of adulthood. The wavering tree 27-28) seems to creates an uncertain, almost a sense of disparity, tone from the speaker’s perspective, from the yearning of returning to childhood and knowing that he cannot. Frost uses the paired imagery between the sun and the cold winter morning to show the speaker’s regret that he can no longer find the peace and happiness that he did as a child from swinging on the birches. Since he is now an adult, he is unable to leave his responsibilities behind and climb towards heaven until he can start afresh on the earth. The paired imagery shows that the speaker is not able to enjoy the only the memory of swinging on birches, but rather yearns to return to such a childlike state, if not childhood.

“Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning/ After a rain” (lines 6-7)

What kind of figurative language is used in the poem and to what effect?

Frost Commentary: “Birches”

Alicia Wei

Frost uses diction to show that reality has essentially crushed the speaker’s whimsical “Shattering and avalanching on the snow crust imagination and thoughts. This creates a sense —/ such heaps of broken glass to be swept of hopelessness form the speaker’s perspective away” (lines 11-12) in that everything he has imagined cannot be fulfilled and that he can no longer rely on his memories to yearn of childhood. The birches becomes an extended metaphor within the poem, representing our imagination. As a tree, it is rooted in the ground, and in climbing it the speaker has not completely severed ties to the earth and is also reaching towards heaven. Moreover, as the final leap backdown takes skill, experience, and courage, it is not a mere retreat but a new trajectory. Thus one’s path goes up the tree and follows the bending birch down. The birches become an object of nature the the speaker uses to remember his childhood, or the days without responsibility. Within the poem, the act of swinging on the birches is presented as a method of escaping the hard reality of the truth of adulthood, even if it is for a moment. As a boy, the speaker climbs up the tree and is essentially climbing towards heaven, a place where his imagination can roam freely. The narrator then explains that climbing a birch is an opportunity to escape reality. A birch swinger is still grounded to the earth through the roots of the tree as he climbs, but he is able to reach and see far beyond his normal life on the ground and search for a higher plane of existence. This creates a tone of yearning from the speaker’s perspective because he would like to revisit this freedom.

“You may see their trunks arching in the woods” (line 18)

“Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells/ Shattering and avalanching on the snow crust” (lines 10-11)

How does the poem use structure to bring about the development of its ideas?

Frost Commentary: “Birches”

Alicia Wei

Frost uses blank verse tied into the setting within the poem through the speaker who views the bent trees as if they are bending because boys have been swinging in them. However, the speaker knows that the trees are “So low for long, they never right bent because of the ice storms. The speaker themselves: / You may see their trunks arching does so because he would like to return to the in the woods / Years afterwards, trailing their days of youth where there was nothing to leaves on the ground” (lines 16-18) worry about. The blank verse furthered the speaker’s wavering feeling between adulthood and childhood and is growing tired of the responsibilities of adulthood, furthering the theme that ever person at some point, needs a break. Other than blank verse, there is also a lack of a rhyme scheme. This further invites the reader to look search between the lines that seem to describe the speaker’s feeling of chaos, confusion, and tiredness towards the world around him. The lack of blank verse also adds to the theme that at some point in their lives, everyone needs a break. It seems to create an even more turmoiled sense between the childhood and adulthood memories and the sense that we all get at some point, that we don’t want to do anything anymore and that we just want to stop and rest. Similarly, the blank verse allows such a concept to be conveyed.

“To learn about not launching out too soon/ And so not carrying the tree away / Clear to the ground” (lines 32-34)

Frost Commentary: “Birches”

Alicia Wei

“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” (lines 39-41)

The poem loosely follows the structure of an iambic pentameter. This then mildly contradicts the blank verse and lack of rhyme scheme within the poem because it shows that at some fundamental level, the speaker craves or is still structured in some form. This then relates to the fact that the title of the poem is extremely simple. However, frost does not seem to be saying anything specific about nature, rather birches seems to cause the author to think introspectively about his life and ultimately, sway between the worry free life of childhood and the responsibility ridden life of an adult, furthering the theme that everyone needs a break at some point in their lives.

What significant theme is present and how is it developed? Throughout the poem, there is a constant theme that at some point in life, everyone needs a break. This is furthered through the progression of tone throughout the poem. At the start of the poem, the tone is harsh and cold through the constant references to the snow, winter, and ice. This represents the harshness of reality that the speaker is currently in. The theme that everyone needs a break at some point in their lives, is furthered through the tone change from cold and harsh to one with more natural properties. This represents the speaker contemplating about his childhood and begins his realization that adulthood is not that glamorous and begins the representation that the speaker is tired of the harshness of adulthood.

“As ice storms. Often you must have seen them” (lines 5)

“One by one he subdued his father’s trees” (line 28)

Frost Commentary: “Birches”

Alicia Wei

“Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,/ But dipped its top and set me down again” (lines 55-56)

The tone shift towards more of contemplation at the end of the poem, furthered the theme that everyone needs a break. This is done through the author’s flashback to his childhood in comparison to his actual adulthood and realizing that he is tired of the ongoing of events as an adult.

Related Interests