Birches is a nature poem written by Robert Frost. Frost is one of the most important American poets who shaped the voice of generations to come. This poem was first published in the collection ‘Mountain Interval’ and has been since anthologized always.
Judith Oster said whether in ‘Birches’ we divide the experience of the poem from the meaning of the poem? And the answer is that we do not. The poem opens in a conversational way which is a trademark of Robert Frost.
It is written in Blank Verse which means sentences are metrical but without any rhyme. The 59 lines of this poem exemplify poetic concepts of Robert Frost such as “education by metaphor” “a momentary stay against confusion” and “sound of sense.”
The poem is set in a rural world of contemplation. The realistic portrayal of Nature such as the birches here is injected with symbolic meanings. In one of his Preface, Frost wrote that “Abstraction is an old story with the philosophers, but it has been like a new toy in the hands of the artists of our day.”
He was fully occupied with how everything sounds as. This poem defamiliarizes words to surprise us with their sounds as if we are hearing them for the first time. Frost himself said that “I alone of English writers have consciously set myself to make music out of what I may call the sound of sense.”
This poem discusses a simple thought of birches bent under the snowfall and boys swinging in their branches but the immaculate way of composition allows us to experience the abstract vitality of our speech which is “pure sound-pure form.”
The poem employs everyday speech like a person in his thoughts and reflections is gossiping about his past and the hardships of life in a very intimate way.
The poet enjambs single sentences over many lines which gives a dramatic power to the poem. It looks like the whole poem which looks so simple is actually carved around the nature of ideas and sounds which are there.
Frost said poetry is simply made of metaphor. This poem may deal with the description of birches in winter and the playfulness of young boys but the irony comes out of the fact that the whole description, in the end, looks like a metaphor. Reading the poem gives us “the pleasure of ulteriority.”
The poem educates us towards its end. It suggests us a way to deal when our life becomes a pathless wood. Birches were personified in the beginning of the poem as if they have life but, in the end, they become the tools of the boys who are alive. One can not expect the way the poet teaches us that the earth’s the right place for love.
The poem, in Frost’s own words, “moves us to a higher plane of regard.” There is an allusion to Shelley’s Adonais when it reads, such heaps of broken glass you’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
In an overall sense, the poem cannot be categorized simply as a nature poem. Frost said that “I am not a nature poet. There’s always something else in my poetry.”
The poem teaches us that how one can not escape from life’s trials. One can only go away for a while and in a way recharge oneself spiritually and come back again to this world to act on responsibilities.
Read 10 important questions about the poem Birches by Robert Frost.