Synopsis of Birches by Robert Lee Frost 

About the Poet Robert Lee Frost

Robert Lee Frost, born on March 26th, 1874 in San Francisco, America was a great American poet and fecund writer when it comes to poetry and playwriting. He is highly regarded for his realistic portrayal of rural life and his expertise on American colloquial speech. A four-time Pulitzer winner in poetry, Frost had achieved a coveted position as one of the most prominent poets in the United States. Frost wrote most of his poetry in England during the Victorian Era. This was the time when new genres and meters of poetry were being introduced, which have been employed by Frost in his poems.

Frost doesn't leave any room for ambiguity. Simplicity is the hallmark of Frost's poems. Frost believes in reality, which is enriched with optimism. Dramatic qualities crafting wonderful dramatic monologue or dramatic scenes are aptly presented in Frost's poems. He tries to go beyond the seen; to the unseen. He employs a lyric form in many of his best-known poems like Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and The Road not taken.

Theme of the Poem Birches

The poem Birches is written in blank verse, a form of iambic pentameter containing little to no rhyme scheme. It is a lyric poem as Frost shows his emotions about childhood. Frost employs descriptive style using vivid imagery and figurative language to appeal to the reader's senses. The theme is "Childhood is not forever...One eventually has to grow and discover reality". In the poem, 'Birches' Frost uses the metaphor of an upright tree being close to heaven signifying fantasy, while a bent tree is close to the ground and reality. Metaphor is used to show that in order to live a good life; one must maintain a balance between reality and fantasy.

Summary of the Poem Birches

In the poem Birches, Frost portrays the images of a child growing to adulthood through the symbolism of ageing birch trees. Through these images, readers are able to see the reality of the real world compared to their carefree childhood.

The speaker says that when he sees bent Birch trees in the forest, he imagines that a boy may have been swinging on the branches that made the trees bend. But the speaker knows that swinging does not cause the Birch trees to bend. Then he realizes that ice storms have actually caused the trees to bend. The weight of the ice bends the birches. The poet prefers the idea of the boy bending the birches by swinging, climbing up the trees from side to side. The speaker used to swing on the Birches and he wishes that he could go back to those days. He wants to be a boy again and sway on the birches and swing on the branches.

The tone of this piece is conversational. Frost employs the first person and addresses a "you", as if in normal conversation, and includes chatty phrases like "you'd think", "But I was going to say", etc. It is a monologue and with his choice of phrases. Frost makes it come across as an improvised monologue. He treats the semi-hidden development and unfolding of his theme as something which is self-evident and doesn't need explaining, forcing the listener/reader to race mentally to keep up with him.

"Birches" is divided into three different sections. The first section describes reality, the effect of the powers of nature upon the birches. In the second section, the poet deals with an ideal world, the world as he wants it to be. In the third section of the poem, Frost describes all his "considerations" and how he would enjoy being a swinger of birches again (as he once has been).

The poem moves back and forth between two visual perspectives: Birch trees as bent by boys' playful swinging and by ice storms, the thematic interweaving being somewhat puzzling.

Critical Analysis of the Poem Birches

'Birches' written in 1929, in England, is an early work of Frost. The poet wanted to convey to the readers that he was inspired by his childhood experience. As a boy, he used to swing on birches. It was a popular game among the children in the rural areas of New England.

Though the act of swinging on birches, the poet seems to be providing an escape from the hard and real adult world, though momentarily. While swinging on birches, a boy's imagination is free from all other thoughts.

The speaker of the poem regrets that he is now a grown-up man and he cannot run away from his responsibilities to climb a Birch tree and swing on its branches. The speaker wants to go back to those days and to become a boy. The boy in the poem is imaginary. Unlike the ice-storm that leaves its traces. The speaker only imagines the boy. The speaker imagines the boy as a younger version of himself. He wants a momentary escape from the adult world.

The poem is stylistically rich because of the use of figurative language that allows the poem to be more enjoyable. Frost uses similes, contrast, repetition, personification symbolism, imagery, and metaphor. It is a lyric poem and employs a descriptive style using vivid imagery and figurative language to appeal to the reader's senses. E.g.

"Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystals shells 
Shattering and avalanching on the snow crust
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away"

The poet uses dramatic language to experience the feeling. The poet compares the breaking ice to shattering crystals and the glass that falls like an avalanche.


enamel - dried paint that gives a smooth and hard coat:
crazes - breaks;
crystal shells - fragments of shining ice like pieces of broken glass:
avalanche - mass of snow rolling down a mountainside;
dome - rounded roof having a circular base;
wither - dried plant;
subdued - bent down:
poise - balance:
arch - a curved structure;
trail -long thin branches hanging down. 
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