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Imagine Being A Swinger of Bir

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Imagine Being A Swinger of Bir


"Birches" , by Robert Frost, is a symbolic poem about choices, the choices of heaven's truth, and earth's truth. The choices exists because when Frost had first experienced earth's truth he did not like what the senses convey, or can find no meaning in it, then the aspiration toward some kind of heaven became more important, and that heaven's truth becomes a choice. The need to choose is apparent, as Radcliffe Squires points out from his book The Major Themes Of Robert Frost, because these truths are his understanding of the universe. If he does not pick the way he perceives his life, then his conscienceness shall go insane. Through his experience, Frost finally takes both paths of truths by becoming a swinger of birches.

Through out the entire poem, we can see that Frost purposely divides the entire poem into three parts or stanzas. He wants us to experience possibly his own experience of swinging of birches by first introducing us to the start of the journey down on earth in the first stanza. He then releases us on the birch tree into the air where we could almost reach the heavens above in the second stanza. Finally as the birch tree can no longer go any higher, it brings us back down to earth so that we may be perceive a different earth in the third stanza. It can be seen that reality and the understanding of reality also follow this same trip on the birches. The reality that everyone faces everyday is introduced in the first stanza and reality is broken in with a rampage of imagination in the second stanza. Finally a newer and more enlightened reality can be seen by the end of the trip down on earth.

The word "truth" has to be defined to understand what Frost is really saying about the choices he has to make. Webster's New World Dictionary defines truth as "being true" but in one of the more specific meaning that defines truth is "reality." This is the earth's truth that Frost describes in the beginning of "Birches." Another way of putting this is that earth's truth is nature with its fire, wind, rain, etc' Heaven's truth can be defined through many eyes as spiritual, imagination, or insight. So the enigmatic truth lies in us and all around us. This is the heaven's truth that "Birches" describes after earth's truth. Eventually a universal truth lies at the end of the trip or possibly a truth that can satisfy our mind.

"Birches," is filled with meaning, trying to make sense and confusion of both truths. Each part of his poem symbolizes the ideas of heaven's truth and earth's truth, and what choice to make. Frost begins the journey with a cold winter day out in the forest of New England where he looks out to the woods to observe that:



When I see birches bend to left and right

Across the lines of straighter darker trees,

I like to think some boy's been swinging them.



He reveals that when he "sees birches bend too left and right" he would "--like to think some boy's been swinging them." This joyful feeling is immediately introduced with just those three lines, as if we are reminded of our past childhood; a memory of swinging birches.

The next couple of lines destroy that feeling of youth and joy that Frost shows in the first three lines of the poem and the passage begins the visual journey through the woods. In this journey, Frost wants the reader to see the birches as they really are and as they seem in a series of dreary images. Part of the realism comes from the sound of passages:



But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay

As ice storm do. Often you must have seen them

Loaded with ice sunny winter morning

After a rain. They click upon themselves

As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored

As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.



Frost puts fact in place of that joyful feeling. Squires points out that Frost "--begins in 'Birches' by setting forth 'fact'." The fact is that "--swinging doesn't bend them[birches] down to stay as ice storms do." The fact is then expressed even further about how an ice storm has an effect on birches. Frost uses the word "loaded" to express the strength of the ice storm on the sixth line, as if we are the same, "loaded" down on earth by the "fact" that we are bound on earth. Frost wants us to acknowledge this fact, and not to just see it, using the phrase, "Often you must have seen them." This is part of the earth's truth that Frost reveals to his reader; a reality that people live with everyday of their lives.

Frost's alliteration--here the repetition of s and k sounds--lets us hear as well as see the birch trees after a freezing rain and the morning after as the melting begins. The k sound in "crack" and "crazes" mimics the sound of the ice in the breeze "shattering" and crashing "on the snow crust." It also imitates the crunch of snow under the weight of boots. The s sounds suggest the rising breeze--his use of s sounds increases as it rises. These sounds also suggest the scratch and swish of birch branches scraped on the crust. These sounds contribute to the tone, or attitude, concerning "Truth," or reality. The upheaval caused by the breeze and the sun's warmth portray a shattered, uncomfortable feeling. Life is full with its peaceful ups; however, it also consists of shattering downs.

The "fact" is now being twisted. Squires says that as Frost exposes "fact", "he begins to destroy the fact, facturing it in prisms of imagery." The imagery at line eight gives the "fact" that the "breeze" becomes the torment for the birches, "as the stir cracks and crazes their enamel." The word "cracks" and "craze" gives meaning about life at this point of the poem as the "stir" from the breeze rises. The "enamel" is what's being affected here as if we also change by nature's "stir.' The irritations from the natural world, by such things as natural disasters, disease, obsession, etc... are natures stir of heat. The fact is always changing as the same with people are faced with bad times. People become in a way insane, and "turn many-colored," meaning people are in confusion and change, but it makes sense for this to happen. This is part of earth's truth.

Frost then uses another imagery after the glazing of the birches here:



Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells

Shattering and avalanching on the snow crust-

Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away

You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.



The sun here is earth's truth that "shed crystal shells shattering and avalanching a the snow crust-." The "shell" is the division between heaven and earth, and the sun as nature destroys heaven's truth. The poem communicates an attitude about imagination and reality. The choice of certain words and certain details makes it clear that the speaker prefers imagination but is aware of reality. Frost describes "crystal shells/ Shattering and avalanching on the snow crust--/ Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away." The words "shattering and avalanching" give the feeling of calamity and perhaps fear or sorrow. A disturbance in the universe is suggested by the "heaps of broken glass" that make it seem as if "the inner dome of heaven had fallen."

Frost finally supports his now deductive knowledge of why birches stay bending here:



They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,

And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed

So low for long, they never right themselves:



Since Truth is linked to the ice storm, the speaker sees that in reality that ice storms have bent down the birches. Frost finds that the "load" isn't really the reason why they stay bent and mutated but the repetitiveness that brings the birches so low to the ground is why birches stay bending. The lives of people can easily represent the enamel of the birches as the souls within our bodies. If this true, then people are destined to live by earth's truth, since "they never right themselves." People will have to live their life without hope or insight to their life because of the torment we receive from natures actions or more like realities burdens.

The last of this wintry imagery of birches comes from one of the most mind-boggling comparisons ...

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