Birches : Description of nature in Birches

 Description  of Nature in Birches : by Robert Frost 

 Question : Discuss how has Robert Frost presented nature in the poem  “Birches”. 
 Answer : Robert Frost has presented a vivid description of nature in ” Birches”, by means of playful swinging of birches by a rural boy. 
     The poem tells about the poet’s encounter with those beautiful trees. It illustrates how he associates two different ideas as a cause of bent branches of those beautiful trees. The beautiful bends in the branches remind him of his beautiful past days. Also he imagines how natural calamities can transform the actual appearances of the objects. He desires to be a swinger of birches as he was in his childhood.
  •   Beauty of Nature as a Source of  Delight

   At first, Frost presents nature as a source of delight. At the beginning the speaker sees  “birches bend to left and right” and  imagines that a young boy has been swinging on them during play. But the very first moment, he overrules his imaginative, pleasing picture with the harsher truth of nature. He remembers that branches of birches  remain bent down for long, not by their swinging by the boys, but with the weight of the ice. 
     “But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay / 
      As ice – storms do.”
When it stops raining birches are covered with ice. On a sunny winter morning the ice on these branches begins to shine and reflect seven colors of the rainbow as the sunlight passes through the ice.  This beauty doesn’t last long as the ice upon the branches starts to break into pieces due to the heat of the sun. He further says – 
     “Soon the sun’s  warmth makes them shed crystal shells”
  Here the breaking ice has been compared to shattering crystals and glass that falls like an avalanche.

    The small pieces of ice thrown on the earth appear to be the broken glass as if  “the inner dome of heaven had fallen”.
    In this metaphor, the snow crystals have been compared to bits of broken glass because of their transparency and their sharpness. 
     The poet, in another visual image describes how the branches of birches sometimes come down to the level of dry fern growing on the earth, though the branches are not broken. They keep their leaves trailing on the ground like the girls sitting on their hands and  knees, hanging down their hair, in front of them to dry the hair in the sun.
   ” Like girls on hands and knees that thrown their hair/ 
     Before them over their heads  to dry in the sun.”
      • Ambiguity in Nature  
      In the poem “Birches” Robert Frost has used the ambiguity in nature to describe the ambiguity he  finds in human experience. The poet has juxtaposed the positive and negative images of the boy’s playing on the tree.
     At first he presents the riding and swinging on the birches, as an innocent play of rural boys which is quite harmless but soon it gains a darker note when the speaker  describes the ultimate damage done to the birches by the boys. He says – 
    “One by one he subdued his father’s trees
    By riding them down over and over again
      Until he took the stiffness out of them, 
     And not one but hung limp, not one was left
      For him to conquer “
    •  Need to Subdue Nature 
    The above lines are also suggestive of the theme of conquest of nature. The boy’s need to subdue and conquer the birch trees points to the destructive side of human nature.  
     The speaker presents the two totally opposite images – the boy’s  conquest on the birches and his own fond memories of playing on the trees. Although both these images turn to the swinging on the trees as a form of escape from the limits of the real world .  
 The speaker further says – 
    “So was I once myself a swinger of birches/
       And so I dream of going back to be “
   The poet longs to be   “a swinger of birches” again.
   • Nature as a means for Solace and  Source of Wisdom 

     The poet   presents nature as a means of solace. He recalls his childhood as a swinger of birches where he would find peace and happiness close to nature, while swinging the birches. But now as an adult he compares his life as a pathless wood
    “And life is too much like a pathless wood”
      The poet uses harsh images of nature to suggest the difficulties and the weariness of an adult life. He longs to return to the innocence and beauty of nature.
      “I’d like to get away from earth awhile/ 
      And then come back to it and begin over “
     He wants to swing on the trees, not to conquer them as the boy does, but to have an opportunity to reach up towards the heaven.
    Here the poet uses symbol of riding of birches as an escape from the limits of the real  world and to reach up to higher level of existence.

   Although he longs to escape from the hardship of life and climb towards the heaven but he has learnt the importance of maintaining balance between reality and imagination.
    He knows the wisdom of escaping from the harsh realities of the world for some time for rejuvenation and then the wisdom of coming back on the earth to do his earthly duties. He would like to experience both the worlds, climbing  “Towards heaven, till the tree could bear no more” then dipping him down back to earth. 
    Birches go up and then come down. This natural phenomenon is the source of wisdom that extremes are always bad. We can not remain up for ever in the world of imagination we will have to come down to the real world, however bad and harsh it is.
     He wants to exist in the real world with all its hardships and go back to refresh him to enable him return to the everyday grind of life on the earth.


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