Birches

Robert Frost

 
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.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do.  Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a 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.
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.
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:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
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.  He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground.  He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
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.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return.  Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
 
From The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1916, 1923, 1928, 1930, 1934, 1939, 1947, 1949, © 1969 by Holt Rinehart and Winston, Inc. Copyright 1936, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1951, 1953, 1954, © 1956, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962 by Robert Frost. Copyright © 1962, 1967, 1970 by Leslie Frost Ballantine.

Poems by This Author

"Out, Out—" by Robert Frost
The buzz-saw snarled and rattled in the yard
A Line-storm Song by Robert Frost
The line-storm clouds fly tattered and swift
Acquainted with the Night by Robert Frost
I have been one acquainted with the night
After Apple-Picking by Robert Frost
My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
An Old Man's Winter Night by Robert Frost
All out-of-doors looked darkly in at him
Blueberries by Robert Frost
You ought to have seen what I saw on my way
Bond and Free by Robert Frost
Love has earth to which she clings
Christmas Trees by Robert Frost
The city had withdrawn into itself
Design by Robert Frost
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
Dust of Snow by Robert Frost
The way a crow
Fire and Ice by Robert Frost
Some say the world will end in fire
For Once, Then, Something by Robert Frost
Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
Ghost House by Robert Frost
I dwell in a lonely house I know
Going for Water by Robert Frost
The well was dry beside the door
Home Burial by Robert Frost
He saw her from the bottom of the stairs
Meeting and Passing by Robert Frost
As I went down the hill along the wall
Mending Wall by Robert Frost
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
Mowing by Robert Frost
There was never a sound beside the wood but one
Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost
Nature's first green is gold
October by Robert Frost
O hushed October morning mild
Reluctance by Robert Frost
Out through the fields and the woods
The Death of the Hired Man by Robert Frost
Mary sat musing on the lamp-flame at the table
The Oven-Bird by Robert Frost
There is a singer everyone has heard
The Pasture by Robert Frost
I'm going out to clean the pasture spring
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
The Sound of the Trees by Robert Frost
I wonder about the trees
To Earthward by Robert Frost
Love at the lips was touch


Further Reading

Poems About Childhood
"Out, Out—"
by Robert Frost
Don't Let Me Be Lonely [There was a time]
by Claudia Rankine
A Boy Juggling a Soccer Ball
by Christopher Merrill
A child said, What is the grass?
by Walt Whitman
Another Country
by Ryan Teitman
anyone lived in a pretty how town
by E. E. Cummings
Babylon
by Robert Graves
Because I cannot remember my first kiss
by Roger Bonair-Agard
Block City
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Blur
by Andrew Hudgins
Childhood is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
deer & salt block
by Joshua Marie Wilkinson
Early Memory
by January Gill O'Neil
Fern Hill
by Dylan Thomas
Fifteen, Maybe Sixteen Things to Worry About
by Judith Viorst
For Some Slight I Can't Quite Recall
by Ross Gay
From the Lives of My Friends
by Michael Dickman
Giraffes
by Kimiko Hahn
Going Down Hill on a Bicycle
by Henry Charles Beeching
In the Waiting Room
by Elizabeth Bishop
Jabberwocky
by Lewis Carroll
Lullaby in Blue
by Betsy Sholl
My Aunts
by Meghan O'Rourke
My Bright Aluminum Tumblers
by Michael Ryan
My Childhood
by Matthew Zapruder
Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
by William Wordsworth
Pirate Story
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Playgrounds
by Laurence Alma-Tadema
Pledge
by Elizabeth Powell
Poem for You
by David Shapiro
Recuerdo
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Solar system bedsheets
by Sarah Vap
The Children's Hour
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Gaffe
by C. K. Williams
The Lamb
by William Blake
The Portrait
by Stanley Kunitz
The Retreat
by Henry Vaughan
The Swing
by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Tower
by W. B. Yeats
They Call This
by C. K. Williams
To My Best Friend's Big Sister
by Ross Gay
Untitled [The child thought it strange]
by Richard Meier
Untitled [You mustn't swim till you're six weeks old]
by Rudyard Kipling
We Are Seven
by William Wordsworth
Poems about Trees
A Poison Tree
by William Blake
Abandonment Under the Walnut Tree
by D. A. Powell
An Apple Gathering
by Christina Rossetti
Arbolé, Arbolé . . .
by Federico García Lorca
Before the Snake
by Nathaniel Tarn
Birch
by Cynthia Zarin
Christmas Trees
by Robert Frost
Elders
by Louise Bogan
Gather
by Rose McLarney
Get Used To It
by Margaret Young
Goddess of Maple at Evening
by Chard deNiord
Hard Night
by Christian Wiman
How From Politeness to the Trees
by Cecily Parks
How to Uproot a Tree
by Jennifer K. Sweeney
If You Go into the Woods You Will Find It Has a Technology
by Heather Christle
In California During the Gulf War
by Denise Levertov
Leaves
by Lloyd Schwartz
Letter from Town: The Almond Tree
by D. H. Lawrence
Loveliest of Trees
by A. E. Housman
Man in Stream
by Rosanna Warren
Mountain Pines
by Robinson Jeffers
My Friend Tree
by Lorine Niedecker
My Lady Is Compared to a Young Tree
by Vachel Lindsay
Not Dead
by Robert Graves
Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost
Orpheus
by William Shakespeare
Pear Tree
by H. D.
Russian Birch
by Nathaniel Bellows
Solstice
by Ellen Dudley
Song of the Trees
by Mary Colborne-Veel
The Apple Trees at Olema
by Robert Hass
The Branches
by Jean Valentine
The Bride Tree Can't Be Read
by Brenda Hillman
The Heart of the Tree
by Henry Cuyler Bunner
The Lemon Trees
by Eugenio Montale
The Life of Trees
by Dorianne Laux
The Mahogany Tree
by William Makepeace Thackeray
The Planting of the Apple-Tree
by William Cullen Bryant
The Poplar
by Richard Aldington
The Sound of the Trees
by Robert Frost
The Testing-Tree
by Stanley Kunitz
The Weight
by Linda Gregg
The Wishing Tree
by Kathleen Jamie
This Lime Tree Bower My Prison
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Trees
by Joyce Kilmer
Trees in the Garden
by D. H. Lawrence
Trees Need Not Walk the Earth
by David Rosenthal
Vantage
by Alan Shapiro
Vertical
by Linda Pastan
What Happened at the Service?
by Prageeta Sharma
When Autumn Came
by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
White Trees
by Nathalie Handal
Willow
by Jane Shore
Winter Trees
by William Carlos Williams