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I haven’t posted anything from my favorite writers in a while.  I’m choosing this poem in part because it goes along with my header at the moment.  Robert Frost (March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963), was born in California but moved to Massachusetts when he was 11 years old.  He is considered a New England poet because his career began during his life here in Lawrence, MA not too far from me.  This is one of his most famous poems, and I’ve always loved it.  White birch trees are usually the first tree you learn to identify as a child around here, because they’re so easy.  I think that instills a connection and an appreciation more with birches than with any other tree.  Frost captures that simple familiarity and reverence for birches, and ties it in with childhood and memories.  There are various interpretations to this poem and its underlying themes.  I don’t tend to tear poetry apart unless I’m in a classroom.  Rather I like the moods that poetry evokes and the meaning that the moods translate for me personally as I absorb the words into me.  This poem gives me a sense of a melancholic nostalgia, ponderance, the appreciate of nature, and the desire for more life and joy stemming from the resolve of age.  Anyway, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


by 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 it's 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.