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BIRCHES

 

by Robert Frost

BIRCHES -

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.

Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them

Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning

After a rain. They click upon themselves

As the breeze risesand 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 longthey never right themselves:

You may see their trunks arching in the woods

Years afterwardstrailing 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

(Now am I free to be poetical?)

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 winterand 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 limpnot 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 branchesclimbing carefully

With the same pains you use to fill a cup

Up to the brimand even above the brim.

Then he flung outwardfeet firstwith 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 itand 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 heaventill 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. - -

THE END