Natures transcendental quality is described in Robert Frosts poem Birches. The speaker of the poem is an older man, who recalls the memory of being a swinger of birches. The overwhelming aspects of his life cause him to yearn for the trouble-free and undemanding times of childhood. Although the poem is written from the speakers viewpoint, the perspective of a specific boy is introduced. These two outlooks offer contrasting perceptions of what the birch tree and act of climbing and swinging represent. The poem plays into memory, reality, imagination, escape, and transcendence. The denoted content is about a man who would like to believe that birch trees are bent from young boys swinging on them, despite the evidence that it is merely a result of the ice storms. The connoted content deals with the speakers view of nature and his personal connection to the birch tree, as well as, his ability to retreat to the innocence of childhood through imagination. The imagery of the ice storm, symbolism of the bent birch tree, and the perspectives of the boy and speaker, heighten one central theme: when one is in nature, they are able to learn life lessons, use their imagination, and transcend away from Earth.
Frosts imagery of the ice storm shows one destructive effect of nature. Once the storm has ceased, all of the birch trees are covered in ice. The speaker envisions the layers of ice as an enamel-like, protective layer covering the birches. However, the beauty and suns warmth makes them shed crystal shells (line 10). By poetically describing the
trees with the terms enamel and crystal, the image of lustrous, glistening trees is evoked. Once the shells fall down, he states, Youd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen (line 13). By connecting the tree to heaven, its transcendental quality is rendered. Through vivid imagery and the speakers imagination, one aspect of the central theme is heightened: when surrounded by nature, once can freely use their imagination.
The particular young boy views the birch trees merely as a source of amusement, and is able to learn valuable life lessons. The specific description of the boy implies a personal connection to the speaker. He is Some boy too far from town to learn baseball/ Whose only play was what he found himself (lines 25-26). Because he lives so far away, he cannot participate in games with other children. The boy must find enjoyment from a different source. He finds amusement in swinging on birch trees.
One by one he subdued his fathers tress
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 (lines 28-32)
This memory contains reality and imagination. The speaker knows birch trees become bent from the destructive effects of nature, but he prefers to imagine it was the result of a young boy swinging on them. Although the boy is shown to have the trees under his complete control, he is still able to have fun, and learn valuable life lessons.
He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the trees away
Clear to the ground.. (lines 32-35)
This image simply shows the boy has learned the appropriate time to launch off the tree. However, it also implies a lesson about life, the boy has learned not to become an adult to quick or jump into the real world prematurely. The boy also learns not to carry the trees away, because the tree is his connection to the world and reality. He can get lost in his imagination while he conquers the trees, but the transition back to reality must be easy and smooth.
The speaker longs for the simplistic times of childhood, and views the birch trees as an outlet to transcend from Earth. The man is at a point in his life where he feels lost, he visualized the birch tree as a means to escape and transcend away from Earth. Now weary of considerations he feels his life is similar to a pathless wood. He states that, Id like to get away from earth awhile/And then come back to it and begin over (line 48-49). The speaker hints at death, but is clearly not ready to die. He wants to come back to it and begin over, in a sense, he yearns to be reborn. He reveals his wish to stay on Earth when he states, Earth is the right place for love; I dont know where its likely to go better (lines 52-53). Although life can be hard and people can lose there way, there will always be innocence, love, and beauty in the world if people look for it.
Even though the speaker of the poem was overwhelmed with life in general, he feels that life is worth living. Yearning for the trouble-free, innocent, and undemanding times of childhood is ok, but one must be content with their life to find fulfillment. The perspective of the boy and speaker, offer two contrasting outlooks of what the birch trees represent. The imagery of the ice storm, symbolism of the bent birch tree, and the perspectives of the boy and speaker, all heighten the central theme: when one is in nature, they are able to learn, imagine, and transcend away from earth.