Poets use imagery to convey meaning, feelings, and emotions. The contemporary poet best know for his use of imagery is Robert Frost. The Road Not Taken, opened the eyes of poetic readers and critics to Frost’s artistic creations. He uses forms of language such as diction and syntax to capture and move the reader.
When read literally Robert Frost’s Birches is the speakers observations of the birch trees in a calm New England setting. The speaker sees the permanent bend of the trees from frequent ice storms and the climbing of a playful boy. The speaker appreciates the trees, as they are a part of his comforting surroundings. He would prefer the branches to be bent by a boy for the trees hold a place in his heart and he does not want their pain and destruction to be in vain. In line 41 the speaker’s voice changes. It becomes reflective as he remembers his time as a boy swinging through those same birches. If the branches must be bent and swayed, his wish is for it to be done by a boy so that enjoyment may be gained. From lines 41- 59 the speaker reflects. He wants to be back in his time of childhood swinging through the same trees, bending the same branches, and listening after and ice storm as the branches “click upon themselves/ As the breeze rises” (Lines 7-8).
There is so much more to a poem than just its literal interpretation. Being a master of language and the written word Robert Frost camouflages his meanings behind the descriptions of the nature around him. He expressed his need to use this method of reaching the reader in his talk, “Education by Poetry”:
Poetry provides the one permissible way of saying one thing and meaning another. People say, “Why don’t you say what you mean?” We never do that, do we, being all of us too much poets. We like to talk in parables and in hints and in indirections- whether from diffidence or some other instinct.
He holds true to this in Birches, using the figure of a tree to symbolize life, an ice storm to represent the hardships and obstacles that the speaker has encountered throughout this life, and the word “heaven” (Line 56) to mean happiness.
Frost’s choices of words relay emotions and feelings to the reader. Birches arouses the senses of sight, sound, and touch. The first lines of the po...
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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,
This passage once again plays out like a movie. A man leaves all his troubles behind and climbs the same birch tree only this time he is climbing to heaven, love and happiness. There is no dark forest around him.
The poem is ended with a few simple lines saying that a trip back to innocent boyhood returning with happiness would be fulfilling. “One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.” (Line 59) This ending line is there to leave the reader remembering innocence and hoping that there is possibility for carefree love in an adult world.
Robert Frost has used diction and syntax to carry the reader through worlds of the present, the past and that of a dream. Allowing him or her to be part of every word and phrase. His words are left to interpretation, one may read Birches purely at face value, taking the denotation of each word to explain the overall meaning of the poem or reading through their connotation, allowing the poem to be read in terms of the reader’s life.
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