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Analysis of A Black Birch in Winter
This poem is extremely easy to understand if one understands the comparison being made.
Although by saying that a tree may look old in the winter but it will appear reborn in the spring is what
Wilbur is talking about, he is relating and comparing this to the life of an aging man. The poem states that
"Old trees are doomed to annual rebirth, new wood, new life, new compass, and greater girth." This means
that the tree will stretch and crack year after year to accommodate new growth. This resembles a rebirth of
the tree each year, but also an aging process.
The poem talks about the old tree and relates it to an aged man. "Or the trenched features of an
aged man." It means that the tree is comparable to the aged man because it grows, stretches, and cracks as
the years go by. The man grows older and becomes more wrinkled or "cracked," also. He will continue to
get more wrinkled and cracked as the years go by. The tree can be looked upon as something not that
fancy, like "mosaic columns in a church," along with the features of an aged man. The mosaic columns
would appear to be big and old, probably scarred from weather and time, as a tree might look.
As one looks and studies the old tree and its annual rebirth, one might notice that it is like a form
of art. "And this is all their wisdom and their art, to grow, stretch, crack, and not yet come apart. The older
trees get the stronger they usually get. When one looks at the cracks and features of the tree, one can notice
how strong and wise the tree is by all the patterns and age marks on the tree. Rings are features that can tell
how old a tree is. As the tree grows each year, and becomes stronger, the rings build themselves up around
the old wood, which makes the tree bigger.
There are some symbols in this poem that some critics of the psychological method use. Yonic
and Phallic symbols are images that depict female and male images. Yonic symbols are concave symbols,
which refer to females.
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hollows. Phallic symbols are images that the length exceeds the diameter. These symbols refer to males.
Some of these images include towers, mountain peaks, snakes, knives, lances, and swords. Almost all the
time the psychoanalytic critic can find something sexual about the poem, but I doubt it in this case. The
tree itself sticks out as the main phallic symbol. By referring to an aging "man, " one can tell that this
poem is comparing the tree to this man.
The tree can be seen, through the comparison with the aging man, as the process of human
development. The tree develops over the years by getting bigger, stronger, and mature. By mature I mean
that it develops physically by means of branches and trunk size. A human being also grows up and gets
stronger and more mature as the years go by.
To say that a tree is reborn each year would be wrong. As the tree ages, it becomes bigger and
develops more and more rings which define its age. Although the tree is aging, it is becoming stronger and
mature. An aging man matures over the years, getting bigger and stronger. The man also gets wiser, as
does a tree. By saying that the tree gets wiser does not mean that it thinks and gets smarter; that is not the
message. It means it is looked upon with greater respect as the years go by and it ages and grows. As
previously stated throughout the essay, the tree and the aging man relate in many ways, which define the
way of life of both.