Skip to main content

"Birches" connects poetic aspiration and physical love. It begins with a fanciful image("I like to think") of a boy swinging on and bending birches. It then shifts to a brilliant description of ice-laden branches blown by the wind that "cracks and crazes [suggesting cracked glazes] their enamel." Inspired by medieval cosmology and by a famous passage from Shelley's "Adonais" (an elegy for Keats, about poetic power cut off in mid-career by death), Frost writes of all the broken ice-glass: "You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen." He then returns to the swinger-of-birches theme as the boy, like the future poet, launches out at the proper time, keeps his poise and climbs carefully. Swinging himself on the branches "Toward heaven," he'd

like to get away from earth awhile

And then come back to it and begin over....

Earth's the right place for love:

I don't know where it's likely to go better.

Opposing the Platonic view of idealized love, Frost believes Earth, not Heaven, is the right place because love should be physical and tested against the realities of life.


From Robert Frost: A Biography. Copyright © 1996 by Jeffrey Meyers.