By Robert Frost
- 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 rises, and 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 long, they never right themselves:
- You may see their trunks arching in the woods
- Years afterwards, trailing 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 winter, and 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 limp, not 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 branches, climbing carefully
- With the same pains you use to fill a cup
- Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
- Then he flung outward, feet first, with 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 it, and 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 heaven, till 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.
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