Life Is Best On Earth: Poetry Analysis
Those who lead great lives are masters at balancing the amount of time spent working and the amount of time spent relaxing. Everyone’s brain needs a break every now and then in order to refresh and start each day with a new and improved perspective. This is why everyone has their own means of relaxation and a way to calm their brains down before returning to working. Some enjoy media, others enjoy reading, and others enjoy exercising.
However, one cannot relax for too long as he/she has a duty to perform in this world that allows one to provide for him/herself. Relaxation is often used for the purpose of escaping reality. Relaxation allows one to momentarily forget about events that may have caused one stress and to think about something else that may spark creative or imaginative thought. One may dream of escaping by means of relaxation for a long time without really thinking about the fact that exuberant amounts of stress caused by reality and work are simply a part of everyone’s’ lives. Robert Frost is great at analyzing ideas such as this that compare realism and romanticism in order to understand the need for balance with work and play, especially in his poem “Birches” with the boy swinging from birch trees and the speaker’s thoughts on why swinging from birch trees is such a freeing and calming activity. In the poem “Birches” by Robert Frost the symbol of the bending birch trees is used to explore the impossibility of escaping reality.
In reality, the birch trees are bent by the weight of the ice that solidified upon their branches. However, the speaker wishes to believe that a boy swung from these trees and caused their bent appearance. This boy conquered each tree until their branches were bent over. The speaker, as an adult, often wishes life were that simple (Kirk33-34). Climbing these trees provided a realm of imagination that could be explored to as far as the speaker was willing to take himself until he swung back down to earth where he had to face the harsher realities of life. Now he must not only deal with the struggles of daily life, but also deal with the hardships of adulthood.
The speaker mentions how reality can sometimes get in the way of imagination and calming thoughts, much like gravity bringing the branches of the trees and the boy swinging from the trees back to earth (Andrews 2). This is likely to happen with age as one often has less time to spend relaxing and must spend more of his/her time working. Reality always seems to keep one rooted to the earth, lessening the amount of time to be creative and imaginative. The boy playing in the woods with the birch trees brings into play the, “cherished theme of the imaginative man who, essentially alone in the world, either makes it or doesn’t on the strength of his creative resources,” (qtd. in Lentricchia 3). This is representative of how work and stress during adult life prevent adults from escaping reality, causing them to find less time for personal creativity.
As mentioned by the speaker, the boy would not be able to bend the trees permanently. Similarly, no boy is able to exist alone in the woods or remain in his own creative imagination forever. He plays a role in the real world and must accept the fact that he cannot escape the world for a life of bending birch trees. While the act of swinging from birch trees is an enjoyable, satisfying activity, it would be impossible for the boy to spend all of his life attached to the branches of birch trees. The crystallized icicles are the force of nature that truly cause permanent change in shape of the trees.
The speaker is aware of this as he used to be the boy that swung from birch trees until their branches bent down and released him swiftly back to the earth (Ellis 1). The malleability of the birches is not total, however, and the poet is forced to admit this fact into the presence of his desire, like it or not. The ultimate shape of mature birch trees is the work of objective natural force, not human activity. Yet after conceding the boundaries of imagination’s subjective world, the poet seems not to have constricted himself but to have been released. (Lentricchia 1) Thus, after spending an appropriate amount of time in this imaginative state, instead of being quickly pushed back to reality, one steadily comes back to his/her senses and returns to reality once again. The speaker states, “I’d like to go by climbing a tree,/ And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk,” emphasizing the contrast in the trunk of the tree and the branches, with the trunk representing a heavenly virtue and the branches representing the earthly steps one must take in order to get to the imaginative heaven that one wishes to get to (Frost 345).
The speaker wishes he could return to this activity of swinging from birches to achieve a heavenly value of relaxation away from reality, just like he did as a child. The speaker realizes how great childhood was when he could spend an entire day relaxing and swinging from birch trees. As an adult, there is less time to do so. With age comes more responsibilities and less time to relax because one must work and take care of him/herself in order to live happily. As a child, it seems the speaker was provided for and had more time for fun activities such as swinging from birch trees as opposed to working and taking care of his family.Swinging from birch trees to get away from the stress of reality has a calming connotation about it as the speaker now sees with the taste he has of adult life (Andrews 3).
The speaker admits that reality is difficult when realizing that, as ice crystals cause the trees to bend, they eventually fall back to earth where many of the other dreams or imaginative thoughts have been shattered by the force of gravity and reality, causing one to, “think the inner dome of heaven had fallen,” (Frost 344). Adult life involves more stress than was present during childhood and because of that the adult wishes for more time to engage in peaceful pastimes and become more in touch with the beauty of surrounding nature. At such an age as that of the boy imagined in the poem, life is practically stress free and the child is free to be as creative and imaginative as he likes. The child is still too ignorant to be certain of how to provide for himself and likely a bit too young to be starting a family of his own that he would would likely have to provide for as an adult. Though, wishing to leave earth for a while, the adult always finds him/herself intentionally coming back to earth (Andrews 2).
The speaker, as an adult, is aware that he would like to climb the trees, “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,” (Frost 345). While the speaker wishes he had more time to escape reality, he realizes that the idea of leaving permanently would be worse because, as an adult, one has more to lose than he/she did as a child. As an adult, one has more to lose than a child, especially in terms of loved ones. An adult has had more experiences, has developed fonder memories, and may even have developed a family of his/her own. A child is newer to this world and has not yet had all of these experiences.
This is why the speaker realizes that it is more difficult for the adult to let go and swing so easily from the trees, because there is more holding the adult to the earth. The innocence and ignorance of the child in comparison to the adult is more free and the child is able to let go having spent less of his/her time rooted to the earth (Andrews 3). The speaker reveals that the main factor keeping the adult grounded to the earth is the love that he/she has for others as, “Earth’s the right place for love,” (Frost 345). When swinging and imagining above the birch trees, one is alone, likely in hopes of forgetting the troubles that have been caused by others. Above the realm of the trees, a light that one creates is used to trick him/herself into being happy because he/she has managed to escape from the dark and harsh reality. On earth or in reality, one needs others to guide him/herself out of the darkness of life and into the true light or happier state again, much like exiting from the dark woods (Lentricchia 4).
The speaker is trying to tell the listeners that love is a powerful force that one shares with others. Love and passion keep one grounded and are the ultimate reasons for remaining on earth. If love did not exist, one may simply have tried to escape and make it to heaven by way of birch trees. However, because of love, when one attempts to climb the trees towards heaven, the limbs always seem to know that there is more to offer on earth and they bend down, releasing the climber back to the ground. The speaker has a clear understanding of the fact that, if he were to leave the earth permanently, that would mean he could not return to earth and would therefore, no longer be able to enjoy love on earth (Kendall 215). He understands that everyone occasionally needs time to stop thinking about the harshness of reality and relax in order to maintain a healthy emotional state, but is clear in stating that life on earth is the best known quality of living.
In the poem “Birches” by Robert Frost, the theme that one cannot permanently escape from earth is relevant in the symbolism of the birch trees, the speaker’s thoughts on his childhood, and when the speaker states that everyone needs to escape earth from time to time, but attempting to escape permanently is not the ideal solution as earth is the best place for love. Though life becomes more stressful with age, Frost purposefully utilizes the birch trees as a symbol of coming back to reality than, say, a playground slide. The birch trees slowly and calmly bring one back to reality after some time has passed whereas a slide immediately forces one back to earth and reality, providing almost no time to get away from earth for a bit for creativity and imagination before crashing back to reality. Everyone has a hard life, but it is those few moments where one may feel joy, love, and satisfaction on earth that show how life is truly a gift. It is because one is on earth sharing life experiences with others that allow him/her to feel these emotions.
No one is meant to be alone and that is why everyone is surrounded by many other people and why there are so many people that exist on this earth. It is because of the people that surround someone that help him/her figure out who he/she is as a person. Life is about the people that one meets, how those people change his/her life, and how they have allowed him/her to positively impact others. Every now and then, everyone needs a break from others. One occasionally needs time to be with one’s self, think about why different events or experiences made him/herself feel a certain way, and ultimately how to let the event or experience make him/herself a better person.
However, if these thoughts become too hard to understand or are so strong that one cannot feel better after simply having a discussion with one’s self, on earth, there are many other helpful, caring, loving human beings that are available to listen to one’s problems and will try to make the situation better for him/her in any way possible. Lastly, no one knows where one goes or what one does when he/she is no longer living on earth. Many have different beliefs of where they will go when they are dead, but no one is certain because someone has yet to leave earth for a period of time and return to it. Despite this, it is well known that love has been successfully found on this earth by many people, and that, when love is found, it is a sensation greater than any other that one has ever felt. Each human being lives of this earth for that hope of finding love at some point in life. Works Cited Andrews, Terry L.
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