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An Analysis of Birches

“Birches” is a memorable poem that is rich and interesting enough to repay more than one reading. Robert Frost provides vivid images of birches in order to oppose life’s harsh realities with the human actions of the imagination. “Birches” has a profound theme and its sounds, rhythm, form, tone, and figures of speech emphasize this meaning.


“Birches” provides an interesting aspect of imagination to oppose reality. Initially, reality is pictured as birches bending and cracking from the load of ice after a freezing rain.

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:

Reality has its ups and downs. This passage suggests that people never fully recover from being dragged down by life even if they don’t seem broken.

Imagination is portrayed as “a swinger of birches.” The portrayal of the boy refines this image:

One by one he subdued his father’s trees

By riding them down over and over again.

The boy seems to take in lessons about life from these encounters with the trees on his father’s land:

He learned all there was

To learn about not launching out too soon.

This boy lives away from town and must play by himself. He has learned his father’s lessons. Imagination is the gift for escaping reality that each one of us possesses. We do not have to depend on anyone to take a mental vacation. Mastering your art of imagination will increase your ability to handle the bad things life dishes out.

That’s why the narrator advocates using imagination. On Earth we can become weary from life’s everyday occurrences–that “pathless wood.” However, Earth’s the place for lo…

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…ture poetry. I could picture a winter scene: “As the breeze rises” and the effect of “the sun’s warmth” on the sheaths of ice covering the tree branches. But this is where I ended the scene. I did not picture the shattering of ice “on the snow crust” like “heaps of broken glass to sweep away.” Initially, I did not get the

shattered feeling; I felt the scene was peaceful.


I enjoyed reading “Birches,” and I believe my reaction is both personal and aesthetic. This poem was lengthy and complex enough to contain many of the aesthetics of an excellent poem. I will always remember the vivid images provided by Frost’s use of figures of speech and sound. This poem also stirred my feelings.

Frost, Robert. Frost: Collected Poems, Prose,

A Comparison of Beowulf and Icelandic Sagas

Beowulf and Icelandic Sagas

There are many similarities between the hero of the poem Beowulf and the heroes of the two Icelandic sagas, The Saga of The Volsungs and The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki. The former saga is an Icelandic saga representing oral traditions dating back to the fourth and fifth centuries, when Attila the Hun was fighting on the northern fringes of the Roman Empire; the latter is an Icelandic saga representing 1000 years of oral traditions prior to the 1300’s when it was written.

An unknown author wrote The Saga of The Volsungs in the thirteenth century, basing his story on far older Norse poetry. Iceland was settled by the Vikings about 870-930, who took to that land the famous lay of Sigurd and the Volsungs. Native Icelandic poets loved the story of Sigurd and the Huns, Goths, Burgundians, with whom this hero interacted. This prose story is based on traditional Norse verse called Eddic poetry, a form of mythic or heroic lay which developed before 1000 in the oral folk culture of Old Scandinavia. The Icelandic skald is the equivalent of the Anglo-Saxon scop. He was a storyteller. Icelandic material builds on a long oral tradition just like Anglo-saxon. Skalds stayed in the royal courts of Scandinavia like their counterparts to the south.

In The Saga of the Volsungs the hero Sigurd is the one who corresponds best with the hero Beowulf in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. George Clark in “The Hero and the Theme” mentions: “The form of Beowulf taken as a whole suggests both the ‘Bear’s Son’ folktale type (especially as we find it in Scandinavia) and the ‘combat myth’. . . .” (286). The “combat myth” is probably what this saga is. When Sigurd was born, he was the grandson of Ki…

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…celandic sagas, The Song of the Volsungs and The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, contain remarkable similarities between their main characters and Beowulf’s main character; they are just too astounding to dismiss as mere coincidences.


Chickering, Howell D.. Beowulf A dual-Language Edition. New York: Anchor Books, 1977.

Clark, Gorge. “The Hero and the Theme.” In A Beowulf Handbook, edited by Robert Bjork and John D. Niles. Lincoln, Nebraska: Uiversity of Nebraska Press, 1997.

The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, translated by Jesse L. Byock. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.

The Saga of the Volsungs, translated by Jesse L. Byock. New York: Penguin Books, 1990.


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