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 As ice storms do.
As Frost’s poem “Birches” begins, the speaker identifies the value of youth and imagination over truth and reality. He explains that even though he knows that ice storms bent the birches, he prefers to imagine that “some boy’s been swinging them.” A boy enjoying nature in a playful way feels less traumatic than a brutal ice storm, though ice storms are simply a natural event in winter. Through this initial declaration, the speaker prepares the reader for a poem full of swinging—both literal and metaphorical—between imagination and reality or youth and adulthood.
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, I should prefer to have some boy bend them . . . One by one he subdued his father’s trees By riding them down over and over again[.]
The theme of youth and imagination continues in Frost’s poem “Birches,” as the speaker shares creative descriptions for what he sees in the wood. Here, he paints visual metaphors as he compares the leaves of bending birch trees to girls on hands and knees letting their hair fall in front of them. Then the speaker personifies Truth, criticizing its interruption, as he explains again that, while he knows what truly causes the trees to bend, he prefers to imagine the cause to be boys swinging joyfully and carefree on their branches. The speaker’s choice to hold onto such a theory reveals his desire to reconnect with a youthful and imaginative state of mind, perhaps because life feels so much more light and simple when we are young.