"Birches" is one of Robert Frost's most popular and beloved poems. Yet, like so much of his work, there is far more happening within the poem than first appears.
"Birches" was first published in the Atlantic Monthly in August of 1915; it was first collected in Frost's third book, Mountain Interval, in 1916. "Birches," with its formal perfection, its opposition of the internal and external worlds, and its sometimes dry wit, is one of the best examples of everything that was good and strong in Frost's poetry.
The main image of the poem is of a series of birch trees that have been bowed down so that they no longer stand up straight but rather are arched over. While the poet quickly establishes that he knows the real reason that this has happened—ice storms have weighed down the branches of the birch trees, causing them to bend over—he prefers instead to imagine that something else entirely has happened: a young boy has climbed to the top of the trees and pulled them down, riding the trees as they droop down and then spring back up over and over again until they become arched over. This tension between what has actually happened and what the poet would like to have happened, between the real world and the world of the imagination, runs throughout Frost's poetry and gives the poem philosophical dimension and meaning far greater than that of a simple meditation on birch trees.