What is the tone of "Birches"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Sewanee Review, literary critic Jeffrey Hart terms "Birches" a "Frostian manifesto" because of the poem's skeptical tone regarding spiritual matters. In fact, critics feel that this poem is precursor of the tone of poems that followed in which he adopts the voice of the Yankee farmer. In "Birches" the speaker longs for the days of his youth and the flights of imagination that it provided. But, the poem becomes more melancholy as the speaker's introspection emerges with the word "Truth" in line 21.

He returns to his flights of fancy of youth and its innocence and creativity as, perhaps, the means of finding "Truth."

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...
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.

Frost's final line confirms his belief in the wisdom and "Truth" of nature: "One could do worse than be a swinger of birches." For, he was willing to test the limits, to extend himself as well as the trees. "Birches" is a poem with much tension between imagination and reality, between the choices to be made in what may seem like like a pathless wood.

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