What are the poetic devices used in "Birches" by Robert Frost? Are there any devices used other than rhythm and structure?

2 Answers

sciftw's profile pic

sciftw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Yes, there are other poetic devices being used in addition to rhythm and meter, but I'll start with rhythm and meter.  

The poem is mostly written in iambic pentameter.  An iamb is a type of metrical foot, and it is a two syllable unit.  The first syllable is an unstressed syllable, and the second syllable is a stressed syllable.  In "Birches," many lines have five iambic feet.  That's why it is iambic pentameter.  There are 10 syllables per line, and the syllables alternate between unstressed and stressed syllables.  I can use bold to indicate the stressed syllables from an early line of the poem to illustrate.  

I like to think some boy's been swinging them

As for the rhyme scheme of this poem, Frost wrote this poem in blank verse.  Blank verse doesn't use rhymes, and it is a form that is commonly used in long narrative poems.  

Alliteration is another poetic device that "Birches" uses.  Alliteration is the use of repeated consonant sounds at the beginning of words that are placed near each other.  Line 10 has a good example of alliteration with the letter "s." 

Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells 

Another poetic device that this poem uses is personification.  Personification gives human characteristics to an object, animal, or abstract idea.  For example, line 21 says that "Truth broke in."  The following line even uses the pronoun "her" to further emphasize the humanity of "Truth." 

There are a couple of wonderful similes in the poem as well.  A simile makes a comparison between two unlike things by using the word "like" or "as."  My personal favorite from the poem is the following line.  

And life is too much like a pathless wood

I like hiking, and the comparison brings a very familiar image to my mind.  Another simile in the poem compares a tree's drooping branches and leaves to a girl crawling on the ground with her hair dangling beneath and dragging on the ground.  

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. 
Sources: