illustrated portrait of American poet Robert Frost

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How do Robert Frost's poems "Birches" and "Stopping by Wood on a Snowy Evening" compare?

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Well, one way of drawing a comparison between these two excellent poems would be to consider how both poems present earthly cares and duties and the speaker's attitude towards them. Note what the speaker in "Birches" says:

I'd like to get away from earth awhile

And then come back to it and begin over.

May no fate willfully misunderstand me

And half grant what I wish and snatch me away

Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:

I don't know where it's likely to go better.

Thus we see that after the speaker desires to get away from earth for a while metaphorically by climbing the birches and swinging on them, the speaker clarifies that he is not wanting a permanent escape, like death. He just wants to experience a temporary break from earthy responsibilities and cares.

We see this theme evident in "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" as well, as the speaker is entranced by the beauty of the woods and almost overcome by a desire to stay there, enjoying the sight, but reluctantly feels the pull of various commitments dragging him back to reality. Note what the final stanza says:

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

The speaker thus desires the same kind of break and freedom from responsibilities that the speaker in "Birches" does, but even though the woods are described as being so attractive, the speaker reluctantly realises that he has "promises to keep" in the form of various commitments and responsibilities that he cannot dispense with just yet. The repetition of the final line suggests the speaker's weariness at the thought of the "miles" that lay before him.

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What would be good topic for a compare-and-contrast paper on Robert Frost's "Birches" and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

Regarding Robert Frost's two poems, "Birches" and "Stopping by a Woods on a Snowy Evening," perhaps you could compare and contrast the speaker's involvement with nature as he observes it. 

For instance, in "Stopping by a Woods on a Snowy Evening," the speaker's main desire is to contemplate the beauty of nature, to take a respite from his obligations--"I have promises to keep"--and simply revel in the peace and beauty of the woods.  However, in "Birches," the speaker does not approach the observation of the trees from an aesthetic perspective; instead, he is more analytical.  The pliable quality of the birches--"I like to think some boy's been swinging them"--initiates an involved meditation on the part of the speaker.  Unlike the contemplation of nature in the other poem, the speaker's contemplation is the appreciation of the beauty of the birches is not the final thing that interests the speaker; rather it is the strange association of the trees with his reasoning that is most central to "Birches."  The tension between what has actually happened and what the poet would like to have happened is central to this poem.  Thus, the lines

We may as well go patiently on with our life

And look elsewhere than to stars and moon and sun

For the shocks and changes we need to keep us sane

while ostensibly similar to the refrain "I have promises to keep" have a much different implication.

Be sure to check out the sites below which will assist you in more interpretation.  And, do not forget that in comparing and contrasting poems, one always should examine how poetic devices are employed in each poem.

 

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What would be good topic for a compare-and-contrast paper on Robert Frost's "Birches" and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

How about 'The Significance Of The Symbolism Of Trees In The Poetry Of Robert Frost?' Both the poem 'Birches' and the poem 'Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening' deal with trees, nature and growth and landscape in different ways. In 'Birches' the poet examines youth, growth and the resilience and suppleness of young growth (involving branches, saplings and the idea of transference of weight.) The other poem deals with trees in a group - how, huddled together and growing as a group they aid the snow in blanketing and silencing the earth. Yet the forest they have become is inviting, calling passers by to draw into the silence now underlined by the muffling snow. The idea is one of peaceful,yet unthreatening, alone-ness.

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