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Birches, by Robert Frost

It's that time of year where my mind almost invariably turns to Robert Frost's poem "Birches." Lovely crisp weather here in New York. To commemorate I thought I'd try to record a reading.



To be brutally honest, I'm not overly happy with this. I think I need a better microphone than the one native to my PC - maybe there's a sound recorder app one can put on a cell phone? And more than that, I'm amazed by what a skill set podficcing is - To just read through without pausing or second-guessing, and to learn how to read to enunciate! It's really very hard, and not a skill I've developed. People like Jela and all the other podficcers out there definitely have my admiration.

On the other hand, it's me trying to put what meaning I can on one of my favorite poems, I've been told some people around here like learning what I look and sound like, so maybe hearing where I choose to break it up, or just hearing my voice, would be the kind of thing some people might enjoy. I hope you find this enjoyable, or at least interesting, from that angle. :-)

The poem itself is beautiful, though, and if you want a proper aesthetic experience I'd really recommend you read it for yourself and let your own mind's ear play with it. I'll put it below a cut.

Birches, by Robert Frost

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. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
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
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
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
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
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.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

And do yourself a favor: head over to Google Images and search for "birch swinger." There are some simply astounding images of birch trees bent low with the ice.

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