STOPPING BY THE WOODS – Final

Promises to keep...
Promises to keep...

He died on January 28th, 1963, near midnight, losing consciousness soon after a blood clot reached his lungs. A great and long life had come quietly to an end. America had lost a poet of astounding grace and wisdom. He was not a monster or malcontent as some biographers have tried to depict him. While hardly a saint, Frost was a passionate, headstrong man who believed deeply that, despite a life of personal tragedy, poetry never let him down. And poetry can mean the same to us.

 

Poetry is a way of living, not just a way to communicate the experiences we have had. Frost believed that for our own survival we need to throw ourselves into it with energy, abandon and trust. We will be rewarded accordingly. That, more than any particular Frost poem, as great as it may be, is the richness of his gift to us.

 

(John, with passion.)

 

Birches

 

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.

As 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.

 

(The lights slowly fade to black.)

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3 thoughts on “STOPPING BY THE WOODS – Final

  1. Thank you so much for posting this. I needed a break from my too-busy day and this brought quiet and beautiful reflection.

  2. Thank you. I needed a reminder of the great poets who have gone before us and this post gave me one of those excitement chills.

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