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.
Robert Frost - 1874-1963
The Exposed Nest
You were forever finding some new play. So when I saw you down on hands and knees In the meadow, busy with the new-cut hay, Trying, I thought, to set it up on end, I went to show you how to make it stay, If that was your idea, against the breeze, And, if you asked me, even help pretend To make it root again and grow afresh. But ’twas no make-believe with you to-day, Nor was the grass itself your real concern, Though I found your hand full of wilted fern, Steel-bright June-grass, and blackening heads of clover. ’Twas a nest full of young birds on the ground The cutter-bar had just gone champing over (Miraculously without tasting flesh) And left defenseless to the heat and light. You wanted to restore them to their right Of something interposed between their sight And too much world at once—could means be found. The way the nest-full every time we stirred Stood up to us as to a mother-bird Whose coming home has been too long deferred, Made me ask would the mother-bird return And care for them in such a change of scene And might our meddling make her more afraid. That was a thing we could not wait to learn. We saw the risk we took in doing good, But dared not spare to do the best we could Though harm should come of it; so built the screen You had begun, and gave them back their shade. All this to prove we cared. Why is there then No more to tell? We turned to other things. I haven’t any memory—have you?— Of ever coming to the place again To see if the birds lived the first night through, And so at last to learn to use their wings.