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Metaphor in Birches

Metaphor Examples in Birches:

Text of the Poem

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"Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more, ..."   (Text of the Poem)

The down-swinging action of the birch trees takes on a new metaphorical meaning here. The speaker, trying to escape earthly, adult existence for a brief heavenly spell will necessarily be shuttled back down by the laws of nature.

"May no fate willfully misunderstand me  And half grant what I wish and snatch me away  Not to return...."   (Text of the Poem)

These lines represent an adult recognition that the speaker’s desire for transcendence is not literal. He does not wish to escape his life forever, thereby having his wish granted in actuality. Frost renders this thought through the imagined character of “fate,” a supernatural force who might hear the speaker’s request and grant it.

"one eye is weeping..."   (Text of the Poem)

The image of the speaker’s weeping eye is telling. Though he offers us its cause—“a twig’s having lashed across it open”—there may be another, deeper cause at play, namely the sorrows and sufferings of earthly life. The speaker, after all, cuts his eye and weeps during a woodland walk which is in itself a metaphor for “life.”

"like a pathless wood  Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs  Broken across it,..."   (Text of the Poem)

In these lines, “life” is really “adult life.” The vehicle of the metaphor—the pathless, unforgiving woods—reiterates the thematic duality in which much of existence is earthly and therefore painful. The poem posits that we are occasionally afforded moments of grace and transcendence, most encompassingly in childhood.

"You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen. ..."   (Text of the Poem)

In this line, Frost introduces a key thematic duality—that of heaven and earth. As in the religious uses of these terms, heaven and earth are mapped onto spatial reality through such dimensional pairings as high versus low and sky versus ground. Thus, in the birch grove heaven is metaphorically located upward, accessed by those who climb the birch trees; earthly life, with its woes and entanglements, remains rooted to the ground.

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