term paper analysis symbols in Robert Frost’s After-Apple Picking and Birches. The paper also analyses the connection
between nature and man in Frost’s poetry, not to categorise him as a nature
poet but to analyse the peculiarities of his symbols and their connection with
man. Also the paper comparing both poems
in terms of themes.
Robert Frost was born in California and
was identified with New England. He
moved to New England after the death of his father, and helped his mother by
teaching in her own school. He had tried many fields like a teacher, farmer and
later as a visiting professor in many universities including Harvard. His fortune changed from 1912 onwards, the
time when he moved to England with his family.
His first book, A Boy’s Will (1913),
get published there “with a phrase borrowed from Longfellow’s poem My Lost Youth” (Thomas 97). After the publication and the wide reception of
North of Boston both in America and
England, he went back to America.
The success he enjoyed for the rest of his life as a poet, however came
to cancel the bitterness left by
his earlier struggles. Moreover, he
personal tragedy: a son
committed suicide and a daughter had a complete
mental collapse. ( Baym 727)
He was a poet of simplicity. Simple
themes, mostly related to life were presented in his poems.
the context of Frost’s diction, the colloquial rhythms, the simplicity of
his images and above
all the folky speaker- these are intended to make the poems look natural,
unplanned. In the context of the
modernist movement, however they can be seen as a thoughtful reply to high
modernism’s fondness for obscurity and difficulty. (Baym 727)
of regionalism was there in his poems.
Regional writers of American literature tried to bring more realism, and
this was “resulted from the desire both to preserve a record of distinctive
ways of life and to come to terms with the new world that seemed to be
replacing these early and allegedly happier times” (Baym 12). There were some
“local colorists” dedicated to capturing its natural, social and linguistic
features” (Baym 13)
Nature is “symbolic of
spirit” quoting Robert D. Richardson in ‘Analysis on Nature in Robert Frost’s
Poetry’, Frost says that “”I am not a nature poet,” he once declared “There is
almost always a person in my poems”” ( Yuanli 26).
Human psyche in any natural elements
becomes the focal point, rather than a mere “background”. It is also quoted that “some people called me
poet of nature setting but I am not a poet for nature, there is also something
else in my poems” (Yuanli 26). “Confusion and dilemma” are one of the common
themes in his poems like in The Road Not
Taken and in Mending Wall. He sings “And Sorry I could not
travel both” in former and “Why do they make good neighbours” in latter. Also; we can see an element of “delight and pleasure”
in his woods, trees, grass, apple etc.
How many times it thundered before
Franklin. How many apples fell on
Newton’s head before he took the hint. Nature is always hinting at us. It hints over and over again. And suddenly we take the hint (Yuanli 27)
looking nature and many natural phenomenon or any visual from a rustic life
like a boy swaying on birches a poet (man) get inspired. It plays a didactic or moral purpose. As
quoting Robert Frost:
(a poem) begin in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction
with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a
clarification of life—-not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects
and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay against confusion. (pdf 28)
rather than merely sucking joy from nature Frost’s Poem ends in wisdom. At the inception of his poems, there may be
some appreciation of any natural events or may begin with a nostalgic moment or
village scenery. But whatever it is he
will safely land on to some thoughts of wisdom.
in literature is a technique using for an indirect way of saying. Symbols symbolises certain things and conveys
the ideas to readers in an aesthetic manner. Pramod Nayar in his Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory States about ‘symbolic codes’. “It extends beyond the immediate icon or
stereotype to refer to something larger” (24).
In Frost’s poem; woods, grasses, birches, apples etc. become symbols
which denotes human psyche, life, death, dilemmas and doubts.
Symbolism in After Apple- Picking
The poem is drowsing in
tone. Poet brings the attention towards
a daily life activity which is common in any rural life of America; i.e.
“apple-picking”. The poet is swaying
with the weight of “sleep”. Thus the “drowsy” tone implies the evening Time of
man. He is “over-tired”. Life may makes him so. Maybe the death of man or poet’s awareness of
death which is very nearby, is repeated in poem with symbols of “winter”
also. “Essence of winter sleep is on the
night.”(Line 7) Besides, “Apple-Picking”
is maybe the symbol of life’s hardships and its rewards as “apples” or fruit of
that he sawed in his life. There smells
a self-satisfaction in the poet or the narrator. The following lines maybe
“But I was well
Upon my way to sleep
before it fall” (Line 14-15)
the dilemma and doubt comes in this contentment also. Because he also declares that
“And there is a barrel that
I didn’t fill
Beside it, there may be two or three” (Line
are many metaphysical elements in this poem with reference to The Book of Genesis. Adam and Eve stated their journey from the
Heaven to earth after “picking” the “apple” of Tree of knowledge. The poet sings that “But I am done with
apple-picking know” (Line 6). The life
in this earth may be almost “done” and he may want to start another journey
through “sleep” through a “ladder” which is pointed “towards heaven”.
Symbolism in Birches
Robert Frost is
a poet; which always bring a man in his poems. Though he uses nature as a
setting he denied the title as a nature
poet. He brought nature in his poems, to
ignite himself and readers about the philosophy of mother nature. He brings the symbol of “birches”, which is
“Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning” (Line 6), to remind us about “Truth” ,
life, death and to emphasis that ” Earth’s is the right place to love” (Line 52).
Frost sings that “I like
to think some boy’s been been swinging them”, eventhough he know that “Ice
storms do that”. He loves to see the
“birches” which are “trailing their leaves on the ground” as,
“girls on hand and knees that throw
them over their heads to dry in the sun.”
as a rural ” boy bend them”. Certain
events or places may bring certain forgotten images to mind. “Truth” tells him that “ice storms” make them
bend. Thus knowledge takes away certain innocence and joy from life. This is same as when we enjoyed moon and its
light but the knowledge of what exists in moon makes it less romantic. Birches also brings nostalgia about his own
childhood and thorns of life persuades him to go back to childhood memories.
“It’s when I am weary of
And life is too much like a pathless
he comes to the significance of poetry.
“I’d like to get away from earth awaile
And then come back to it and begin over.”
poetry is regarded as the “birches” and “swaying” as journey to “toward
heaven”. This “heaven” may be
sublimity in realm of imagination.
Comparing the symbols in After Apple-Picking and Birches
Symbols in both poems
reminding readers about life, death, Time, weariness of life and all. Narrator in After Apple –Picking is “over-tired” and narrator in Birches is “weary of
considerations.” Both poems also shares
a theme of metaphysical wold, in former through a pointed “ladder” to heaven and in latter through the swaying. Both poem share background of nature and a
romantic rural setting. The focus point
of the former poem is “apple picking” (life) which makes the poet “over-tired”
and pulls him to “sleep” (death). In Birches
the swaying in childhood and his
lost joy reminds of passage of
time. Though Frost is a simple poet who
always adheres nature, he is not a nature poet and moreover philosophic in nature. Both poems shares
such philosophies of Robert Frost as a realistic, naturalistic and regionalist
“What Do Birches
Symbolize in the Birches Poem by Robert Frost?” Study.com,
12thed., Macmillan, 2008, pp. 97–111.
Baym, Nina, and Robert S Levine. “After
Apple- Picking.” NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF AMERICAN LITERATURE, 8th ed.,
vol. 2, W.W. NORTON & COMPANY, p. 734.
Baym, Nina, and
Robert S Levine. “Birches.” NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF AMERICAN LITERATURE, 8th ed., vol. 2, W.W. NORTON
& COMPANY, p. 736.
“After Apple Picking by Robert Frost.” Prezi, 9 Apr. 2014,
Pinkleton, Torie. “Robert Frost Uses Imagery and Analogy in His Poem,
Thomas, C T. “Robert Frost.” Twentieth Century Verse: An
Yuanli Zhang, et al. “Analysis on Nature in Robert
Frost’s Poetry.” English Language, Literature & Culture, vol.
2, ser. 3, pp. 25–30. 3, doi:1011648/j.ellc.20170203.11.