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Birch Tree Poems

Table of Contents

  1. The Birch Tree by James Russell Lowell
  2. Birches by Robert Frost
  3. The Birches by Walter Pritchard Eaton
  4. White Birches by Grace Hazard Conkling
  5. Swinging on a Birch Tree by Lucy Larcom
  6. The Sun and a Birch Tree by Elizabeth Madox Roberts

  1. The Birch Tree

    by James Russell Lowell

    Rippling through thy branches goes the sunshine,
    Among thy leaves that palpitate forever;
    Ovid in thee a pining Nymph had prisoned,
    The soul once of some tremulous inland river,
    Quivering to tell her woe, but, ah! dumb, dumb forever!

    While all the forest, witched with slumberous moonshine,
    Holds up its leaves in happy, happy silence,
    Waiting the dew, with breath and pulse suspended,—
    I hear afar thy whispering, gleamy islands,
    And track thee wakeful still amid the wide-hung silence.

    Upon the brink of some wood-nestled lakelet,
    Thy foliage, like the tresses of a Dryad,
    Dripping about thy slim white stem, whose shadow
    Slopes quivering down the water's dusky quiet,
    Thou shrink'st as on her bath's edge would some startled Dryad.

    Thou art the go-between of rustic lovers;
    Thy white bark has their secrets in its keeping;
    Reuben writes here the happy name of Patience,
    And thy lithe boughs hang murmuring and weeping
    Above her, as she steals the mystery from thy keeping.

    Thou art to me like my beloved maiden,
    So frankly coy, so full of trembly confidences;
    Thy shadow scarce seems shade, thy pattering leaflets
    Sprinkle their gathered sunshine o'er my senses,
    And Nature gives me all her summer confidences.

    Whether my heart with hope or sorrow tremble,
    Thou sympathizest still; wild and unquiet,
    I fling me down; thy ripple, like a river,
    Flows valleyward, where calmness is, and by it
    My heart is floated down into the land of quiet.

  2. 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.
    Ice-storms do that. 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
    (Now am I free to be poetical?)
    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.

  3. The Birches

    by Walter Prichard Eaton

    The little birches, white and slim,
    Gleaming in the forest dim,
    Must think the day is almost gone,
    for each one has her nightie on.

  4. White Birches

    by Grace Hazard Conkling

    The clear wind swings a fairy flail
    Till all the tiptoe birches quail.
    The west is dreaming of the Grail.

    God knows I have no heart to sing!
    I wish I had forgotten how,
    For what do poems matter now,
    Music or love or anything?
    Yet I must shape my patient rhymes
    For terror of a grievous place,
    And blind my eyes with words sometimes,
    For fear of hunger on his face,
    Or pain when I can give no aid,
    Or silence where I may not come:
    As though a song could save me from
    The thought of all my world unmade!

    The birches hold their laces frail
    Against the sunlight up the Trail
    And show me heaven through a veil.

  5. Swinging on a Birch Tree

    by Lucy Larcom

    Swinging on a birch-tree
    To a sleepy tune,
    Hummed by all the breezes
    In the month of June!
    Little leaves a-flutter
    Sound like dancing drops
    Of a Brook on pebbles,—
    Song that never stops.

    Up and down we seesaw:
    Up into the sky;
    How it opens on us,
    Like a wide blue eye!
    You and I are sailors
    Rocking on a mast;
    And the world's our vessel:
    Ho! she sails so fast!

  6. The Sun and a Birch Tree

    by Elizabeth Madox Roberts

    As I came home through Howard's lane,
    The trees were bending down with rain.

    A still mist went across their tops,
    And my coat was powdered gray with drops.

    Then I looked in the woods to see
    The limbs of the white birch tree.

    It made a bright spot in the air,
    And I thought the sun was shining there.

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