Poets | Poem of the Day | Top 40 | Search | Comments | Privacy
May 20th, 2018 - we have 234 poets, 8,025 poems and 327,555 comments.
Analysis and comments on The Snow-Storm by Ralph Waldo Emerson

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 [9] 10

Comment 18 of 98, added on September 8th, 2012 at 12:24 AM.

AVNogb Appreciate you sharing, great blog.Really thank you! Want more.

cheap seo services from Malaysia
Comment 17 of 98, added on August 17th, 2012 at 3:07 PM.

MEzGpR Enjoyed every bit of your post.Thanks Again. Will read on...

cheap oem software from Singapore
Comment 16 of 98, added on July 9th, 2012 at 12:20 PM.

2k42gD Very informative article post.Really thank you! Keep writing.

Social Bookmarking from Romania
Comment 15 of 98, added on July 9th, 2012 at 12:03 PM.

3oFQhs Very good article.Really looking forward to read more. Want more.

Seo Services from Croatia
Comment 14 of 98, added on March 20th, 2012 at 5:28 PM.

Thanks for the post. Great.

wholesale men clothing from Estonia
Comment 13 of 98, added on March 20th, 2012 at 5:28 PM.

Really informative article.Much thanks again. Great.

wholesale men clothing from Liberia
Comment 12 of 98, added on March 8th, 2012 at 4:18 PM.

OZT3cs Major thanks for the article post.Much thanks again. Much obliged.

Microsoft OEM Software from Venezuela
Comment 11 of 98, added on November 23rd, 2011 at 7:19 AM.

That addresses several of my concerns actaully.

Aundre from Malta
Comment 10 of 98, added on January 11th, 2010 at 8:16 PM.

I think this poem is a wonderful example of how important nature was to
Transendetalists. Their main concern was how nature affected them and
whether or not they could find signs of God in nature. I am not a
Transendentalist but I definetely have a great respect for Emerson and his

Sarah from United States
Comment 9 of 98, added on September 7th, 2008 at 8:28 PM.

Poem Summary

“Birches” is a poem of fifty-nine lines without any stanza breaks. However,
the poem does contain several sections that move from naturalistic
description to a fanciful explanation of why the birches are bowed, and it
concludes with philosophical exploration of a person’s existence in the

Lines 1 – 4

Frost opens the poem with an image of the birches bent “left and right /
across the lines of straighter darker trees” (lines 1 – 2) and quickly puts
forth one explanation for how they got that way: a boy had been swinging on
them. Right away, however, he admits this is false, saying in line 4, “But
swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay.” However, the image of the playful
boy is a powerful one for Frost, and he will soon return to it.

Lines 5 – 11

The first break in the poem occurs in line 5 when Frost admits that it is
ice storms, not boys, who bend down the birch trees. The next few lines are
a beautiful description of birch trees, their branches frozen and encrusted
with ice in the morning after an ice storm. However, their beauty is only
short-lived; soon, in line 9, the sun “cracks and crazes their enamel” —
the ice, which breaks and falls into the snow. This is the first hint of
destruction in the poem (other than the birches themselves).

Lines 12 – 20

Frost makes another break in line 13 when he raises the symbolic level of
the poem with the sentence “You’d think the inner dome of heaven had
fallen.” This line not only anticipates the last lines of the poem, but it
also signals the beginning of a retreat from reality. The language of the
poem becomes more “poetical”; for the first time, Frost uses a simile,
comparing the bowed birch trees to girls on all fours, their hair hanging
down in front of them. More than just destruction, the imagery now turns to
symbols of conquest: the birches are bowed so that they can never right
themselves; the image of the girl is also the image of a captive kneeling
before her captor. This becomes an important theme in later parts of the

Lines 21 – 27

The second really significant break (the first was in line 5) occurs now.
Frost dismisses the ice storm as a cause of the birches’ condition in favor
of his original explanation that a boy had bent them — despite the fact
that he knows that a boy didn’t do it:
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

The word prefer is very important here. Frost rejects the narrow
limitations of the outside world in favor of his own poetic vision.
However, this world must necessarily have its own limits, for it inhabits
only his own mind. Likewise, the boy is separated from other people and
plays alone.

Lines 28 – 35

In these lines, Frost returns to the theme of conquest. The boy “subdues”
his father’s trees, riding them until he takes the “stiffness” out of them,
leaving him, in lines 31 – 32, absolutely victorious over the trees: “not
one was left / For him to conquer.” The boy’s conquest of the trees mirrors
the victory of Frost’s poetic imagination over the real world, for now his
vision has completely supplanted the ice storm as the cause of the trees’

Lines 36 – 40

These lines contain a description of the boy’s technique for climbing and
bending the trees. He must take painstaking care to reach the top of each
tree, which Frost describes in line 38 as similar to the care that one must
take to fill a cup “Up to the brim, and even above the brim.” This is an
important line. Frost is here describing a method of reaching beyond the
limits of things (filling a cup beyond the brim) to a realm beyond the
real. This is not just the internal world of his imagination but something
even greater — a theme he will begin to develop more fully in the
concluding sections of the poem. Also, the care taken by the boy is similar
to the careful construction involved in writing a poem, making the boy’s
actions in climbing the trees a parallel for Frost’s act of creating the

Lines 41 – 47

Frost begins this section (lines 41 – 42) with a note of nostalgia: “So was
I once myself a swinger of birches. / And so I dream of going back to be.”
This longing for the simpler days of childhood stands in sharp contrast
with the pain of the adult world, which is described as a “pathless wood.”
But this section also further develops the theme of the imagined world
versus the real world: the boy’s birch climbing has been wholly imaginary,
a peaceful, playful time when one person can alone remake the world as he
imagines it; in contrast, the real world lashes out at the narrator, and it
is clear that he will achieve no victory over it.

Lines 48 – 53

Frost now, in line 48, develops his idea of escaping into an imaginary
world: “I’d like to get away from earth awhile.” However, he also makes it
clear in lines 52 – 53 that he does not want to permanently escape the real
world and that such a fate is not even desirable: “Earth’s the right place
for love: / I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.” It is almost as
if the limits of the real world must exist in order for the imaginative
world to exist. This is similar to the theme of Frost’s contemporary, the
American poet Wallace Stevens (1879 – 1955), in his poem “Sunday Morning,”
in which he calls death “the mother of beauty.” The real world makes
possible the fantasies of the poetic imagination and makes them more
poignant because they cannot be reality.

Lines 54 – 59

In the concluding section of the poem, Frost ties these ideas together with
the image of the birch trees. The act of his poetic imagination — reaching
beyond the limits of reality — is now likened to climbing the birch tree.
The motion of the tree, which allows a person to climb to its top only to
bend down and drop him back on the ground, is in fact the way Frost wants
his imagination to work: to allow him only to approach “heaven” and then to
bring him back to the real world. This also ties in with the image of
filling a cup beyond its brim (line 38): it is possible to exceed the
limits of the real world but only a little bit, or else there is disaster.
The poem’s concluding line, which at first seems to be a bit of folksy
wisdom — “One could do worse than be a swinger of birches” — contains
darker possibilities: one could certainly do worse by not making the
attempt, that is, by not using one’s imagination, or one might actually
escape — the birch might not swing, but instead it might allow the climber
to leave the world of limitations entirely behind. The limits of the real
world may be painful, but they define one as a person (or as a poet); if it
is a solitary existence, it is still existence. Without limits, there can
be no love (see line 52) or, for that matter, any other human emotion.
Frost thus brings the poem back to the duality he expressed in the first
lines of the poem. The real world provides the limits that make his poetry


This poem has been commented on more than 10 times. Click below to see the other comments.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 [9] 10
Share |

Information about The Snow-Storm

Poet: Ralph Waldo Emerson
Poem: The Snow-Storm
Added: Jan 31 2004
Viewed: 36427 times
Poem of the Day: Jul 6 2012

Add Comment

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding this poem better? If they are accepted, they will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.

Do not post questions, pleas for homework help or anything of the sort, as these types of comments will be removed. The proper place for questions is the poetry forum.

Please note that after you post a comment, it can take up to an hour before it is visible on the website! Rest assured that your comment is not lost, so don't enter your comment again.

Comment on: The Snow-Storm
By: Ralph Waldo Emerson

Name: (required)
E-mail Address: (required)
Show E-mail Address:
Yes No
Poem Comments:

Poem Info

Emerson Info
Copyright © 2000-2015 Gunnar Bengtsson. All Rights Reserved. Links