Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
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.
- First, we got the country girls, and now we've moved on to the boys.
- The speaker is wishfully imagining that a boy were bending the trees instead of the wind, ice, and snow.
- He comes up with some details about who our tree-bender might be. He imagines a boy who herds cows, doesn't know how to play baseball, and doesn't have any friends.
- The boy lives on an isolated, New England farm and has to work. He has to entertain himself year round and so he explores his natural world. Maybe he's training to become the next Robert Frost.
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 […]
- The speaker imagines the boy going out into his father's land.
- The boy "rides" the birch trees down, meaning that the boy climbs to the top of them until his weight bends the trees down to the ground.
- Remember this is what the speaker wishes was bending the trees instead of the snow and ice.
- The boy does this so many times on his father's land that the trees lose their stiffness and bend towards the ground.
- One way to interpret line 32 is to see it as an example of man conquering nature. Can you find another way to interpret it?