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by Robert Frost

Lines 32-40 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 32-35

[…] He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground […]

  • The boy starts to get better about swinging the trees over time.
  • He learns to get all the way to the top of the tree and not bend it too soon, before he's reached the top.
  • If he did jump out too soon, the tree would be damaged.
  • If you're a science person, think of this as a Physics lesson combined with a Biology lesson: the tree is a flexible lever; the roots are the fulcrum; the boy is the load.

Lines 35-38

[…] 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.

  • Now we're getting some details of how the boy becomes better at swinging the trees.
  • He keeps "his poise," meaning he stays balanced and calm, sort of hovering up on a tree branch.
  • The speaker compares it to filling a cup to the brim. If you are pouring liquid into a cup, you are so careful not to overflow the cup, so you add a small amount of the liquid at a time. Then you add just a teeny bit more and the liquid forms a dome just above the rim of the cup.
  • Think of this one as a Chemistry lesson. Are you beginning to notice that nature and science play important roles in this Frost poem?

Lines 39-40

Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his was down through the air to the ground.

  • The boy has filled the metaphorical cup above the brim and has now reached the top of the tree.
  • Next he kicks his feet out (presumably holding onto a branch) and uses the tree like a bungee chord.
  • The tree bends just enough so that the boy is lowered to the ground without harm.

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