The Imago Dei and Swinging Birches with Mr. Frost

05 Oct


Describe what it feels like to hear a beautiful piece of music or see a stunning piece of art.

There is something about art that is transcendent. I don’t profess to be an expert on the subject, but I do appreciate the form. Art, whether it is music, sculpture, a painting, prose or poetry, transcends the moment. It transcends the mundane of the monotonous moment. It transcends the noise and stress of the everyday wade through life. Even more, it transcends us, humanity, and expresses, (in my opinion), the imago dei

Creation is one of the chief characteristics of the divine. Art is the clumsy imitation of humanity to express God’s image within them. Art reminds us of the beautiful and the timeless. It reminds us that there is more to it all than what we typically consider.

Abraham Kuyper put it this way:

“The world of sounds, the world of forms, the world of tints, and the world of poetic ideas, can have no other source than God; and it is our privilege as bearers of his image, to have a perception of this beautiful world, artistically to reproduce it, and humanly to enjoy it”

When I listen to Tchaicovsky’s Romeo and Juliet or a piece by Mozart or Bach, or when I read Frost’s Birches I experience it. It is a mix of reality and the sublime.

Listen to Frost’s opening lines to his poem, Birches. See the images he paints with each masterful stroke of his pen. You see the majestic trees, the play of a young, eager boy and then you feel the cold of the ice:

When I see birches bend to left and right

Against 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

As ice-storms do.

Later in the poem, Frost gives us the anatomy of a good birch climber. Notice how this section ends, with the description of the hurried, skillful swinging of the limbs. You can almost hear the air in your ears and feel the coarseness of the branch:

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.

Then Frost gives the reflective note:

So was I once myself a swinger of birches.

And so I dream of going back to be.

Frost adds:

I’d like to get away from earth awhile

And then come back to it and begin over.

In a real sense, art allows us to do just that: to get away from earth awhile. Here is the transcendence of which I spoke earlier. After all, Frost reminds his reader, rather whimsically:

One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Yes, one could Mr. Frost, yes one could!


Posted by on October 5, 2013 in Daily Prompt


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12 responses to “The Imago Dei and Swinging Birches with Mr. Frost

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