Robert Frost was a literary icon who displayed an exceptional ability to communicate his feelings/emotions through poetry. Most of his poems are still relevant to twenty first century scholars who regard them as the holy grail of poetry; rightly so. Frost did not just write poems, he spoke through them, he used them as vessels for putting across that which he could not speak, and people listened. Although he passed on almost half a century ago, his light still shines as bright as ever. This paper will examine four of his poems, and discuss how events and occurrences in his life influenced the content and composition of his poems.
Acquainted with the Night
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This poem was first published in 1928 in a collection of West-Running Brook. Its first appearance was in the Virginia Quarterly Review. Darkness or night according to English Dictionary is a total or complete sense of confusion, hopelessness and of depression. The narrator in his view of the world as hopeless and isolated place that neither people nor objects tend to exist, lament that neither the watchman or the luminary watch tower (perhaps the moon) seem to be guiding him or helping to make wise decisions as regards to his journey. And they too seem not to be on the wrong or on the right. The tempo of the poem increased when the narrator stopped walking after being interrupted by cry breaks from a different street, it is this cry that made him realize that, the city was not his ancestral home. It is at this point that his homelessness took another twist. The poem twists back to its beginning and begins to implicate real genesis of humanity. A night crop in and man is left outside with the universe closing all its windows. This is the ultimate irony. The narrator begins to wonder at this point that, with all his chances of harmonizing self and nature gone, the only thing possible is the one which can create an inhospitable universe. .
This is a poem which was published in 1916 with the main objective of how people react to death and their perception to death. Life can sometimes be unpredictable just as William Shakespeare referred to it in his poem “Macbeth” which is in real sense an illusion with reference to death. In brief, on learning of the death of his wife, Macbeth became shocked that he could only comment on how brave life would be. Frost, a great author and a poet, throughout the poem used personification to create an effect that life must continue even if some great lives are lost. In April 1915, Raymond Fitzgerald who was a son to Frost’s friend and also his neighbor, died of heart failure after losing his hand to a buzz saw. Doctors tried to save his life but in vain. This was a true story. It thus formed the basis to which the poem was written.
Although buzz saws are inanimate and technical objects, they are referred to as cognizant beings- which snarl, rattle, and leap out of the hands of the boy in celebration. Instead of dismissing such an action as baseless, Frost paid full attention to the plea and cries of the boy’s father. He took a witness stand, preaching justice since he knew and was quite sure that the boy was innocent (Little & Bloom, 34). This action was truly relevant to the season to which it took place. One year before this poem was written, Frost relocated to America from England where there was war. The poem can also be read as a criticism to responsible adults who force young and innocent boys leave their childhood dreams behind, only to be destroyed by circumstances created by wars (Little & Bloom, 74). Last line of the poem is blunt and detached, creating an image on how soldiers can sometimes hang on to their emotions and shade innocent blood of civilians. Frost is also creating an aspect of sarcasm by commenting on the people’s behavior as regards to life.
Narrator introduces us to the world of fantasy by feeling exhausted after picking the apples the whole day. He takes us to the farm through flashback and shows us how apples are blossoming and are falling off from the trees. The poem then weaves in and out of ancient form having twenty five lines written in a standardized iambic pentameter. The wandering form allows Frost to stress on the need of moving from dreaming to waking, just as it is with the narrator. After working hard the whole day, the farmer is so fatigued that he is unable to thwart the mental torture of picking apples: he dreams that the apples are in front of him and goes a head to feel the ache in his feet as if though he is still standing on a ladder.
There are still flawless apples that fall on the ground and whose fates are not known. Even though the narrator is not specific as to the exact timing of the poem, we tend to believe that there are seasonal changes already taking place in the surrounding areas. Winter is nearing and the farmer will continue picking apples on a daily basis. There is a great metaphorical change of season. Narrator’s time of dying has reached. He is actually handing over his major assignments of picking apples and biding farewell to his close family members, friends and relatives. As he falls to permanent sleep, he is fully convinced that his work is not in vain, a part from a few apples which are still on the tree; he has fulfilled all his moral duties. The dream and death are merged on the oncoming winter which we are not sure whether the narrator will wake up or not.
The Road not Taken
This poem was published in 1915; its title is often mistakenly confused with another poem: The Road Less Travelled. "The Road Not Taken” is probably the most famous representation of the conscious irony Frost claimed to possess (Deirdre, 60). The motivation for the poem was conceived as a result of the author’s subtle teasing reply to Edward Thomas, one of his best friends who often led Frost down one way and then rue not having gone down another (better) path. In the poem, Frost steps into Thomas’s shoes, taking his posture and voice, including the line most people have described as unlike Frost: “I shall be telling this with a sigh” and proceeds to imitate Thomas. Reading the poem, one is instantly struck by the subtle manner in which Frost has not only carried himself but his ironies as well, so that the entire work appears to be a failure (Letters 15). It is simply an exact mockery of another poetic voice; this is the easiest but definitely not the best or only way in which one can comprehend the poem’s popularity. It has been established that Frost was very fond of his friend Thomas; his one and only elegy was dedicated to him and in the poem he praises him highly, referring to him as "First soldier, and then poet, and then both, / Who died a soldier-poet of your race." He tells Amy Lowell that Edward Thomas was the closest he ever had not only in England but throughout the world (Letters 220). It can be argued that by assuming Thomas’s personality and demeanor in the poem, Frost loses (but only for a moment) his defensive obsession with masking the involvement of lyrics to the point where his ironic capabilities desert him.
The Road not Taken is a rare example in the author’s poetry in which an adored and reciprocal person exists; the poem is stripped of the need to leave the audience in suspense. Frost has avoided writing about that melodramatic love that borders on the gender wars between men and women, and instead a higher and more powerful love which is, according to the good Greek, between two men (Little & Bloom, 61). As stated in Plato’s work the Symposium, "But the heavenly love springs from a goddess (Aphrodite)……whose characteristics have nothing to do with the female, but are wholesomely male…..those who are motivated by this other Love turn to the male, opting for the more intellectual and vigorous bent." It would be the most compelling irony ever if the poem is motivated by that kind of love, because it signifies that in spite of one perception of the author’s intentions, love is able to turn swords/knives to plowshares, and that two paths can be similar and can be travelled in a similar manner but still be completely transformed by whoever is travelling on them. Despite this, the biggest irony in the poem comes stems from the fact that Frost merely claims that the road he has taken is the one “less travelled”: stanzas two and three make it clear that “passing there” had interwoven the two paths so that they became “just about the same” and that “both that morning equally lay / In leaves no step had trodden black. In the final stanza that the contrast between the two roads is brought out through fiat: Frost simply states that the path he chose was the one less travelled.
Robert Frost: The Relationship between his Poems and his Life
Ironic and bittersweet all at the same time, Frost’s works also exhibited autobiographical tendencies. He lived through crashing losses in his lifetime, bereaved of his wife, his sister and two of his daughters. He was aware of the despair the human soul was all too susceptible to, but also displayed a willingness to soldier on with life, taking the time to delight in the happier things life could offer. For instance, he delighted in birch trees that were “loaded with ice a sunny winter morning”. According to Little & Bloom (16), his poems recalled the vernacular, people, culture and rural landscape of New England in the verse style he consistently used. His poems also go beyond the limits of place and time with modern inquisition and metaphysical examination of human nature in her entire contradictions and beauty (Hoffman, 233).Both of Frost’s parents were teachers, and therefore he was exposed to books and literature at an early age, becoming engrossed in works by Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Burns. He also developed an attraction to nature, the rural countryside and the outdoors that would stay with him for the rest of his life. In high school (Lawrence High School) he wrote his own poems, with “La Noche Triste” (1890) being the most notable.
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