Robert Frost

Frost’s poetry reveals a Romantic like beauty in nature that to some degree mirrors that of Emerson and Whitman’s transcendental works. But unlike the extravagant philosophy or religion that Whitman sees in nature, as Whiteman describes in his poem “Song of Myself” :

“Stop this day and night with me an you shall possess the origin of all poems, / You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left,) / You shall no longer take things at a second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books, / You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.”

Frost instead lucidly, in extremely approachable, often blank verse form, describes the awestricken beauty and serenity he finds in nature (especially his home of New England). A wonderful example of this would be his description in “Birches” of the branches of the birch trees shedding coat of ice on a winter morning:

“…Often you must have seen them / Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning / As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored / As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel. /Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells. Such heaps of broken glass sweep away / You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.”

Yet within his poetry he does give prominence to the individual and the individual’s identity. Poems such as “The Death of the Hired Man” and “The Road Not Taken” seem to suggest this with lines such as, “I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference,” in which Frost seems to describe the importance of personal experience of the new and wondrous. Another would be the way Silas comes to die in the place he feels the most dignity.

One question: In the introductory to Frost they say that he believed that “collective enterprises could do nothing but weaken the self.” While this may be true, I found Frosts commentary contradictory in both “Mending Wall” and “The Death of the Hired Man”. Although in “Mending Wall” the narrator talks of both men mending the wall to remain separate—the act of mending the wall is one of respectful collaboration. The longing the dying Silas has to teach the schoolboy how to bail hay is another ode to collaboration. What do you guys think? Do you agree with the text?

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One Response to Robert Frost

  1. Vlevasseur11 says:

    In “Mending Wall” it seems more like Frost is not contradicting his view that “everybody was a separate individuality and that collective enterprises could do nothing but weaken the self.” This is especially apparent due to the emphasis on “the wall between us.” Frost seems to be implying that he, or the speaker, desire to maintain separation between others so as to maintain individuality: “He is all pine and I am apple orchard/my apple trees will never get across/and eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.” However, it is unclear to me whether or not the speaker thinks that a physical wall is necessary to maintain separation and individuality. Additionally, the line: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall/that wants it down. I could say “Elves” to him.” The reference to Elves as well as “cows” a few lines above might be an allusion to collective groups that do not maintain walls, figuratively or literally, between each other and thus, are indistinguishable.
    Frost also paints a picture at the beginning of “Mending Wall” with the dogs hunting the lone rabbit. This could be a metaphor for the potential loss of individuality by a strong collective enterprise (i.e., “yelping dogs”). Did anyone else see this? Also, what is he referring to when he talks about “gaps?”

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