Analysis Of Robert Lee Frost's Poems

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For my essay I chose the poet Robert Lee Frost and his poems because I really like his style of writing and his poems are not boring for me. I found it really interesting.

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Robert Frost, was an American poet who was born on 26 March 1874 in San Francisco, California. He is highly regarded for his realistic for his portrayal of rural life. He used to analyze complicated social and philosophical themes with his own work. He moved with his mother and sister to New England after his father died because of tuberculosis. After his high school, Frost attended Dartmouth College for several months. In 1894, he wrote his first poem, ‘My Butterfly: an Elegy,’ published in The Independent, a weekly literary journal. After this success, Frost proposed to his girlfriend Elinor, who was attending St. Lawrence University, but she refused his proposal because she first wanted to finish her school. Then because of that he decided to leave on a trip to Virginia, and when he returned, he proposed her again. By then, Elinor had graduated from college and she accepted his proposal. They married in 1895, and had their first child, Elliot. In 1913, he published his first book of poetry, A Boy’s Will. In England he met really important people as  Edward Thomas, T. E. Hulme, and Ezra Pound. In 1921, Frost worked in a teaching fellowship at the University of Michigan. According to Harvard’s directory, Frost received an honorary degree at the college. Though he did not graduate from any college, he yet received more than 40 honorary degrees which include one each from Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge universities. He was also the only person who received two honorary degrees from Dartmouth College. During his lifetime, he was honored with several prizes which include four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry. His personal life was not as happy as his poetic life. Robert Frost’s personal life was filled with loss and grief. He lost his parents at a young age. He had to admit his younger sister Jeanie to metal hospital where she died only after nine years. He had six children with his wife – son Elliot, daughter Lesley Frost Ballantine, son Carol, daughter Irma, daughter Marjorie and daughter Elinor Bettina who died just three days after her. Elliot died of cholera in 1904, Carol committed suicide, Marjorie died of fever after childbirth and Elinor Bettina died three days after her birth. Frost’s wife Elinor died of heart failure in 1938. Frost died on January 29, 1963, from complications related to prostate surgery. He was survived by two of his daughters and his ashes are interred in a family plot in Bennington, Vermont.

Frost’s poetic and political conservatism caused him to lose favor with some literary critics, but his reputation as a major poet is secure. He undoubtedly succeeded in realizing his life’s ambition: to write ‘a few poems it will be hard to get rid of.’ (Reviewed by R.H. Winnick).

Many of his poems contain the important part of ‘nature’ and transcendentalism He uses nature as a metaphor in his poems to express the intention of his poems and also he uses it as a background metaphor in which he usually begins a poem with an observation of something in nature and then moves towards a connection to some human situation. Frost´s style was influenced by the early romantic poets and by the contemporary British poets as Robert Grave, Edward Thomas, and Rupert Brooke. His style is the way he carries himself toward his ideas and deeds. In his poetry he uses everyday simple words which we would use in our conversation. Language in his poems is really simple and rural. Many of his poems such as “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening“ and “Mending Wall“ are inspired by the natural world, especially his time which he spent as a poultry farmer in New Hampshire. He also uses lots of poetic devices adding to the craftmanship of the poem. Frost states that “Poetry is more often of the country that the city…Poetry is very, very rural-rustic. He is a master at using imagery ex: ‘You can climb back up a stream of radiance to the sky’. He also uses literary devices as well as alliteration ex: ”Together wing to wing and oar to oar“ and personification in his writing ex: ‘You can climb back up a stream of radiance to the sky“. The most what he emphasizes in the poems are harsh problems of the natural world: the conflict between urban and rustic lifestyles as seen in his poem “Mending Wall“. Richard Wilbur points that “ It is not written in the colloquial language of an uneducated boy from the farm, but rather in a gorgeously refined and charged colloquial language“. Poems are either lyric, narrative or dramatic. Frost wrote in all of these forms. His lyris poetry is usually short and expresses personal thoughts and feelings and it is spoken by single speaker. One of his lyrical sonnets is a sonnet which is named ´Mowing´. It is a really famous lyrical sonnet where Frost talks about the speaker´s own opinion or ideas about the sound and what this sound may signify. We can say that the narrative poetry tells us a story of a single event. Frost uses really often the blank verse in this type of poetry. The narrative mode was not only central for him. It was the form in which he worked most innovatively, though his remarkable originality has been only partially recognized.

There are four categories of damatic poems: ballads, linear narratives, dramatic monologues and dramatic narratives. The first category of Frost’s narratives is ballads represents his weakest body of work in the mode. His first five books contain only four narrative ballads— two in Mountain Interval and two in A Boy’s Will. One of Frost´s famous poem ´The Death of a Hired Man´ is a really good example for dramatic narrative which is written in blank verse. He was always interested in distinguishing New England speakers who are highly characterized in his poems because he was born in San Francisco and spent his early years there. Frost said: “ Every poem I write is figurative in two senses, It will have figures in it, of course, but is is also a figure in itself-a figure for something and i tis made so that you can get more than one figure out o fit. “ (Cook Voices p235.)

The first poem which I chose is “The Road Not Taken”.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

This poem is one of Robert Frost’s most familiar and most popular poems published in 1916 as the first poem in the collection Mountain Interval.. In my opinion this is the best poem of Robert Frost´s poems. I read this poem easily because is really comprehensible. This poem is successful ans is frequently studied in high school literature classes. This  wonderful narrative  poem has many different themes and ideas. One of the main themes is not being afraid to take a chance. Another one is not following the crowd, trying new things for something. The author of this poem is telling the reader that we should not be afraid of taking a less frequented path.

The poem “The Road Not Taken“ consists of 4 stanzas of 5 lines and each line has between 8 and 10 syllables in a roughly iambic rhythm; the lines in each stanza rhyme in an abaab pattern. Robert Frost loves form. He once said that writing a poem without any form, just free verse, would be like playing tenis with the net down. Frost wrote the poem in the first person, we can think of whether the speaker is the poet himself or a character who created for the purposes of the poem. The variation of the rhytm give us a feeling of thoughts occuring spontaneously and it also affects the reader´s sense of expectation.

When we come to a fork in the road, we have to make a decision. Both paths are really different and you have to choose the right one – if there is a right one. Each choice that we make plays out differently in our lives. We can look back and wonder what would have happened if we choose differently. Each choice affects who we are, where are we going and this choice decides about our lifes. The speaker of this poem must choose between diverging paths in a wood, and he sees that choice as a metaphor for choosing between different directions in life. However, for such a apparently simple poem, it has been subject to very different interpretations of how the speaker feels about his situation and how the reader is to view the speaker. In 1961, Frost himself commented that “The Road Not Taken” is “a tricky poem, very tricky.” This reading of the poem is extremely popular because every reader can empathize with the narrator’s decision: having to decide on between two paths without having any information of where each road can lead. Furthermore, the narrator’s decision to choose the “less traveled” path demonstrates his courage. Rather than taking the safe path that others have traveled, the narrator prefers to make his own way in the world.

During the first three stanzas, the narator does not show any sense of compunction for his decision nor any recognition that such a decision might be important to his life. The poem starts with the speaker who is walking on an autumn day in a forest with the leaves which changed the colour to yellow. He must choose between two paths that lead in different directions. He regrets that he cannot follow both roads, but since that is not possible, he is standing for a while and thinking about which one should he choose. (‘The Road Not Taken – Forms and Devices’ Critical Guide to Poetry for Students Ed. Philip K. Jason. eNotes.com, Inc.2002 eNotes.com 24 Mar,2019) He comes to the conclusion that there is really nothing noteworthy about either path or at least nothing more noteworthy about one path over the other. The speaker really wants to go down both paths so he’s thinking about his choice and trying to see where it goes but he can only see up to the first bend. In the second stanza he decided to take the other path, because it seemed to have less traveled than the first one but then he sees that they actually were very similarly worn. He thinks that the road less traveled is going in the direction of one´s dreams. The second one that he took seems less traveled but as he thinks about it, he realizes that they were “really about the same”. Later in the third stanza, he tries to cheer himself up by reassuring himself that he will return someday and walk the other road. He is saying to himself that he will just travel the first path another day and he will take the second path today so he will actually travel down both paths. But than he says that he probably will not be able to take that path another day. He is going to save it for another day but probably he will not be back there because way leads to way, one road leads to another and he probably will not be back at that spot where he can try out that another road. This is true of life that we do not have to get chance to go back and do it over again. In my opinion the last stanza of this poem is really positive. It sees like Frost is saying that he took the road less common, less expected less normal but he is really glad that he did it. However, there is a sigh which can be evidence that he did not take the right path after all. Maybe he regretted that he took the second path instead of the first one. It can be also a possitive sigh that he is reconciled with that he could not take the both path We can imply it as a relief but we do not really know which one is it. There is also another technical thing on a point out that is the repetition of “ I “. We can find a dash between these two words. When we are reading it in a possitive way, these words can sound with dash like an determination and confidence that he made the right. However, it can be read in the opposite way as beaing unsure if his decision was right.

The second poem which I chose it the poem “Mending Wall“ which is written in 1914. This is one of Frost’s most often analyzed and anthologized poems.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing:

I have come after them and made repair

Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,

No one has seen them made or heard them made,

But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

We have to use a spell to make them balance:

‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’

We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of out-door game,

One on a side. It comes to little more:

There where it is we do not need the wall:

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.

He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbours.’

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

‘Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offence.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,

But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather

He said it for himself. I see him there

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top

In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

He will not go behind his father’s saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbours.’

This poem is set in the countryside in spring and sets at the site of the stone wall between the farms of two diligent men which come from New England. One man is the poet himself. The poem “Mending Wall“ is written in the first person, so we can assume that the speaker of the poet is the poet himself.. Mending Wall is a poem in blank verse and is not structured with stanzas; it is a simple forty-five lines of first-person narrative. Frost does maintain iambic stresses, but he is flexible with the form in order to maintain the conversational feel of the poem. He uses an assonance in certain ending terms (such as “wall,” “hill,” “balls,” “well”) and also consonance e.g sun, stone, again, line. Robert Frost explains and describes the border between two people. Mending wall examines how humans deal with each other and live isolated lives without their relatives.

The central idea of the poem: The wall between the lands of two farmers is broken down by somethink that is unknown and every spring they must rebuild it. The poet himself does not want the wall there and tries to convince his neighbour about the same.

However, his neighbour is sure that fences are required to maintain peaceful relations with neighbours.

In the lines 1-4, the poet speculates that there must be someone or something in the neighbourhood, who does not like the wall and breaks down the wall again and again. The word “something“ comes twice in the poem. The poet attaches too much importance to the this word. From the beginning itself he connect a mysterious air to it. For instance the “something“ may mean the heat of sunlight, the cold winter (climatic changes), their dog etc.

It is possible that the water under the ground is totally frozen and the result of that is ice which causes the fissures in the wall. Then the fissure can be wider and wider that two people can pass through it and walk side by side in the same direction.

In the lines 5-11, here the poet makes repair after the hunters. There is a contrast between the fifth line and the ninth / the tenth line. The hunters are really loud but no one heard them. It is really mysterious.

In the lines 12-15, he is talking that the wall is between two lands separated by a hill. The farmer who lives on the other side of the hill is notified about the hole. A day is fixed on which they both meet and walk along the wall, each on his side surveying the damage. In the line 14 and 15 there is a repetition for emphasis of division (the wall between us)

In the lines 16-19, he says that they have to restore the boulders by themselves. However, this is a really difficult and heavy task because the stones are not always of the same weight, size or shape. We can find here also a paradox because they meet each other to rebuild the wall between them, the boundaries bring them together but the point of the meeting is to divide each other or to set boundaries between each other. In the line 19- “until our backs are turned“ he is aware of pointlessness.

In the lines 20-27, the poet points out to their hands because they became calloused as a result of picking heavy stones. It is really painful but they are still doing it although they know that is pointlessness and that it damages their hands. It seems like they play rather than work because the wall is totally unnecessary. In the line 25-26, he personifies the trees and it is actually a humorous personification.

The poet has tried to tell his neighbor that his apple trees will never grow upon his pines, but he could not convince him.

He says: “Good fences make good neighbors“. – This can be implied that you can be better neighbours if there are boundaries. The poet feels that his neighbour is equal to an unciviliszed man of the stone age. The poet gets this image seeing his neighbour walking with a stone in his hand. Here we can see also a metaphor of neighbour as a stone-age savage, representing his close-mindedness and stubborn loyalty to tradition.

In the lines 28-38, here we learned that it was not the narrator who built this wall, probably it was there a long time ago before both the narrator and his neighbor.

The narrator starts to critique the reasoning behind building this wall and he is again quite funny about it. He uses the word offense which is probably a pun on a fence. This is again in contrast to the neighbor and there is a real sense of kind of division between them that wasn´t there before because there is lots of words I and he rather than we that we could see earlier. This is kind of a paradox like the wall building was earlier because it is when the narrator starts talking about being cooperative that he actually causes division between him and the neighbor.

In the last lines, he poet suggests that his neighbour has some kind of relationship with darkness, but not just the darkness which is caused by the shade of trees in the forest. The neighbour cannot disagree with his father in saying that good fences account for peace among neighboursThe word “darkness“ is suggestive of pain, sadness, bad experiences, negativity and an age marked by ignorance. Here the word indicates the negativity in human relations based on certain conditions as well as man´s ( neighbour´s) ignorance.

In the poem “Mending wall“ we can also find allusion Eg. SOCIETY – walls = rules and laws, hunters = breaking the law, mending wall= upholding the law

The third poem which I chose is the poem “Out, out“.

Out, Out is a true-life tale, in which a boy loses his hand in an accident. Sympathy is the dominant tone of the poem.

This narrative poem is set in one long stanza which is written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. This poem concists of 34 lines. The title of this poem is taken from Macbeth’s soliloquy ‘Out out brief candle’ in which he ponders the brevity and pointlessness of life.

Robert Frost wrote this poem as a memorial to a 16-year-old boy named Raymond Tracy Fitzgerald whom Frost had befriended while living in Franconia and who died after an accident on March 24, 1910. The poem was first published in the July 1916 issue of McClure’s before being included in the collection Mountain Interval.

The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard

And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,

Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.

And from there those that lifted eyes could count

Five mountain ranges one behind the other

Under the sunset far into Vermont.

And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,

As it ran light, or had to bear a load.

And nothing happened: day was all but done.

Call it a day, I wish they might have said

To please the boy by giving him the half hour

That a boy counts so much when saved from work.

His sister stood beside him in her apron

To tell them ‘Supper.’ At the word, the saw,

As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,

Leaped out at the boy’s hand, or seemed to leap—

He must have given the hand. However it was, 

Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!

The boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh,

As he swung toward them holding up the hand

Half in appeal, but half as if to keep

The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all—

Since he was old enough to know, big boy

Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart— 

He saw all spoiled. ‘Don’t let him cut my hand off—

The doctor, when he comes. Don’t let him, sister!’

So. But the hand was gone already.

The doctor put him in the dark of ether.

He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.

And then—the watcher at his pulse took fright.

No one believed. They listened at his heart.

Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it. 

No more to build on there. And they, since they

Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

In the first thee lines, Frost uses lots of literary devices as alliteration of “s“ (saw,snarled, sweet, scented, stuff), onomatopoeia ( buzz, rattled,snarled). Sweet-scented (sense of smell)-contributes the vivid image of the scene. In the line 4 “ those that lifted eyes“ represents that humans work hard and no longer appreciate nature´s beauty. They are not aware of their surroundings. There are working into the night past sunset. In the line 5 and 6 we are getting some natural imagery in the poem as five mountains ranges and sunset. In the lines 7-9, there is a repetition (snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled) which represents the saw´s repetitive motion relentless. We can also see here the personification- ran light and had to bear a load and alliteration of “d“ – sense of finality (day, done). We usually imagine people bearing loads and this alludes how this saw is the metaphor for hard work in this poem and for industrial labor of people. The phrase nothing happened in the line 9 is showing that everything is normal at this point and nothing is out of the ordinary.

In the lines 10-12, there is for the first time mentioned the character of the poem. In the line 10 (I wish they might have said) the narrator foreshadows something bad that is going to happen and that makes us feel sympathy for the boy before we see what happened to him. In the line 12 the author of this poet emphasizes the boy´s innocence and youth. His youth is highligted through his exaggerated disinclination to work.

In the lines 13-22 , the character of the sister here implies solidarity between siblings. She is in her apron which is one of the many simple, pitoresque country images that sets the normal and calm scene in this poem . The line 15 may reflect that the boy is the beginner in the workplace and he has something to prove. A turning point of the poem occurs in line 14 when the sister announces ‘Supper’ which triggers a radical change in circumstance for the boy. The author describes one moment in three lines, he emphasize the horror and the intensity of that cruel moment. The boy´s laughing after such a horrible thing is shocking. We can imagine him as stepping away from the bloddied saw blade holding his near chopped off hand. The boy is in the situation when the pain hasn’t hit his brain yet, but hesee what has happened.Heis  neither screaming nor yelling. In the line 20, there is an ambiguity in “them“, the boy with his bleeding hand could be turning to the other workers if there are the workers or he could be turning to his sister and the saw, maybe they two are the “them“. In the following line there is an interesting diction in the word “life which he used instead of blood. “The life from spilling“ – this shows us how serious this injury is. We can also find here an caesure what means a pause for the effect. This emphasizes the intense moment because of which he will probably die.

In the lines 22-27, the boy is still a boy, but he is described as a big boy who is old enough to realize the seriousness of his injury. Here is also another colloquial way of reffering to the boy and we can also see that the author of the poem used a strong adjective “spoiled“ which means that the activity is ruined. There is also a dialogue that directly convey the boy’s terror and the repetition of “Don´t let him“ shows his desperation and pain at that moment.

He appeals to his sister that he demands the doctor to save his hand off. If he does not save his hand , he will be disabled for the rest of his working life but at this moment it is over. There is no chance to save his hand. After this dialogue, there is a word ‘so’, this gives a sense of finality of this situation.

In the lines 28-34, the doctor gives him the ether which is an old anesthetic or painkiller and the way the boy is sent to the dark implies that he is going to be dead. It is like a foreshadowing for what is going to happen. The person watching his heartbeat realizes that the boy’s heart has stopped. The short lines 31 and 32 make the moment of his death sudden. We see the boy slip away, from ‘little’ to ‘less’ to ‘nothing.’ Now that the boy is dead, there is “No more to build on there”; they have to return to their daily chores, building what they can and living their own lives without the boy.

At this poem, the saw and the boy may first appear as they are enemies but they are actually paralleled in complex ways. They are often referred as a collective ( as “them“). They are similar in that way that they are both trying to do the same job, both are worn down by hard work. They say “had to bear a load“ and the boy wished to be “saved from work“ and both are trying to “prove“ something.

This interweaving (we almost do not know where the boy ends and the saw begins) makes the poem more disturbing than a simple good vs. evil or man vs. machine. Robert Frost is not just trying to get us to think about machines, but he is trying to get us to think about how machines are changing the way we behave.

The poem could be summarized as a commentary on the LOSS OF HUMANITY and EMPHATY in an INDUSTRIALISED SOCIETY. It focuses specifically on how CHILDREN are forced to grow up really quickly and how PEOPLE are treated like machines.

Sources:

  1. https://owlcation.com/humanities/Analysis-of-Poem-Out-Out-by-Robert-Frost
  2. http://www.english.illinois.edu/Maps/poets/a_f/frost/wall.htm
  3. https://poemanalysis.com/out-out-by-robert-frost-poem-analysis/
  4. http://www.modernamericanpoetry.org/poet/robert-frost
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Frost
  6. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/robert-frost
  7. https://brownc7915blog.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/out-out-robert-frost/
  8. https://phdessay.com/poetic-style-of-robert-frost/
  9. https://www.powerpoetry.org/poetry-dictionary/imagery
  10. https://poemshape.wordpress.com/2009/07/18/robert-frosts-out-out-2/
  11. https://www.poemhunter.com/robert-frost/biography/

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