Robert Frost Essay, Research Paper
ROBERT Frost has been
detecting America all his
life. He has besides been
detecting the universe ; and
since he is a truly wise
poet, the one thing has been
the same thing as the other.
He is more than a New
England poet: he is more
than an American poet ; he
is a poet who can be
understood anyplace by
readers versed in affairs
more ancient and cosmopolitan
than the imposts of one
state, whatever that
state is. Frost & # 8217 ; s state
is the state of human
sense: of experience, of
imaginativeness, and of
idea. His poems start at
place, as all good verse forms
do ; as Homer & # 8217 ; s did, as
Shakespeare & # 8217 ; s, as
Goethe & # 8217 ; s, and as
Baudelaire & # 8217 ; s ; but they end
up everyplace, as merely the
best verse forms do. This is
partially because his wisdom
is native to him, and could non hold been suppressed by any circumstance ; it is
partially, excessively, because his instruction has been right. He is our least provincial poet
because he is the best grounded in those thoughts & # 8211 ; Greek, Hebrew, modern
Europeans and even Oriental & # 8211 ; which make for well-built art at any clip. He does
non exhibit his acquisition, and may in fact non cognize that he has it: but there in his
verse forms it is, and it is what makes them so solid, so humourous, and so hearty.
His many verse forms have been different from one another and yet likewise. They are the
work of a adult male who has ne’er stopped researching himself & # 8211 ; or, if you like, America,
or better yet, the universe. He has been able to believe, as any good creative person must, that
the things he knows best because they are his ain will turn out to be true for other
people. He trusts his ain feelings, his ain uncertainties, his ain certainties, his ain
exhilarations. And there is perfectly no terminal to these, given the accomplishment he needs to
province them and the strength ne’er to be wearied by his capable affair. & # 8220 ; The object
in composing poesy & # 8221 ; Frost has said, & # 8220 ; is to do all verse forms sound every bit different as
possible from each other. & # 8221 ; But for this, in add-on to the fast ones any poet knows,
& # 8220 ; we need the aid of context & # 8211 ; intending & # 8211 ; capable affair. That is the greatest aid
towards assortment. All that can be done with words is shortly told. So besides with metres.
. . . The possibilities for melody from the dramatic tones of intending struck across the
rigidness of a limited metre are eternal. And we are back in poesy as simply one
more art of holding something to state, sound or unsound. Probably better if sound,
because deeper and from wider experience. & # 8221 ;
Frost is one of the most elusive of modern poets in that section where so much
unfavorable judgment remainders, the section called technique ; but the ground for his nuance is
rarely noticed. It is at that place because it has to be, in the service of something
boundlessly more of import: a study of the universe by one who lives in it without any
cause to believe that he is different from other individuals except for the leisure he has
given himself to walk about and believe every bit good as possible refering all the things
he sees ; and to take accurate note of the manner they strike him as he looks. What they
are in themselves is non to be known ; or who he is, either, if all his idea is of
himself ; but when the two come together in a verse form, testimony may ensue. This is
what Frost agencies by capable affair, and what any poet had better average if he
expects to be read.
Frost is more and more read, by old readers and by immature, because in this important
and natural sense he has so much to state. He is a generous poet. His book confides
many finds, and portions with its readers a universe every bit wild as it is broad & # 8211 ; a
unsafe universe, difficult to populate in, yet the familiar universe that is the lone one we
shall of all time hold, and that we can somehow love for the bad things in it every bit good as
the good, the unintelligible every bit good as the apprehensible.
Frost is a crisp New Englander: that is to state, he talks more than anybody. He
negotiations all the clip. The dwellers of New England accuse one another of speaking
excessively much, but all are guilty together, all are human ; for adult male is a speaking animate being,
and ne’er more so than when he is seeking to turn out that silence is best. Frost has
expressed the virtuousness of silence in 100s of verse forms, each one of them more
clever than the last in the manner it takes of proposing that it should non hold been
written at all. The greatest people keep still.
There may be small or much beyond the grave,
But the strong are stating nil until they see.
Joking aside, Frost is a generous giver. He is non, thank heaven, one of those
exiguous modern poets & # 8211 ; Joseph Wood Krutch has called them costive & # 8211 ; who hope
to be loved because they have delivered so small: the fewer the verse form the better the
poet. The fact is that the greatest poets have been, among other things, prolific:
they have had much to state, and nil has prevented them from maintaining at it till
Contrary to a certain fable, good poets get better with age, as Thomas Hardy for
another case did. The Collected Poems of Hardy are a existence through which
the reader may go everlastingly, entertained as he goes by the same paradox as that
which appears in the Complete Poems of Frost: the existence in inquiry is
presented as a grim, black topographic point, but the longer one stares at it the heater it
seems, and the more capable of warranting itself beneath the stars. By an about
illicit procedure it manages in the terminal to sing sweetly of itself & # 8211 ; non sentimentally, or
as if it leaned upon semblance, but with a deep sugariness that truth can non upset.
For truth is in the sugariness: a bittersweetness, shall we say, but all the better
preserved for being so.
And this is the instance, whether with Hardy or with Frost, because the poet has ne’er
grown tired of his map ; has ever known more, and cognize it better, as clip
passed ; and has found it the most natural thing in the universe to state so in new footings.
My object in life is to unify
My by-line and my career.
The poet in Frost has ne’er been different from the adult male, or the adult male from the poet ;
he has lived in his poesy at the same clip that he has lived outside of it, and
neither life has interfered with the other. Indeed it has helped ; which is why we
cognize that his verse forms mean precisely what he means, and might state in some other
linguistic communication if he chose. But he has chosen this linguistic communication as the most personal he
could happen, toward the terminal that what it conveys should be personal for us excessively. We
need non hold with everything he says in order to believe him wise. It is instead that
he sounds and feels wise, because he is certain of what he knows. And the extent of
what he knows would ne’er be guessed by one who met him merely in anthologies.
He is powerful at that place, but in the Complete Poems we find a existence of many
deferrals, and few readers have found their manner into all of these. Some of them are
really narrow, it would look, and out of the ordinary manner ; in the linguistic communication of
unfavorable judgment they might even be dismissed as small & # 8220 ; amour propres & # 8221 ; ; but the narrowest of
them is likely to take further in than we suspected, toward the cardinal room where
Frost & # 8217 ; s apprehension is at place.
The mark that he is at place is that his linguistic communication is obviously ; it is the human slang,
as simple on the surface as monosyllabic words can do it. Queerly enough this is
what makes some readers say he is difficult & # 8211 ; he is ever mentioning to things he does
non name, at any rate in the long words they suppose proper. He seems to be
stating less than he does ; it is merely when we read close and listen good, and believe
between the sentences, that we become cognizant of what his verse forms are
they are about is the of import thing & # 8211 ; more of import, we are tempted to believe,
than the words themselves, though it was the words that brought the topic on.
The topic is the universe: a immense and pitiless topographic point which work forces will ne’er quite
understand, any more than they will understand themselves ; and yet it is the same
old topographic point that work forces have ever been seeking to understand, and to this extent it is as
familiar as an old boot or an old back door, loveable for what it is in malice of the fact
that it does non talk up and place itself in the parlance of abstraction. Frost is a
philosopher, but his thoughts are behind his verse forms, non in them & # 8211 ; buried good, for us
to think at if we please.
We can think that his ain philosopher is Heraclitus, who said: & # 8220 ; If you do non
anticipate it, you will non happen out the unexpected. . . .Let us non do random
conjectures about the greatest things & # 8230 ; .The attunement of the universe is of opposite
tensenesss, as is that of the harp or bow. . . .What agrees disagrees. . . . Discord is
justness. . . . The route up and the route down is one and the same. . . . The
beginning and the terminal are common. . . . A dry psyche is wisest and best. . . . For
work forces to acquire all they wish is non the better thing. . . . It is the concern of all work forces to
cognize themselves and to be sober-minded. . . . A sap is wont to be in a waver at
every word. & # 8221 ; Yet the conjecture could be incorrect, for Frost does non state these things,
nevertheless strongly his verse form suggest them. The suggestion may be nil but a
happenstance: the two work forces see the same universe, and its terminal is like its beginning ;
down is up and up is down, the new is old and the old is new, and discord is justness.
At least we know nil of justness if we know nil of discord. It is tenseness that
maintains our equilibrium ; if antonyms could non experience each other in the dark there
would be no possibility of visible radiation. Good fencings make good neighbours & # 8211 ; each knows
where he is and what confines him. Without a wall between them, each would
confuse himself with the other and cease to be ; or if there were contending, it would
be excessively close & # 8211 ; a mere scramble, in which neither party could be made out. Distance
is a good thing, and so is admitted difference, even when it sounds like ill will.
For there can be a harmoniousness of separate sounds that seem to be at war with another,
but one sound is like no sound at all, or else it is like decease. Let each thing know
its bounds even as it strains to go through them. No bound will of all time be passed, since so
it is a bound. Which does non intend that we shall ne’er gaze across the nothingness between
ourselves and others. Peoples, for case, who look at the sea & # 8211 ;
They can non look out far,
They can non look in deep.
But when was that of all time a saloon
To any ticker they maintain?
It is human to desire to cognize more than we can. But it is most human to cognize what
& # 8220 ; can non & # 8221 ; agencies.
Frost ne’er says these things either ; his poems merely propose them, and suggest
farther things that contradict them. His Muse, like the truth, is bloody-minded ; it
supports on turning up fresh grounds against itself. And yet we can non lose the
ever electric presence of resistance & # 8211 ; two things or individuals gazing at each other
across some sort of wall. Frost has no involvement in doors that do non lock, in friends
who do non cognize they are enemies excessively, or in enemies who do non cognize how to
make-believe they are friends, and even believe it every bit far as things can travel. His drumlin
groundhog sits Forth from his habitation like one who invites the universe to come
and see him ; but he ne’er forgets the two-door tunnel at his dorsum. So Frost
himself can reflect upon the ternary bronze that guards him from eternity: his tegument,
his house, and his state. If he is greatly interested in the stars, and no poet is
more so, the ground is that they are another universe which he can see from this one,
and accept or dispute as the temper of the minute dictates. They burn in their
topographic points as he burns in his, and it is merely every bit good that neither fire can devour the
other ; yet each of them is a fire, and in secret longs to mix with its far neighbour.
The great thing about adult male for Frost is that he has the power of standing still where
he is. He is on the Earth, and it is merely one of many topographic points, and possibly every
other topographic point is better. But this is his topographic point, where in malice of his yearning to go forth it
he can remain till his clip comes. Like any other distinguished individual, Frost lives in
two universes at one time: this one, and another one which merely makes it more attractive.
The high quality of the other 1 is what proves the goodness of the 1 we have,
which tenaciously we keep on loving, as tenaciously it tolerates and educates us if we
allow it make so. Wisdom is digesting it precisely as it is ; bravery is being familiar with it
and afraid of it in the right proportions ; moderation is the accomplishment to allow it be ; and
justness is the cognition that between it and you at that place will ever be a lover & # 8217 ; s
wrangle, ne’er to decease into cold silence and ne’er to be made up. The chief thing is
the common regard.
Not that Frost wants us to believe he knows everything.
If, as they say, some dust thrown in my eyes
Will maintain my talk from acquiring overwise,
I & # 8217 ; m non the 1 for seting off the cogent evidence.
Let it be overpowering, away a roof
And round a corner, blizzard snow for dust,
And blind me to a standstill if it must.
His vision is the amusing vision that uncertainties even itself. But it remembers all it can of
what it ever knew, and remainders, in so far as the head can of all time rest, on the amount of
its memories. The amusing mastermind ignores nil that seems true, nevertheless
inconvenient it may be for something else that seems as true.
The basis of all religion is human suffering. . . .
There & # 8217 ; s nil but unfairness to be had,
No pick is left a poet you might add,
But how to take the expletive, tragic or amusing.
The pick of Frost is clear. His wit, an indispensable thing in any great poet,
is in his instance the mark that he has decided to see everything that he can see. No adult male
of class sees all the universe, but the poorest adult male is the 1 who blinds himself.
The adult male with his eyes open has the best opportunity to understand things, including
those things his ascendants have said. The curate says of the old lady who used to
live in The Black Cottage: & # 8211 ;
One wasn & # 8217 ; t long in larning that she thought
Whatever else the Civil War was for,
It wasn & # 8217 ; t merely to maintain the States together,
Nor merely to liberate the slaves, though it did both.
She wouldn & # 8217 ; Ts have believed those terminals plenty
To hold given outright for them all she gave.
Her giving somehow touched the rule
That all work forces are created free and equal.
And to hear her quaint phrases & # 8211 ; so removed
From the universe & # 8217 ; s view today of all those things.
That & # 8217 ; s a difficult enigma of Jefferson & # 8217 ; s.
What did he intend? Of class the easy manner
Is to make up one’s mind it merely isn & # 8217 ; t true.
It may non be. I heard a fellow say so.
But ne’er head, the Welshman got it planted
Where it will problem us a thousand old ages.
Each age will hold to reconsider it. . . .
For, dear me, why abandon a belief
Merely because it ceases to be true.
Clinging to it long plenty, and non a uncertainty
It will turn true once more, for so it goes.
Most of the alteration we think we see in life
Is due to truths being in and out of favour.
There it is. One couldn & # 8217 ; Ts say half so much if one were tragic.
Copyright? 1951 by Mark Van Doren. Permission to reproduce granted by Charles and John Van Doren, executors. All
The Atlantic Monthly ; June, 1951 ; & # 8220 ; Robert Frost & # 8217 ; s America & # 8221 ; ; Volume 187, No. 6 ; pages 32-34.