The Road Not Taken
BY ROBERT FROST
BY ROBERT FROST
BY ROBERT FROST
Robert Frost takes another opportunity in using poetry to highlight human relationships in his poem “Mending Wall.” This by far was the most difficult poem by Frost I’ve encountered so far. I used some information on the internet to give me more understanding about it. From what I understand, the poem deals with the theme of human separation and a desire to conquer it.
The poem’s opening line says that there is “something that does not love a wall.” The “wall” in question serves as the focus of the poem, the primary symbol the speaker discusses. When the speaker attempts to repair a wall with a gaping hole, he invites his neighbor to help him repair it. The speaker mentions that “we keep the wall between us as we go.” The wall here serves as a metaphor for separation; there is something that divides both of these characters, and it goes beyond physical limitations. The neighbor looks at the speaker and says “good fences make good neighbors.” In the neighbor’s eyes, he can serve his fellow man best by separating himself from the community at large. He does not wish to unite himself into the common bond of society; he wants to be an individual who depends on his own personal intuition for happiness.
The speaker is unsettled by his neighbor’s view. He wants to convince him that being sociable is more fulfilling than being isolated. He thinks to himself, “Spring is the mischief in me/ And I wonder if I could put a notion in his head:/ Why do they make good neighbors?” The springtime represents a light-hearted state, one full of a renewal of life. It is open and vibrant. But the word “mischief” contrasts itself denotatively as an evil scheme for some foul purpose. Yet in this context it is more playful than anything else; he wants to simply trick his neighbor into thinking of life in a different way. he wants to convince his neighbor that his life philosophy is irrational, at best. However, the neighbor will not submit to the speaker’s exhortation: he moves “in darkness,” in the cold dictates of his own heart, repeating his resolution “good fences make good neighbors.” The speaker has failed in his mission.
BY ROBERT FROST
The first question the speaker asks concerning the trees is why do he and others bear their noise all the time (lines 3-4)? Apparently they annoy the speaker to the point of exasperation: “We suffer them by the day/ Till we lose all measure of pace/ And fixity in our joys/ And acquire a listening air (lines 6-9). The speaker and his friends, at one point, had their lives together the way they wished; but the trees’ noise impedes on their tranquility, demanding their attention. They lose sight of their goals due to all the rambling. But could the trees be symbols for a certain group of people? Who exactly does the speaker feel compelled to listen to? Lines 10-11 say “They are that that talks of going/ But never gets away/ And that talks no less for knowing/ As it grows wiser and older.” The trees represent a specific type of people, those who, in their hypocrisy, speak much truth and wisdom concerning life but who never enact their tenets. They do not reinforce their wisdom by their conduct. They may gain more knowledge in their learning but they fail to apply their knowledge practically. There is a sense of fleeting time, making the issue desperate, since the trees age but never really get any smarter. And the specific moral in these lines points to experiencing life and not remaining dormant. The speaker believes it is important to leave the confines of traditional wisdom and make a name for oneself. This is particularly true if the dominant morality ironically works against the very thing it is supposed to defend. Freedom would be preferable against such an irrational double standard. The world waits, waiting to be explored.
As the poem progresses, the listener learns that the speaker is no different than the hypocrites which he is condemning. He himself needs to break free from society’s chains and live. In lines 16-17, the trees swaying is compared to the swaying of the speaker’s head. Despite the fact that the trees are currently rooted, they want to move and be in constant motion. The speaker wants to usher in a new existence for himself, even if that means rebelling against the prevailing morality. After all, the speaker desires to make a “reckless choice” (line 20). What he wants would never be approved by others. Yet these same others want to be reckless as well. Can they not make up their mind? What do they want: subservient obedience to mindless authority or liberty?
But the speaker does not want to act alone. He wants to wait until the trees have “a voice” (line 21). It would better if the public rebelled against dominant wisdom together instead of in isolation. But the question remains: will the speaker depend on others forever? Or will he leave all the mindless idealism and live on his own? People tend to face this question. Especially when they decide to dedicate themselves to their goals without question and in disregard to those who keeps others from living their dreams. You can stay still. Or move.
BY ROBERT FROST
Robert Frost’s poem, “The Oven Bird,” tells of a chirping bird making noises throughout the seasons of the year. The poem digresses by beginning with thoughts on spring and summer and then arriving at fall and winter. The bird serves as a metaphor of the average human being, a person who desires to remain optimistic in the face of death and decay.
The bird’s message is universal, as the poem’s first line indicates; everyone can relate to the sound they hear. The bird’s words are “loud” in that they are inescapable and unmistakable. They define experience. “D” consonants appear at the end of many of the poem’s words, highlighting the sounds the bird makes. In its present state, the bird desires to return to spring: “He says that leaves are old and that for flowers/ Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten” (lines 4-5). The speaker uses a simile to contrast the now hot summer with the past spring: flowers are more prevalent in spring than summer. On a scale from one to ten, summer falls as a one in terms of personal value to the bird. Spring is preferable, being the best season of the year. There is even a time “when pear and sherry blooms went down in showers” (line 7). Spring once ruled the bird’s life, or, should we rather say, the speaker’s life? There was a time where happiness and new life reigned for him, domineering over all his circumstances. On a broader scale, humans want to look back at moments that were more fulfilling as they feel the rush of time carry them towards death.
But a shift in tone occurs in the middle of the poem. The speaker must now face a failing of the vibrant natural life. Lines 9-10 say “And comes that other fall we name the fall/ He says the highway dust is over all.” The speaker is doing much more than merely describing the effects of the fall season. There are several key phrases in the lines. First, there is “dust.” This may allude to the book of Genesis in the Bible, where God created mankind “out of the dust of the earth.” The subject of the poem seems to be about mankind in general. What the bird relates specifically concerns people everywhere in all times and places. The second phrase is “the fall.” This points to the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eve (also in the book of Genesis). Because of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God, mankind inherited the state of being sinful, prone to be and do evil in God’s eyes. People must live in life carrying the burden of their guilt and pain, whether they wish to or not. Life has made sense for the speaker until he discovers the revelation of his own sin. The bird will ask “what to make of a diminished thing” (line 14). How can the speaker explain the demoralization that takes root in his heart, distilling the happiness that he once had? The sadness he experiences has taken over the mood. Winter has arrived.
BY ROBERT FROST
In the poem’s third line, the speaker mentions that when he sees birches he would “like to think some boy’s been swinging them.” There is a personal interpretation to the birches being worn down for the speaker as we will see later. But he then says that ice storms wear the birches down better than boys swinging on them (line 5). He then proceeds to describe the process by which ice melts off the birches. In this section, the speaker will relate the birches to his own personal feelings: “And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed/ So low for long, they never right themselves” (lines 15-16). The birches seem to not break in that the speaker, though he may look to others as if he has his life under control, does not. He tries to make up appearances to please others. He has been bowed by the “ice storms” of life in that the life he has lived has been a turbulent existence as an adult. So hiding his pain is a difficult process. He cannot fully recover from some of the things he has suffered: the birches will never right themselves again. Indeed his pain has been so intense that “you would think the inner dome of heaven had fallen” (line 13). What seemed at time to be a peaceful childhood for the speaker eventually gave way to a much harsher existence. The speaker, once at the prime of life, now suffers under old age.
We see this in the next lines of the poem. The speaker chides Truth for interrupting his thoughts about the boy swinging on the birches with its “matter of fact” ways (lines 21-22). The speaker is angry that his sub-conscious mind demands an adherence to facts and not comforting fantasy. He wants to return to the days in which he was isolated from others, having liberty to play alone and be his own person. After he describes his childhood and experiences with birches, he goes back to the present tense regarding his life: “So was I once myself a swinger of birches/ And so I dream of going back to be” (lines 41-42). His dreams have been longings to return to a past that was easy and simple for him. But these days he lives under a harsher reality.
But interestingly enough, the speaker does not want to run away from his present existence forever. He will not abandon his duties towards other people. The speaker says “May no fate willfully misunderstand me/ And half grant what I wish and snatch me away/ Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love/ I don’t know where it’s likely to get better” (lines 51-54). The speaker desires to live in the here and now; though he may suffer at times, he does not truly believe in another ideal place for better happiness. He may even be questioning Heaven’s existence by thinking that Earth is the only right place for love. But then, who needs to be loved in Heaven seeing as those in Heaven are perfect and totally fulfilled? On Earth, we suffer, so we need loving care from others. If he withdraws form society, it is only long enough to recuperate and return to his daily routine. He just wants a brief outlet of escapism, and dreaming of his childhood allows him to do just that.
BY ROBERT FROST
Robert Frost’s poem, “Reluctance,” traces a speaker who, after experiencing the thrills and joys of life, realizes that death is approaching for him; the things that gave him happiness are now fading from his life. He can only become bitter as his days draw to a close. The speaker relies upon the images found in nature as well as using poetic techniques to present his timeless themes of prosperity and decay.
The speaker mentions that he has gone through “fields,” “woods,” slowly passed “walls,” and climbed “hills” in order to view the world (lines 1-4). The word “fields” may suggest times in his life where circumstances worked in his favor, giving him times of ease and comfort. Yet “woods” points more to times of uncertainty and confusion; since the woods are enshrouded with trees, they obstruct one’s view of the outside world. “Walls” and “hills” could be the challenges that the speaker has faced in order to reach his high points. But in spite of all he went through, the speaker enjoys the world in all of it’s splendor. Yet on returning home, the speaker’s tone changes dramatically: “And lo, it is ended” (lines 5-6).
It turns out that the happiness he expects from his endeavors is short-lived and is not destined to last long at all. There are dead leaves littering the ground (line 7). Those moments that were so full of life for the speaker are now gone, taken from him by the power of time. Meter also shows us the passing of time for the speaker from a state of happiness to one of melancholy. The words “scraping,” “creeping”, and “sleeping” occur in the second stanza. Besides being an instance of internal rhyme, each of the words contains a trochee, which is when a stressed beat is followed by an unstressed one. If one were to read the words out loud to his or herself, the pronunciation would sound like a fall. That is why this kind of succession of beats is known as a falling meter. The speaker “scraps” by, desperately trying to maintain hope in the midst of despair. It is interesting that the word “creeping” occurs; it often denotes a person stalking another human being. The last line mentions the speaker thinking it an evil thing for a ‘love” to end. Maybe the speaker once loved another but now despises them? Or maybe circumstances have taken someone he loves dearly? No one knows for sure what the speaker has lost. His “reluctance” could be his refusal to move on with his life, whether his significant other is alive or not. Thus, in the last analysis, the speaker refuses to let something go which means everything to him, once again demonstrating the power of Robert Frost to talk of the human condition using natural metaphors.
BY ROBERT FROST