A poem, says Robert Frost begins in delight and ends in wisdom. Discuss this statement with reference to Frost’s poetry and elucidate it with at least one poem.

Frost’s statement that a poem begins with delight and ends in meaning has often been misinterpreted to signify a view that a work intriguingly leads the reader to a thematic conclusion or that the majority of the poem is enjoyable and the last few lines filled with the moral. But Frost himself had a different interpretations: It [a poem] begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down. It runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of lifenot necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on but in a momentary stay against confusion.

Frost is here speaking not so much of the horizontal lines of the poem—that is the movement from start to finish—but of the vertical lines the deepening meanings which one finds inherent in the words and descriptions of the surface. Frost seems to intimate that there is no other way to write a specific poem than the way in which it has been written. This is because the wisdom it contains is eternally true, and thus it is inevitable, it should be stated in such a way. Nonetheless, the poet does not present the wisdom in a rigidly abstract form which makes the poem appear as if it were thought out in advance like an abstract philosophical problem. Rather it flows naturally and, in a sense, recreates the spontaneity of the poet’s own movement toward a discovery of the wisdom contained in the subject. The end result is a momentary stay against confusion; the poet has not clarified all the principles of the universe or of life, but has cast some light on the meaning of the experience or experiences recreated in the specific work.
Frost emphasizes the natural, spontaneous quality of the writing. But poet and reader must share the excitement surprise of discovering a truth which, because it is faithful to life, they have a sense of having known all along. It is the discovery and awareness of recognition which is most important. He wrote, “It must be a revelation, or a series of revelations, as much for the poet as for the reader.”
Poems like Stopping by Woods, Gathering Leaves, Acquainted With the Night, Being Versed in Country Things, etc., all from his later volumes, express the poet’s personal responses to particular situations, and are also statements of his ripe inferences, regarding the nature of the human predicament. They come direct from the poet’s heart, and so go direct to the heart of the reader. They express the surprise of the poet and so come as a surprise to the readers. They reveal, clarity and illuminate. Frost once said that the greatest aim of a poet should be to communicate the thrill of sincerity’, and the poet’s pure lyrics do convey this thrill.
The poet observes the world around him. The common scenes and sights of nature, fields, farms, and roadside dwellings, the flora and fauna of New England, the Yankees at their rural occupations and pastimes, mowing, apple-picking, gum gathering, birch-swinging, wall mending, etc. all claim the poet’s attention. All these and a hundred other commonplace things are observed minutely, and rendered precisely. Observation leads to emotion and emotion to thought. As Frost himself tells us, “emotion has found its thought and the thought has found the word.” His lyrics begin in delight in the beauty of the world around, and they end in wisdom. His lyrics express his sensuous joy in the beauties of nature, or his sense of pathos and tragedy of human life, resulting from his observation of the rural scene. This sets him thinking, and the lyric ends with an expression of his, “rich and ripe philosophy”. Thus in Birches he observes the ‘habit’ of Birches, thinks over what he observes, and concludes,
….Earth is the right place for love:
I do not know where it is likely to go better.
In the Oven-bird, the singing of the bird fills him with delight, he ponders over and derives the philosophical conclusion:
The question he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.
In Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, express the conflict in the poet’s mind between his love of the scene and his urgently felt need of keeping his promises and doing his duty. Mowing is a humble rural occupation, but it sets the poet thinking and he comments: the Fact is the sweetest dream that labour knows. Almost all the nature—lyrics of Frost reach out to a metaphysical conclusion.
Fact and fancy are the two polarities of Frosts lyrics. At places he escapes in a world of ideal existence, but very soon he is back again to hard reality. His flights from the world of reality are only momentary; ultimately he comes back to earth and accepts his duties and responsibilities. The wood may be ‘lovely and dark’ but they fail to hold him for long, because he remembers that he has promises to keep, and miles to go before he sleeps, and in Mowing the scythe whispers to him, “The fact is the sweetest dream that labour knows.” Birches illustrates this exquisite blending of fact and fancy most eloquently, for in this lyric the climb, “toward heaven”, ultimately results in a move “earthward”. The withdrawal is momentary and it makes him see life more clearly and face it more courageously. For him “Earth is the right place for love”, and so he longs to return to it. Frost’s devotion to fact shines brightly throughout his lyric. But his is never a mere transcript of actuality, a kind of dogged reporting. When he is most faithful to things, he is most lyrical. The Grindstone is a familiar portrait, a still-life painting of the tool-sharpening instrument common to every farmyard. Yet a whimsical fantasy is woven round it and this is seen even in the opening lines:
Having a wheel and four legs of its own
Has never availed the cumbersome grindstone
To get in everywhere that I can see.
“As the poem gathers speed, it accumulates wit and inventiveness. The grindstone turns in an acceleration of energy, and after achieving its highest momentum, it suddenly slows down-slow-down, as it were, from fantasy to philosophy.”
The poem Birches certainly begins in delight. The poet sees birches bending to right and left across the lines of, “darker, straighter trees”, he imagines that some boy has been swinging them. But soon the truth dawns upon him, and he realises that swinging cannot bend them down permanently. It is the icestorm alone which can bend birches down to stay. After rain and storm the birches are covered with ice. The poet has observed the phenomenon minutely, and his description is vivid and picturesque. When the wind blows, the birches swing up and down and the ice on them shines, and turns many-coloured, as the rays of the sun are refracted in passing through ice. As the sun grows warmer, the ice is shaken down. It fells on earth covered with snow. It seems as if the central dome of heaven has cracked and the earth is covered with heaps of broken glass. It is with the burden of ice that the birches are bowed so low for so long that, “they never right themselves.”
This is the true reason, the hard fact, for the permanent bending of birches. But from this truth, the poet again returns to his fancy that the birches have been thus bowed down permanently by, “some boy’s swinging them”. He imagines that some boy, who lives too far from the town to learn baseball, devises a game for himself, a game which he can play alone, summer or winter. He takes to birch-swinging as a pleasant sport. He climbs the birches over and over again, so much so that not a single tree remains unconquered and unbent. He has painstakingly acquired such skill that even when he reaches the top, he is able to maintain perfect balance, and then he comes to the ground with a swift movement:
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
The poet is in a reminiscent mood. With a wistful longing he remembers the time when he himself was a swinger of birches. He dreams that he would take to birch swinging once again, sometime in the future, when he is, “weary of considerations”. Then by birch-swinging he would get away from earth awhile, “and then, come back to it and begin over”. The poet would never like to leave this earth permanently after a momentary climb to heaven, he would like to return to it, for,
Earth is the right place for love
do not know where it is likely to go better.
He would like to climb up toward heaven by mounting the birches, but then he would also like that they should set him down on earth after a moment. Birch-swinging, “is good both going and coming back”.
The fine lyric brings out several aspects of Frost’s art. Fact and fancy are the two polarities of Frost’s art and both mingle in this fine lyric. His passion for fact is seen in his minuteness of observation and his love of the earth. His imagination or fancy is seen in his imagery, and in his vivid and picturesque descriptions. Says Untermeyer, “Fact and fancy play together throughout the poem”. The crystal ice becomes heaps of broken glass: You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen. The arched trees are transformed into girls on hands and knees, “that throw their hair before them over their heads to dry in the sun”. The country boy, “whose only play was what he found himself, riding and subduing his father’s birches becomes the mature poet who announces:
….Earth’s the right place for love: I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
“Thus wisdom and whimsy join to make a poem that delights the mind and endears itself to the heart. The popularity of Birches lies in its combination of picture and human appeal. It is all the more appealing because of the shrewd turns and the “rare twinkle”. In other words, the poem is an expression of Frost’s, “rich and ripe philosophy”.

A General Estimate of Robert Frost as a Poet

A Great ‘Classic’
Robert Frost has been called the finest American poet of the 20th century, “the purest classical poet of America to-day”, “the one great American poet of our times”, and a New Englander in the, “great tradition, fit to be placed beside Emerson, Hawthorne and Thoreau”. He has been called, “the voice of America”, and more honours have been showered upon him than any other American poet of the century. On the occasion of the inauguration of Kennedy as the President of the U.S.A. he was called upon to recite one of his most patriotic poems The Gift Outright, and another of his lovely lyrics Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening was the stay and solace of Jawahar Lal Nehru during the last years of his life. He has won world-wide fame and recognition, and has already established himself a ‘classic’, as one who is so great that he stands in a class by himself.

His Simplicity: His Complexity
The first thing which strikes the eye is the extreme simplicity of his poetry. He writes of the simplest subjects, and he says what he has to say in the most lucid and simple manner. It is this simplicity of Frost which has endeared him to ordinary readers. They admire him and go to him again and again, for they can understand and appreciate him without any trouble. But this simplicity of Frost is deceptive. As a matter of fact. Frost is both for the masses and the classes—the learned few as Randall Jarrell points out, a careful reading of his poems reveals that he is extraordinarily subtle, complex and intricate. They have a rich texture, and there are layers within layers of meaning. He makes extensive use of symbols to convey profound truths, and in this respect he is one with such modern poets as Eliot, Yeats, Pound and Auden. As he himself tell us, “he is by intention a symbolist who takes his symbols from the public domain”. His complexity is seen in his habit of bringing together the opposites of life in the manner of the metaphysical poets. “He is a highly conscious artist who is constantly lauding impulse, a penetrating thinker who is afraid of being discovered in the act of thought, a countryman who conceals behind his feeling for the land a sophisticated attitude towards men and their motives.” The ambivalence in his work, appears in the taste for contraries, in the opposition of worlds of light with worlds of darkness in the passion for balancing one idea against its opposite, in the conflicts between good and evil, reason and instinct, conflicts which Frost is always reluctant to resolve completely. “He writes of simple subjects in a simple conversational style and so has endeared himself to the masses; but the learned few also find in him such food for thought, and so respect him and admire him. His poetry appeals to all classes of people, for one reason or the other.” A skilful combination of an outer lightness with an inner gravity is one of his major poetic achievements.
A Great Pastoral Poet
Frost is a great pastoral poet. He writes of rural people, occupations, events and situations. The background to his poetry is provided by country-scenes and sights. He writes of rural people and rural occupations and pleasures—apple-picking, gum-gathering, birch-swinging, mowing, hay-collecting—and the language he uses is the simple, colloquial language of country folk. In his poetry, we do not find the city scenery and city people to whom we are used in modern poetry. There are no shop-girls, truck-drivers, factories, trains and buses in his poetry. But the essentials of city life—the note of anxiety, the heart-ache, neurosis and emotional disturbance which characterise life in a big, industrialised city—are all there. Life is basically the same everywhere, and it is this basic element which is brought out by Frost. Frost has succeeded in imparting universal validity and significance to pastoral art.
A Great Regional Poet
Frost is a great regional poet. The region north of Boston forms the background to his poetry. Its people, its scenes and sights, appear and reappear in successive poems, and impart a rare continuity and unity to his works. It is this particular region that Frost has made his own. He loved it and knew it intimately, and this first hand knowledge makes him interpret it so realistically and accurately. Above all, Frost is the poet of the rural New England. He knew every part of this limited world, and he renders it in words with a brilliant, off-hand ease. His characters are all New Englanders, and he has succeeded in capturing the very tone, diction, idiom, and rhythm of Yankee speech. He writes of a particular region, but from the particular he constantly rises to the universal and the general. He writes of the joys and sorrows, loves and hatreds, of the simple Yankees, but he also shows that such joys and sorrows, loves and hatreds are common to all humanity. Regionalism in his hands acquires a universal appeal.
His Originality as a Nature-poet
Frost is a great nature-poet. He writes of the natural scenes and sights, flora and fauna, hills and dales, of the region which lie north of Boston. Like Wordsworth, his love of nature is limited to nature in a particular district. But unlike Wordsworth, he loves both her pleasant and unpleasant aspects. He enjoys her sensuous beauty, but he is also alive to much that is harsh, bleak and barren in her. He does not shut his eye to her harshness and cruelty. His approach is realistic. He was a working farmer and no working farmer can be romantic about nature. As W.H. Auden has pointed out, Frost’s, “Poems on natural objects are always concerned with them not as fact for mystical mediation or starting points for fantasy, but as things with which, and on which, man acts in the course of the daily work of gaining a livelihood.” He does not find any ‘holy plan’ at work in nature, nor does he regard her as a kindly mother watching benevolently over man. In his view, Nature and man are two separate principles, and it is futile to search for friendship in the external world. He constantly emphasizes the difference, rather than the similarity, between man and nature. In both Two Look at Two and The Most of It, creatures of nature look at man from a distance and that is all. There are no other signs of love, friendship and sympathy. Inseparable barriers divide man from Nature.
His Greatness as a Poet of Man
Though Frost is a great nature-poet, he is still greater as a poet of man. As Untermeyer tells us, “Robert Frost has written on almost every subject. He has illuminated things as common as a wood pile and as uncommon as a pre­historic people, as natural as a bird singing in its sleep and as mechanistic as the revolt of a factory worker. But his central subject is humanity. His poetry lives with a particular aliveness because it expresses living people. Other poets have written about people. But Robert Frost’s poems are the people; they work and walk about and converse, and tell their stories with the freedom of common speech. “People in Frost’s books are all rural New Englanders. He knew them intimately and his portrayal of them is realistic and vivid. Writes Marcus Conliffe in this connection, “his poetry has cropped out of his farmer’s world, every part of which he knows, and knows how to render it in words with a brilliant, off-hand ease. His reticent, poor, dignified New Englanders are evoked in monologues, a little like those of E.A. Robinson, or of Robert Browning, but with a difference. His people speak cautiously and intervals of silence, making each word count. Valuability would be alien to them. They do not go on and on, as in Robinson, or explode, as in Browning. Their lonely farms, the cold winters and all-to-brief summers; the imminence of failure, of the wilderness, of death—all give one the sense of people loving tensely. The tension comes out in the poetry and the moments of relaxation have by contrast an almost extravagant gaiety. The hardl-hood, to repeat, is that of life in New Hampshire, as such, not that imposed by the poet, though, of course, Frost describes it with a professional mastery.” Frost’s range or characters are beyond his range, and he shows great artistic self-restraint in staying within his range. But working within his range, he achieves great vividness, diversity and subtlety.
Alienation, His Major Theme
Frost pictures man as a stranger in an indifferent, if not actually hostile, world. Isolated and alienated people abound in his books, more specially in his book of people, North of Boston. Unsurmountable barriers separate man from nature, from God and from his fellow men, and the result is emotional loneliness and isolation, resulting in severe stress and strain, neurosis and mental agitations verging on insanity. Home Burial, The Death of the Hired Man, Hill Wife, etc., are all studies in alienated and maladjusted individuals. Emotional and physical alienation is a major theme in his poetry.
His Rich and Ripe Philosophy
There is no doubt that Frost takes a rather bleak and gloomy view of man’s earthly existence, but he cannot be condemned as a pessimist merely for this reason. In fact, he is a realist and an ameliorist. He is realistic enough to recognise the ills to which flesh is heir to. He does not shut his eyes to the evil, sorrow and suffering which beset man’s life on this earth. Such a recognition is necessary, if human lot is to be bettered and improved. His approach is never cynical and nihilistic; he does never suggest that the life is not worth living or that it would have been better not to have been born at all. He loves the world as it is, Birches expresses his attitude to a nicety. He, “would like to get away from earth awhile”, but then he must return to earth, for,
…… Earth is the right place for love
I do not know where it is likely to go better,
Human lot may be hard but it can be made bearable by doing one’s duty, sincerely and devotedly, by recognising the otherness of other individuals, and by faith in divine Mercy. His approach to life and its problems is sane and healthy; his philosophy is ripe and mature.
His Conservatism
Frosts is a traditionalist and a classicist. His conservatism is seen in his suspicion of new ideas and innovations. His pre-occupation with country scenes and sight and with simple rural folk links him up with the romantic-Georgian tradition in poetry. He uses the Iambic metre, because most English poetry has been cast in this measure. Though his metres are varied, they are at first glance quite orthodox. He uses the speech of New England but not so as to jolt the reader. The city—that intoxicating theme for the writer of his time—has no place in his work. He is the countryman, with the countryman’s apparent conservatism; for rural life, with its heavy seasonal rhythm of growth and decay, imposes its own continuity on those who live amongst it.
His Classicism
Frost is a classicist in his habit of understatement and self-restraint. He says what he has to say in the fewest possible words, and the result is classic terseness and concentration. Many of his lines are epigrammatic and are frequently quoted. He is a classicist in the formal finish and perfection of his verse, as well as in his simplicity and austerity. His poems of rural life, scenes and sights, breathe the very spirit of the pastorals of Theocratus and Virgil. He is a classicist in his reticent manner, proverbial wisdom, and his habit of reflecting and moralising.
As a Lyricist
Though Frost has left behind him a number of excellent philosophical and narrative poems, his genius was essentially lyrical. Lawrence Thompson rightly points out: “His (Frost’s) primary artistic achievement, which is an enviable one, in spite of shortcomings, rests on his blending of thought and emotion and symbolic imagery within the confines of the lyric.” His lyrics have the simplicity, brevity and intensity which characterise the lyric at its best. The lyrics in The Boys Will are subjective and personal and in them the young poet’s moods find a spontaneous expression. But more characteristic of him is the dramatic lyric, the Browning type dramatic monologue or dialogue. Home Burial, The Death of the Hired Man, Two Tramps in Mud Time, reveal Frost’s mastery over this type. When at his best, Frost is able to combine a serious philosophical theme with a light-hearted, humorous manner, often his lyrics begin with a simple idea or situation, the full implications of which are revealed as the lyric develops, often by the use of rich and varied symbols. The lyrical magic of such lyrics as Stopping by Woods, Neither Out Far, Nor in Deep, The Peaceful Shepherd, etc., has been noted and admired by all readers of Frost.
His Shortcomings
Even the greatest have their faults and Frost is no exception in his respect. More glaring of his shortcomings may be listed as follows:
(1)   He is an unequal poet. He has left behind him many an excellent poem, but also many others which are not so good. Like Wordsworth, he continued to write even when inspiration flagged, and the result is work, inferior and trivial.
(2)   He showed a tendency to moralise from the very beginning and the tendency grew upon him with the passing of time. In his later poems, his didacticism becomes too obtrusive and offensive.
(3)      His range of characterisation is limited to rural New Englanders. It does not include complex human type such as intellectuals. Moreover, he does not probe into the depths; we do not get from him those penetrating psychological studies and soul-dissections which are the hall-mark of modernity.
(4)      Malcolm Cowley criticises Frost for his economic, social, ethical, political views, and regards his views as shallow and conservative. “Frost is opposed to innovations of all kinds, and is contemptuous of every thing Russian. He strongly disapproves of Russians of all kinds, the pessimistic Russians, the revolutionary Russians, the collectivistic Russians, and the five-year planning Russians. He revolts against the possibility of New England adopting any good or bad feature of the Russian programme.”
(5)      He displays mid Victorian prudery in matters of sex. All his characters are decently clothed, and all his love-affairs are etherealised and intellectualised. His reference to adultery are cautious. Sex is never frankly and freely treated.
(6)      He makes no difference between separateness and self-centredness. In his poems, the passions of the New Englanders are diverted into narrow-channels. According to Malcolm Cowley, In Two Tramps in Mud Time there is neither Christian charity nor brotherhood. It makes the learned critic vaguely uncomfortable.
(7)      In the view of Frederic I. Carpenter, Frosts philosophy lack depth and profundity. “The fault of Mr. Frost lies merely in this—that he is a poet, only. His criticism of life is merely poetic. He has not the cosmic imagination which creates its own world.” Frist’s world is fragmentary and meaningless. It is, in his own words, “the vast chaos of all I have lived through.”
(8)      His poetry does not offer us any coherent message or vision of life. He does not clarify and illuminate. At the most, he offers only a momentary stay against confusion. His poetry suffers from a basic uncertainty and indecisiveness.
(9)      According to Yvor Winters, he is a, “spiritual drifter”, who, “puts on the reader a burden of critical intelligence which ought to be born by the poet” Thus in the Road Not Taken no choice is made, and clear path is indicated. The poet is vague and uncertain, as if afraid to come to a decision and make a choice.
(10) Often he treats serious subjects in a casual light-hearted fashion, and the result is comic and ridiculous, rather than serious. For example, in the poem The Egg and the Machine, the locomotive obviously symbolises the evil of machinery, and the traveller, in order to express his disapproval of it, throws turtle eggs at it. “The turtle-egg, of course, may have a symbolic significance: it is plasm, raw life, and therefore, capable of confounding the mechanical product of human reform. But the locomotive does not just represent human reason, it is something created by human reason to facilitate higher activities. There is nothing either of wisdom or of greatness in a turtle egg. As we analyse the symbolism, the poem is reduced to a feeble joke.” The title of one of his poems, A Serious Step Lightly Taken is suggestive. Comments Yvor Winters, “but if serious steps are to be lightly taken, then poetry, at least, is impoverished, and the poet can have very little to say. Most of the world’s great poetry has had to do with serious steps seriously taken. And when the seriousness goes from life, it goes from the poetry.” The fact is that Frost had only a lover’s quarrel with the world, and, therefore, his criticism of it is half-hearted and halting. It does not go far enough. As a matter of fact, “it is no criticism at all.” Therefore, the learned critic calls him, “the poet of the minor theme, the casual approach, and the discreetly eccentric attitude.”
(11) He relies too much on instinct and impulse and ridicules the, “reasoning man” as in The Bear. But if man is guided by his impulses, he would be like the caged bear. But man has advanced from the level of the beasts by subordinating his instincts and impulses to reason. To be guided by instinct alone would be a retrograde step. In Yvor Winter’s opinion, in this poem Frost is satirising the intelligent man from the point of view of the unintelligent. The more one studies the poem, the more trivial and ridiculous it seems. Further, the learned critic points out, Frost is guilty of self-contradiction and inconsistency when in The White-Tailed Hornet he shows that the hornet is mistaken even when it acts on instinct.
(12) Frost’s habit of instituting, “downward comparison”, is a degradation of the human race. He constantly compares main to animals and trees and finds much that is animal and vegetable inhuman nature.
Such are Frost’s shortcomings, but they do not direct even a little from his real greatness. He may not be so great a poet as, say Shakespeare, but he is certainly a distinguished and valuable poet. He has certainly earned a place of distinction, at home and abroad, as a major American poet.

Frost: Language, Diction and Versification

Epigrammatic Terseness
Frost is a great artist with words. His words are carefully chosen both with reference to their sense and their sound. He painstakingly revised and polished what he wrote and tried to express himself with utmost economy, with the result that many of his lines have an epigrammatic terseness and condensation and can easily be memorised and quoted. He has the Yankee habit of understatement. Elizabeth Jenning notices this aphoristic quality of Frost’s verse and cites Reluctance and Stopping by Woods as examples. Epigrammatic lines like, “The fact is the sweetest dream that labour knows”, “Earth is the right place for love”, “Nothing can make injustice just but mercy”, “the hand that knows his business won’t be told”, etc. readily come to one’s mind in this connection. Says Mark Van Doren, “Frost knows how to say a great deal in a short space, just as the many men and women, whom he has listened to in New England and elsewhere, have known how to express in the few words they use more truth than volumes of ordinary rhetoric can express.”

Simplicity and Clarity
The first quality which strikes the eye in Frost’s poetry is its extreme simplicity and clarity. He was well-learned in the classics and other literatures, but his diction is never burdened with this learning. There are few learned references and allusions in his poetry, neither does he have the obscurity and difficulty of T.S. Eliot. As Lawrence Thompson points out, “Frost’s poetic concerns are akin to those which led Wordsworth to choose incidents and situations from common life and then to present them in a language actually used by the common present man, whose heart-felt passions are not restrained. Like Wordsworth, and like many other poets before and after Wordsworth, Frost has particularly emphasized his concern for catching within the lines of his poems the rhythms and cadences and tones of human speech. He uses, a simple, colloquial diction, which is, however, purified, in the manner of Wordsworth, of all that is slangy, coarse and vulgar.”
Richness of Texture
Frost’s simplicity is only apparent. Careful reading reveals that it is the result of an art that conceals art. There is constant shifting, selecting and ordering of material till perfection is attained. “His poems are remarkably flawless as far as technique goes; there are few cracks either in rhythm or verbal texture.” Further, the simple texture of his verse conceals within it layer within layer of meaning. His imagery is drawn from the most common and familiar objects of nature, but it is used symbolically and hence arises the richness of his texture; Frost’s language is simple, but highly suggestive.
Colloquialism: Voice Tones
Frost’s ambition was to write in the natural, everyday speech of New Englanders, to capture the speaking voice with all its rich inflections and intonations. According to Mark Van Doren, Frost builds into his verse the conversational tones of the New Englanders. Says Cornelius Weygandt, “All rural New England shares a laconic speech, a pictures queness of phrase, a stiffness of lip, a quizzicality of attitude, a twistiness of approach to thought, but there is a New Hampshire slant to all these qualities, and that you find in the verse of Frost.” In his own pronouncements on the nature of his art, Frost again and again emphasized the value of the speaking tone of voice. Through a proper arrangement and choice of words, he tried to convey the sense of humour, pathos, hysteria, anger, and all kinds of effects. He believed that every meaning has a, “particular sound posture”, or the sense of every meaning has a particular sound. In this way, he stressed that, “in speech the movement of a sentence is an expression of its sense, the accents, the pauses, the voice’s rise and fall, evoking a feeling which exactly fits the tenor of what is said.” Further, he believed that real poetry consists of, “words that have become deeds”, and that, “words are worse than nothing unless they do something”. Therefore, in his poetry he tries to make words expressive of action-gestures by introducing even into his more serious poems various kinds of word-play, voice tones, and punch lines and other action devices. He complained, “what bothers people in my blank verse is that I have tried to see what I could do with boasting tones and quizzical tones and shrugging tones (for they are such) and forty-eleven other tones. All I care a cent for is to catch sentence tones that haven’t been brought to book.”
Dramatic Variety
From this it becomes clear that the distinctive feature of Frost’s diction are: first, the conversation tone, and secondly, this conversational tone is regional, i.e., the tone of Yankee speech. Now in conversation the tone, the inflections, the intonations, the accents, vary from speaker to speaker, and Frost’s diction has this variety. It is dramatic, it varies from character to character, and also according to a change in the mood, thought, emotions, and situation of the same character. Thus the tone and posture of the speaker, in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening are different from the tone and posture in Mending Wall or in The Death of the Hired Man or in After Apple Picking.
Speech Syntax
Besides this, the speech-syntax  is broken and loose. There are parenthesis, pauses, breaks, ellipses, unfinished sentences halting measures sudden ejaculations, repetitions and abrupt openings, and all these qualities characterise Frost’s style. Sometimes the speaker has no patience to round off a sentence, but breaks it up at a point where he feels that his meaning  conveyed. At other times, the speaker is too much excited to complete his meaning and breaks in the middle. At still other times, the speaker abruptly interrupts his speech to talk about something else, or to throw in a side comment or an interjection. The most important things in the diction of poems like The Home Burial, Directive, etc., are the breaks the dashes, the asides and exclamations. We may be excused for quoting at length from The Death of the Hired Man to illustrate the point:
Warren, I wish you could have heard the way
He jumbled everything. I stopped to look
Two or three times—he made me feel so queer—
To see if he was talking in his sleep.
He ran on Harold Wilson—you remember—
The boy you had in haying four years since.
or, the following:
You know where they cut off the woods—let me see
It was two years ago
or no! can it be
No longer than that
?—and the following fall
The fire ran and burned it all up but the wall’
He thinks I only have to say the word,
And she’ll come back. But, bless you, I’m her mother
I can’t talk to her and Lord, if I could
I didn’t like the way he went away.
That smile
! it never came of being gay.
Still he smiled—and you see him—
                                      I was sure.
However it should be noted that in his short personal lyrics the language is not so broken. It is smooth, continuous and direct. Thus Frost may be said to have two styles, and not one.
Regional Flavour and Tone
Frost’s conversational language is regional. He has succeeded in capturing the distinctive flavour and tone of Yankee speech. This regional touch is not imparted by the use of dialectic words. As Lynen Points out, there are few dialectic or regional words in the poetry of Frost. There is nothing regional about Frost’s vocabulary. The words he uses are the words which are in common use everywhere. The regional quality of his diction is seen not in the choice of words, but in their arrangement. It is seen in his phrasing and idiom. Phrases like, “To get it anywhere that I can see”, “Has nothing any more to do with me”, are real Yankee speech. But phrasing alone cannot account for the peculiar regional quality of Frost’s diction. The impression of regionalism is also created by the fact that Frost’s idiom and phrasing grow out from the meaning and emotion which the poem conveys. The style is not distinct but a part of the content of poetry. The meaning is, “reflected in, and symbolised by, the details of language.” The speakers in his poems are Yankees, and their moral sense, their attitudes and values, their mental states, are conveyed by their manner of speaking. For example, in The Code, there is a perfect fusion of style and content, and so the style acquires a peculiar local flavour. The Yankee pride and sense of self-respect are expressed through the reticence and understatement peculiar to the rural dwellers in the region north of Boston. In Fire and Ice, “the more one listens to the nuances of tone, the more one hears the Yankee qualities of the speaker’s voice.” As a record of colloquial English, the poem is a tour de force. It acquires much of its intensity from the Yankee habit of understatement and reticence. Says Lynen, “The colloquial phrasing does not negate the poem’s bitterness. Quite the opposite; it is the means of raising it to an extreme pitch. The more the speaker’s manner disclaims strong feelings, the more powerful his feelings seem.” Furthermore, the understatement dramatizes the special character of the Yankee concerned. His ironic, casual manner manifests a more than normal sensitivity of thought. He is speaking of things in human nature which arouses the deepest terror, but he will not yield to emotional outbursts. Instead he holds back, pretending to be amused, indifferent, because only by reining in his own feelings can he be free to face the brutal results of man’s emotions realistically or recognizes their full destructiveness. Most serious ideas are here expressed, through humble, everyday phrase. In such poems Frost’s style acquires a symbolic significance. We see in it, and through it, the essential nature of the Yankee mind.
Use of Traditional Metres: His Rhythms
The conversational, colloquial quality of Frost’s poetry is also seen in his rhythms. Most of his poetry is cast in the traditional Iambic metre. But variations are introduced subtly and skilfully. Frost is not an innovator and he has never tried his hand at free verse, like Yeats, Eliot, Pound and Auden. But his variations are wider and more frequent than those of other poets upto the 19th century. His handling of rhythm is distinctive. It is seen in his ability to maintain a strong, regular cadence and yet make the lines seem loose and unpatterned. “The looseness can be traced to the many spondees and clusters of unaccented syllables, which break up the metre again and again without ever displacing it. It is not displaced because the variations, though numerous, are balanced by the frequent reiteration of the metre in perfect lines. Syllable count as well, is strictly observed.” The result is a rhythm which has the advantages of regular metre, and yet creates an abrupt and rough effect suggestive of everyday speech. In this way, he is able to capture the casual and informal rhythm-pattern of the spoken language. His talking rhythms result from a close balancing of looseness and flexibility with regularity, reiteration and tightness.
A Great Experimenter with Verse-forms
Frost is a great metrical artist, a great experimenter with stanzaic-forms and verse-forms, but he is in no sense an innovator. His skill is seen in his adaptation of old traditional metres to his own uses. He has experimented with odes, eclogues, satires, dramatic monologues and dialogues and masques. He has employed ballad metre, sonnets and sonnet variants, terza rima, heroic couplets, blank verse, and free invented forms. Elizabeth Jenning admiring his skill as a versifier writes, “Frost’s verse is formal, even at time, stately; its movements are often easily anticipated. Yet, despite this, his technique is so flexible, his handling of language and cadence so careful and delicate, that he is able to give his most elegant poems the air of spontaneity.” He himself once said that just as in sport a game is more enjoyable when played according to rules, so poetry is more skilled and enjoyable when written within the limits of forms and conventions. So he avoids the formlessness and eccentricity of modern free verse, and keeps the appropriate form and shape.
His Blank Verse
Frost’s skill in the handling of blank verse has not been generally recognised. Yvor Winters, for example, is critical of his handling of blank verse and says it is inept, undistinguished and monotonous. Elizabeth Jennings, however, admires his blank verse for its amazing flexibility and variety. Admiring his use of blank verse in his poem From Plane to Plane, she writes, “It is a very different kind of poem; it is a sort of conversation piece between two hired men, a countryman and a man from college. As is his custom in this type of poem, Frost employs blank verse and it is amazing how flexible he makes this medium seem.” It can carry equally and effectively the colloquial.
They were giving corn
A final going over with the hoe………
and the allusively humorous,
“So I have heard and do in part believe it,
Dick said to old Pike, innocent of Shakespeare.
and the reflective,
I like to think the sun’s like you in that Since you bring up the subject of the sun.
This would be my interpretation of him.
He bestows summer on us and escapes
Before our realizing what we have
To thank him for.
In short, Frost is a great metrical artist, as well as a great artist with words. He has turned the living speech of men and women into poetry. He has carefully rendered into metre customary Yankee speech. His poems are people talking. His greatness and skill is seen in his mastery over the difficult art of handling conversation in verse forms.

Frost as a Lyric Poet

Frost’s Lyrical Genius
Frost’s genius was essentially lyrical. The bulk of his poetry consists of lyrics. He began his career with the writing of lyrics and he continued to write lyrics upto the end of his career. He never lost the freshness spontaneity and intensity which should characterise a lyric. Speaking of the lyrics in Frost’s A Witness Tree, a late publication, Marry Colum writes, “Here is the lyric in all its intensity, indeed, with a greater intensity than the lyrics the poet wrote when he was young……..These lyrics have that wisdom, that power of revelation, which is time’s last gift to the mature and powerful mind.”

Untermeyer agrees with this view and writes, “Robert Frost began with lyrics and, after many successes in blank verse monologues and ‘talking narratives’, he returned to the singing line. When his work is viewed as a whole, it will be seen that he never left the lyric for long. The impulse grows with the convictions, and the convictions grow with the years. The later songs reinforce the early ones; they are perhaps somewhat riper, more mellow, more sure, ‘of all I thought was true’.”

(a) Pure Lyrics: Subjective and Personal
Frost’s lyrics may be divided into two broad categories. First, there are the pure lyrics. They are short pieces, personal and subjective. In such short pieces we feel nearest to the poet, for in them the poet’s personality is fully unfolded. They are in the nature of emotional responses to particular situations which confront the poet. They are an expression of the poet’s own moods and emotions. The lyrics in A Boy’s Will, his earliest volume of verses, consist of such short pieces. They are an expression of the poet’s searchings, questionings, affirmings and cherishings. The poet explores his own ties to his beloved, to strangers, to nature, to the universe, and to God. Into My Own expresses the poet’s deeply felt need for separation and isolation. Love and Questions, A Late Walk, Flower-gathering, are lyrics of love and courtship. A Tuft of Grass expresses the poet’s newly perceived need for human brotherhood, and in Reluctance the poet’s mood changes and there is a wistful longing for isolation. These changing moods of the poet have been given an appropriate nature-background. Seasonal changes have been carefully noted and recorded; beautiful nature-descriptions make these lyrics charming idylls of rural New England. Admiring these pure lyrics, Untermeyer writes, “A Boy’s Will, Robert Frost’s first book is chiefly lyrical—the spontaneous up-welling of the youthful heart—but the years have not spoiled its freshness. Such poems as My November Guest, Storm, Fear October and Wind and Window Flower (all from A Boy’s Will) do not date. They range from a contemplation of the sad beauty of bare autumn to young fences about an indoor flower wooed by a wintry breeze, yet they are unmistakably the work of the same unaging poet.”
Their Simplicity, Intensity and Melody
Frost is at his best in such short pieces, and owes to them much of his popularity. He continued to write such lyrics all through his career. Lyrics like Stopping by Woods, Gathering Leaves, Acquainted with the Night, Being Versed in Country Things, etc., all from his later volumes, express the poet’s personal responses to particular situations, and are also statements of his ripe inferences regarding the nature of the human predicament. They have a charming simplicity and a rare immediacy of appeal. They come direct from the poet’s heart, and so go direct to the heart of the readers. They express the surprise of the poet and so come as a surprise to the reader. They reveal, clarify and illuminate. Frost once said that the greatest aim of a poet should be to communicate the thrill of ‘sincerity’, and the poet’s pure lyrics do convey this thrill. As Untermeyer puts it, “Observation and imagination, experience and intuition, mingle unforgettably in Frost’s lyrics. They add excitement to such a humble task as gathering leaves; they illuminate such common sights as a hillside thaw, a tree fallen across the road, a passing glimpse of unrecognized flowers, and a few flakes of powdery snow.” In such lyrics, common scenes and sights, and everyday experiences take on a new charm and a new significance. They sing as if by some natural magic of their own. Lyrics like Desert Places and Moon Compasses have an almost incantatory (mantric) music. Admiring them Dudley Fitts writes, “Here is Frost at his purest and best; no one else writes in this way, no one else has ever written precisely in this way. This quality is vibrant, eager and curiously young; it is pure incantation, the more moving because it is managed by the simplest and homeliest means.”
(b) Dramatic Lyrics—Objectivity and Action
Secondly, there are dramatic lyrics of Browning type. They are in the form either of dramatic dialogue or dramatic monologue; and they are much longer than the pure lyrics. They do not express the poet’s own personal responses but those of some imagined character or characters. The poet effaces himself completely, and speaks through the medium of the imagined character. Thus he achieves the same objectivity as characterises a drama. Further, as in a drama, they depict some sort of action. The action may be external, developing through character confrontation or through a dialogue between two or more characters. The action is seen in terms of the effect they have on each other; in the give-and-take which results when people speak their minds to one another. In the dramatic monologue, on the other hand the action is always psychological—it consists of the change which takes place in the attitudes and emotional responses of the characters concerned. They are lyrics because of the intensity and immediacy with which emotion is expressed. They have the intensity of a personally felt emotion. The Death of the Hired Man and Home Burial are the best of his dramatic dialogues. Of his dramatic monologues, A Servant to Servant, The Pauper Witch of Grofton and The Witch of Coos are the best. These dramatic lyrics deal with rural New Englanders, in their rural surroundings. Each of them presents these people in some moment of crisis, in some gripping emotional situation, and their psychology is revealed either through a dialogue or a colloquity.
Diction and Versification
Frost uses a different kind of language appropriate for each of these two kinds of lyrics. In the pure, personal lyrics, Frost’s language has a rare smoothness, force and sublimity. The communication is direct without any interruptions and breaks in the form of asides, pauses and parentheses. On the other hand, in the longer dramatic lyrics the medium is the conversational language and so the diction is replete with the characteristics of the spoken tongue. As in speech, so in these lyrics, there are constant breaks, pauses, unfinished sentences, ellipses, ejaculations, repetitions, etc. The speaker has no patience to round off a sentence but breaks it up as soon as he feels that his meaning has been conveyed. Or, the speaker is too much excited to complete his meaning and breaks off in the middle. Or he abruptly interrupts his speech to talk about something else, or to throw in a side comment or an interjection. The most important things in the diction of poems like The Home Burial, Directive, etc., are the breaks, the dashes, the asides and the exclamations. The speaking voice and the conversational rhythms are the basis, and in each case the rhythms, tones, and inflections change according to the requirements of the mood and emotion. The tone and accent of the speaker are different in Stopping by Woods, from in those Mending Wall, The Death of the Hired Man, After Apple-picking, etc. Admiring the coversational tone of Frost’s lyrics Mark Van Doren writes, “Whether in dialogue or in lyric, his poems are people talking………The man who talks under the name of Robert Frost knows how to say a great deal in a short space, just as the many men and women whom he has listened to in New England and elsewhere have known how to express in few words they use more truth than volumes of ordinary rhetoric can express. And Frost’s ability to make verse talk and sing increased with years.”
Blending of Fact and Fancy
In Frost’s lyrics there is a skilful blending of fact and fancy, of imagination and observation. Fact and fancy are the two polarities of Frost’s lyrics. At places Frost would like to escape into a world of ideal existence, but very soon he is back again to hard reality. His flights from the world of reality are only momentary; ultimately he comes back to earth and accepts his duties and responsibilities. The wood may be ‘lovely and dark’ but they fail to hold him for long, because he remembers that he has promises to keep, and miles to go before he sleeps, and in Mowing the scythe whispers to him, “The fact is the sweetest dream that labour knows.” Birches illustrates this exquisite blending of fact and fancy most eloquently, for in this lyric the climb, “toward heaven”, ultimately results in a move “earthward”. The withdrawal is momentary and it makes him see life more clearly and face it more courageously. For him “Earth is the right place for love”, and so he longs to return to it. Frost’s devotion to fact shines brightly throughout his lyric. But his is never a mere transcript of actuality, a kind of dogged reporting. When he is most faithful to things, he is most lyrical. The Grindstone is a familiar portrait, a still-life painting of the tool-sharpening instrument common to every farmyard. Yet a whimsical fantasy is woven round it and this is seen even in the opening lines:
Having a wheel and four legs of its own
Has never availed the cumbersome grindstone
To get in everywhere that I can see.
“As the poem gathers speed, it accumulates wit and inventiveness. The grindstone turns in an acceleration of energy, and after achieving its highest momentum, it suddenly slows down—slows down, as it were, from fantasy to philosophy.” In short, “Fact and fancy are beautifully balanced in these lyrics. Nothing escapes the poet’s observation; nothing prevents his speculation on what he observes.”
The Metaphysical Manner: Juxtaposition of Opposites
In many of his finest plays, in the manner of the metaphysical poets of the 17th century, Frost juxtaposes the opposites of life. Concepts antithetical (opposite) in their very nature are brought together, and an effort is made to reconcile and harmonise them. Thus, in Birches the ‘habit’ of birches suggests to him the way in which man should reconcile his romantic dreams, his ideals, or his higher aspirations, with the facts of prosaic, matter of fact world of reality. Like the birch-swinger, he may climb momentarily, “toward heaven”, but soon like him, he should dip down and come to earth again Frost’s lyrics range from the simple and idyllic to the philosophic, and often the two extremes are combined. The Master Speed, for example, conducts the reader, and also the lover, in “a stream of radiance of the sky”, and “back through history up the stream of time.” More than that, by a quite paradox, it persuades him that he has, “the power of standing still”. Thus speed and love are joined, and
Two such as you with such a master speed
Cannot be parted nor be swept away.
The union of love and speed may be unusual, but even much more remarkable is the union of fire and ice. The lyric Fire and Ice is a masterpiece of condensation. Here, wrapped in an epigram, is a speculation concerning the end of the world and the beginning of wisdom. The opposites ‘fire’ and ‘ice’ are harmonised, for, says the poet, for destruction ice is as good as fire. He accepts the world’s contradictions and tries to harmonise them as, “my two eyes make one sight”.
Frost’s Achievements
(a) Philosophised the Lyric
According to Lawrence Thompson, Frost’s artistic achievement as a lyric poet, “rests on his blending of thought and emotion and symbolic imagery within the confineness of the lyric” The poet observes the world around him. The common scenes and sights of nature, fields, farms, and roadside dwellings, the flora and fauna of New England, the Yankees at their rural occupations and pastimes, mowing, apple-picking, gum gathering, birch-swinging, wall mending, etc., all claim the poet’s attention. All these and a hundred other commonplace things are observed minutely, and rendered precisely. Observation leads to emotion and emotion to thought. As he himself tells us, in his lyrics, “emotion has found its thought, and the thought has found the word.” His lyric begin in delight in the beauty of the world around, and they end in wisdom. His lyrics express his sensuous joy in the beauties of nature, or his sense of pathos and tragedy of human life, resulting from his observation of the rural scene. This sets him thinking, and the lyric ends with an expression of his, “rich and ripe philosophy”. Thus in Birches, he observes the ‘habit’ of birches, thinks over what he observes, and concludes,
….. Earth is the right place for love:
I do not know where it is likely to go better.
In the Oven Bird, the singing of the bird fills him with delight, he ponders over it and delivers the philosophical conclusion:
The question he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.
In Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, express the conflict in the poet’s mind between his love of the scene and his urgently felt need of keeping his promises and doing his duty. Mowing is a humble rural occupation, but it sets the poet thinking and he comments: “the Fact is the sweetest dream that labour knows”. Almost all the nature-lyrics of Frost reach out to a metaphysical conclusion.
(b) Symbolised the Lyric
Not only has Frost philosophised the lyric, he has also symbolised it. The simplicity of his lyrics is only apparent. In reality they have a richness of texture, and a careful reading reveal that they carry layer within layer of meaning. The unlearned may enjoy them as simple lyrics celebrating the charms of rural New England, but to the more thoughtful they appeal because of the deep moral and philosophical significance that lies underneath. Frost suggests much more than he actually describes. His imagery is drawn from the most commonplace objects and phenomena of the world of nature and the world of man, but the poet endows it with a figurative significance so that the lyric reaches out much beyond the immediate and the physical. Thus in that admirable lyric The Need of Being Versed in Country Things, the country things are symbolic of much that is beyond scrutiny, beyond even the sharpest examination. Says Elizabeth Jenning, “the poem is about a derelict barn, but Frost uses the subject and the occasion to write a poem about the alliance between sensitivity and acceptance, the realistic attitude which is essential to the true countryman. And, of course, the poem is concerned with far more than just this, it reverberates far beyond its immediate subjects. It is profoundly simple and, likewise, simply profound.” The imagery of Frost’s lyrics is symbolic, and symbolism enriches the texture and opens out vast vistas before the mind’s eye. There is constant expansion and extension of meaning and much is conveyed within a little space.

Symbolism in Frost’s Poetry

Symbols: Their Nature and Significance
Symbols are essentially words which are not merely connotative, but also evocative and emotive. In addition to their meaning, they also call up or evoke before the mind’s eye a host of associations connected with them, and are also rich in emotional significance. For example, the word ‘lily’ merely connotes a ‘flower’ but it also evokes images of beauty and innocence. It also carries with it the emotional overtone of pity resulting from suffering or oppression. In this way, through symbols a writer can express much more than by the use of ordinary words; symbols make the language rich and expressive. Concepts which by their very nature are inexpressible can be conveyed in this way. Thus a symbol can be used to convey, “pure sensations”, or the poet’s apprehension of transcendental, mystery.

Frost’s Complexity
Frost’s poetry is easy and simple, but this apparent simplicity of his poetry is deceptive and misleading. In reality, he is a very complex and intricate poet, and this complexity arises from his extensive use of symbols. As he himself tells us in his article The Figure a Poem Makes, “he is by intension a symbolist who takes his symbols from the public domains.” It is by the use of symbols that Frost enriches the texture of his verse and reveals the full significance and deeper meaning of particular situations and events. It thus becomes possible to read his poems at different levels. On the surface there might be merely a plain and simple narration or description, and the poem may be enjoyed as such. But a careful reading reveals the hidden and deeper meaning. When interpreted symbolically the scope widens, and the full implications of what Frost says are brought about. In his use of this oblique method, Frost is at one with such modern poets as T.S. Eliot and W.B. Yeats.
His Regionalism: Its Symbolic Significance
Frost is a great regional poet and the scenes and sights, characters and events of New England form the basis of his poetry. He does not depict all even of this limited region. There is a constant selection and ordering of material. Even of New England, he deals only with the region that lies North of Boston, and of this region, too, only with the countryside and country-dwellers. The result of this sifting and selecting of material is that his regionalism acquires a symbolic significance. The region of North of Boston becomes a microcosm of the world at large, and his Yankee characters become symbolic of human nature in all ages and countries. Emotional responses of his dramatis personae acquire a deeper significance as being symbolic of basic human responses. For example, the emotional agitation of the mother in Home Burial, and the fate of the servant in The Death of the Hired Man, are symbolic of the emotional stress and strain, isolation and alienation, which are the lot of humanity in the modern age. In this way, he is able to embody vast concepts and infinite depths within little space. Vast vistas are thus presented to the mind’s eye, and the effect created is one of unlimited expansion. It thus becomes possible to read even the simplest of his poems at a number of levels.
‘Natural Symbolism’
Warren Austin uses the term ‘natural symbolism’ to describe Frost’s symbols, for they are all drawn from the ordinary, commonplace objects and phenomena of nature, and from the common everyday events and situations of human life. Such symbols have been used by all poets through the ages, because they come to the mind naturally and spontaneously. Frost’s symbols are simple because they are drawn from the simplest sources, but they are also complex, for they express more than one concept, at one and the same time. A brief analysis of a few of his more prominent lyrics would suffice to bring out the characteristic feature of Frost’s symbolistic technique.
Symbolism in ‘Mending Wall’
Take for example the admirable lyric Mending Wall. Read superficially it is merely an account of two New Englanders, one of whom wants to build a boundary wall between their respective fields for according to him, “Good fences made good neighbours”. The other does not consider the fence as at all necessary at that particular place. But the poem is not as simple as that. The fence here has a symbolic significance as well. It also symbolises national, racial, religious, political and economic conflicts and prejudices which divide man from man and come in the way of mutual understanding and harmonious relationship. Should such boundaries be demolished and the world should move towards universal brotherhood and the concept of one-world? Or have they some value and significance? Read on another level, the dispute between the two neighbours symbolises the clash between tradition and modernity, between age and youth. The young wants to demolish the old and the traditional, and re-build society, while the old uphold the value of the traditional and customary. Superficially the poem seems simple: the richness of its texture is revealed only on a symbolic interpretation.
In “Stopping by Woods”
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening has an equally rich texture and admits of several interpretations. On the surface, it is no more than a simple anecdote relating how the poet pauses one evening along a country road to watch the snowfall in the woods: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep”, and as he gazes into the soft, silent whiteness, he is tempted to stay on and on, allowing his mind to lose itself in the enchanted grove. “His consciousness seems on the verge of freeing itself from ordinary life, as if it were about to dissolve in the shadowy blank, but his mind holds back from this.” He remembers that his journey has a purpose. He has promises to keep and many miles to go before he can yield to the dream-like release which the woods seem to offer.
Says Lynen “this is the core of the poem, a moving personal experience exquisitely rendered. Yet in reconsidering it one cannot quite shake off the feeling that a good deal more is intended. The poem is not just a record of something that once happened to the poet; it points outward from the moment described towards far broader areas of experience. It expresses the conflict which everyone has felt, between the demands of practical life, with its obligations to others, and the poignant desire to escape into a land of reverie, where consciousness is dimmed and the senses are made independent of necessity.” There is no overt symbolism in the poem, and yet the reader finds his vision direct in such a way that he sees the poet’s purely personal experience as an image of experiences common to all. The wide scope of the meaning becomes obvious in the final lines, which state the conflict in a simple, realistic way; the poet will have to fulfil certain duties, before he can go to bed; but the “promises”, the “sleep”, and the “miles to go” widen to include more important aspects of his life and, further elements of every man’s life. “Sleep here is of course, the well earned reward at the end of day’s work; but reaching out beyond this, an indeed the whole poem transcends its rural setting, the idea of sleep merges with the final sleep, death itself.” It stands in contrast to the snowy woods, whose temptation is to an irresponsible indulgence ending in the loss of consciousness: it is normal death, and release at the end of a life in which man has kept his promises and travelled the whole distance through human experience. As Lynen points out, “Frost’s symbols define and explain each other.” For example, the woods, the poet enjoys looking upon, are opposed to the promises he must keen and it thus becomes clear that they represent a kind of irresponsibility. Again, since the poet will allow himself to sleep only after he has kept his promises, sleep becomes a deserved reward in contrast to the unearned pleasure of looking at the woods. The wood in Frosts poetry is an ever-recurring complex symbol. It symbolises perilous or sensuous enjoyment, the darkness of ignorance, as well as the dark inner self of man.
Vast Concepts within Little Space
“Even when the poet seems most determined to do no more than describe a scene or episode, his imagery has a significance which extends outward to range upon range of meaning.” In “Out, Out”, for example, he tells the story of how a boy loses his hand by accident while cutting wood and dies only a few hours after. The effect of pathos is so intense that one may at first suppose that this constitutes the poem’s main value. But sad events do not in themselves create moving poetry. “Though Frost may seem only to describe, actually he has so managed his description that the boy’s story symbolizes realities present everywhere in the human situation.” The key to the poem’s meaning is to be found in the fact that the loss of the hand causes almost immediate death:
“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
Ordinarily an accident of this sort would not be mortal, specially when, as in this case, modern medical attention is within reach. “The doctor put him in the dark of ether” and there is no physical reason why he should not have recovered. His death is caused, rather, by his recognition of what the loss of a hand signifies in terms of this life:
“the boy saw all—… He saw all spoiled.”
and that ended it.
The “all” that the boy sees is the complete ruin of his life. The hand has always been associated with power and creativity; in the boy’s world, however, it is not just a symbol of these things, it is quite literally the means of life and livelihood. The boy sees that in losing his hand he has lost the possibility of ever becoming fully a man, not only in the sense of being masculine, but in the sense of achieving fulfilment. The poem implies that anything less than this completeness involves such a maiming that the individual, in an essential way, dies. “The story symbolises a tragic aspect of the human situation: the fact that man’s economic means, for the very reason that they are mechanical in nature, can destroy him. The death may not always be a physical one, as in the boy’s case, but a destruction of man’s essential humanity.”                                                                   —(Lynen)
Complexity of Frost’s Symbols—Symbolic Imagery
An Old Man’s Winter Night provides another good illustration of Frost’s symbolistic technique. The poem is one of his finest, yet it has received very little attention. It depicts an old man alone in his farmhouse on a winter night. We see him first standing alone in a “creaking room”, unable to see out of the windows, unable to remember why he has come there. The imagery emphasizes the very narrow limits of his thought: while, “All out-of-doors looked darkly in at him,” he could not see beyond the frosted panes because of the lamp in his hand. “The light imagery is important, for it symbolizes consciousness, a consciousness lonely, and purposeless old age”:
A light he was to no one but himself
Where now he sat, concerned with he knew not what,
A quiet light, and then not even that.
“The inner light goes out as he falls asleep, and all that remains is the concealed light of the wood stove and the pale moonlight outside. This faint illumination emphasizes the old man’s torpor as he lives on, almost unaware, without kindred or reason for living. In the description of him asleep, the poet depicts his condition as a living death in which the simple processing of physical life continue to function in an automatic way, long after the consciousness which makes for real life has faded out”:
The log that shifted with a jolt
Once in the stove, disturbed him and he shifted’
And eased his heavy breathing, but still slept.
“The poem is not just a portrait of old age, but a definition of death itself. Through Frost’s blending of old age, night, and winter, we see death as a disappearance of order and meaning.” One might conclude that order and meaning in the external world depend upon the organizing power of the mind, and this is one important aspect of the symbolism in the poem. But the total meaning is more complex than this, for Frost also implies that there is a similar organizing power in nature. When the old man can no longer “keep” his house, farm and countryside, these are kept by the moon. “There are two kinds of order, the human and the natural; when the first fails, the second saves the world from chaos. Furthermore, if the moon can assume the power of the mind, there must be an essential affinity between the two kinds of order. “The poem may emphasize the pathos of old age and the horror of death, but it also implies a faith that though death always seems to threaten universal annihilation, order, meaning, and, therefore life itself, cannot really be destroyed.” Further, the Moon symbolises not the thoughts of the day, active and practical, but those of reflection at night. It is primarily a symbol of the imagination, that special power by which the old man, if he were able, would “keep” his countryside. Thus the moon is an important symbol in the poem. It, “symbolizes the organizing power which dies for the individual when his consciousness fades but which cannot itself die, because, though it controls and exists within the physical, it is a principle.” The portrait of the old man alone on a winter night symbolizes not only age and death, but any situation in which man’s ability to keep watch upon his world seems about to fail. “The house and farm, when combined with the countryside, take on a very wide significance. The farmstead, like the house in which Eliot pictures Gerontion, suggests human institutions, society as a whole, and even an entire culture: and the countryside of the old man, the nation, and beyond this, the world.” —(Lynen)
Frost’s technique of communication is essentially symbolic and oblique. Fire and Ice, Two Look at Two, Most of It, Birches, Acquainted with the Night, Directive, Design, Departmental, etc., are all symbolic and reveal layers within layers of meaning on a careful reading. However, we will have to agree with Cleanth Brooks that often Frost states his themes, overtly and explicitly, and therefore, such poems lie outside the symbolic mode. For example, in Two Tramps in Mud-time the theme of the poem—the combination of avocation with vocation—is explicitly, and hence the poem and other such poems, must be read as simple lyrics, celebrating country charms characters and events. The symbolistic method of communication is essentially suggestive, oblique and indirect, and such explicit and direct statement do not square well with it.

Frost’s Vision of Life: His Pessimism

A Poet-Philosopher
Frost was a great artist, a great poet and not a philosopher. The writings of a poet are largely mood-dictated and we must not, therefore, expect to find in him any systematic and profound philosophy. However, when certain views are expressed repeatedly in one poem after another, one may be excused for taking them as expressive of his considered view of life. From a study of Frost’s poetry we know much about his views on Man, God and Nature, and his views are a measure of his sanity and profundity. As Wilfried Gibson tells us, beneath his apparent simplicity and whimsicality, there runs, “the clear stream” of his, “rich and ripe philosophy”. Therefore, we would be justified in calling him a poet-philosopher.

Gloomy and Bleak View of Life
Let us acknowledge at the very outset that Frost’s view of life is a gloomy one. When Frost came to New England to settle there, the region was in a time of declining prosperity. New England was becoming more and more urban and industrialised, more and more people were migrating to the cities. This depopulation of the countryside generated considerable stress and strain. Deserted farms are frequent in the poetry of Frost. The people were caught up in a grim struggle for existence and the future was uncertain and insecure. It is this background of social and economic disturbance which has conditioned Frost’s view of life, and in his, ‘book of people’ North of Boston, he paints, “the bleakest picture of life to be found in his collected poetry”, and the theme of alienation and isolation looms large.
Man: Isolated and Solitary
Robert Frost pictures man as a solitary, lonely figure, isolated and alienated from Nature, from God, and from his fellowmen. He conceives of Nature as soul-less, mechanical and impersonal. Man and Nature are two different principles separated from each other by unsurmountable barriers. Nature may, on some special occasions, show some love or concern for Man, but such occasions are in the nature of a ‘favour’, and not the general rule. In Two Look at Two, a deer and a buck ‘stare’ at a man and woman from behind a man-made fence, and that is all. In The Most of It, the magnificent buck that swims across the lake towards man is the most of it that nature can give. It is a terrifying poem, as terrifying as W.B. Yeats’ The Second Coming, and it brings out the completeness of man’s isolation in his vast and impersonal environment. Such poems make critics like Trilling declare that Frost’s view of the human predicament is a terrifying one.
His Hostile Environment
Nature is not only separate and impersonal, it is actually hostile. Man must wage a constant struggle for survival. Nothing in nature seems to be made for man. He is separated from the stars by immense voids, and the contemplation of the starry heavens only brings out his own littleness and insignificance in the scheme of things. The Star-Splitter tells of a farmer who buys a telescope because he believes that the best thing for which we have been placed on this planet is “to see”. But the telescope is imperfect, and it splits every star into two or three. The farmer thereupon exclaims: “We have looked and looked, but after all where are we ?” The universe in this poem is depicted as incomprehensible. There are nature’s wilderness, the vast desert places, which he must tame and cultivate. Nature is imperfect and chaotic and man must impose order and completeness on it through his “gardening”.
Imperfection of Human Life
Human life has always been out of joint, and it will remain so in the future as well. In The Lesson for Today, Frost says, “We can’t appraise the time in which we act”, but history tells us that something is always wrong and man always suffers frustration and some form of indignity:
There’s always something to be sorry for,
A sordid peace or an outrageous war.
Yes, Yes, of course, we have the same convention,
The groundwork of all faith is human woe.
There is no difference between the ancient religious priest and the modern men of science, because both complain of something wrong with the world:
We’re rivals in the badness of our case.
Remember, and must keep a solemn face.
The cloister and the observatory saint
Take comfort in about the same complaint
So science and religion really meet.
For Frost, “Our age is like another for the soul”, and the lives of individuals, of nations, races and of planets, are full of frustrations and unfulfilled plans. Life is meaningless and incomplete:
There is a limit to our time extension
We are all doomed to our broken off careers.
And so’s the nation, so’s the total race.
The earth itself liable to fate
Of meaning lessness, being broken off
And hence so many literary tears.
Alienation from God
Man is a lonely and solitary figure in a vast and alien universe. He is also alienated from God his Maker. His reason, his rational self, is the barrier that separates him from God. In the poem, The Bear, rational man is said to act like a bear in a cage in his attempts to understand the mystery of the universe. Man’s reason is imperfect, and through reason he cannot understand either the ways of God, or the clear that it is only through faith that man can make himself worthy of the mercy of God.
Suffering Inherent in the Human Lot
In a Trial by Existence he tells us that it is futile to seek for an explanation for the problems and difficulties which face man. The conclusion reached is, “a recognition that suffering is always in terms of what we are, not an alien something hitting us by chance from without, but somehow or other implicit in our very constitution.” Human life on this earth is a trial and, therefore, suffering is inherent in the human lot. In another poem, the poet goes to the extent of saying that there is no God at all to listen to human shrieks and cries:
I turned to speak to God
About the world’s despair;
But to make bad matters worse
I found God wasn’t there.
In The Fear of God, he rejects the Christian conception of a just and merciful God and expresses the view that God is arbitrary:
Whose mercy to you rather than to others
Won’t bear too critical examination
In short, God in Frost’s poetry is either a creature of man’s own imagination or so remote from him as to be meaningless.
Is Frost a Pessimist?
Just as there are barriers which separate man from Nature and God, so also there are barriers which separate him from his fellowmen. Isolate and alienated people abound in his poetry. Social alienation results in emotional disturbance causing neurosis, even lunacy. In the Home Burial, there is the hysterical mother driven to the verge of insanity by the dark shadow of their dead child which alienates her from her husband, so that life with him in the same home becomes impossible for her. The Death of Hired Man, Old Man’s Winter Night, Acquainted with the Night, Hill Wife, are only a few of the many poems dealing with-solitary, alienated and isolated people. Such lyrics, too many even to be named, bring out fully the darker and bleaker side of Frost’s genius. Such views make critics like Randell Jarrell call Frost a pessimist, and another critic to write, “Frost’s view of life is austere and tragic; yet his capacity for finding joy is poignantly ever ready. His spirit is torn by dubieties; his best poems offer queries, not affirmations. The salvation he seeks seems hard to come by. It demands great renunciations. His sensibility is deeply marked by the puritan heritage of his ancestors. In many ways he is the counterpart of T.S. Eliot.”
Frost’s Realism: His Sanity
There is no doubt that Frost takes a ‘twilight’ view of man and his existence on this earth, but we cannot agree with those who call him a pessimist merely for this reason. True pessimism implies a will not to live, a view that it would have been better not to have been born at all. Even Thomas Hardy is truly pessimistic only in his last novel, Jude the Obscure, where Father Time first hangs his little brothers and sisters and then himself commits suicide, because he feels that life is not worth living, that the earth is already too over-crowded, and it would have been better by far for them not to have been born at all. We do not find any such nihilistic views in Frost. Only, he is not one of those blind optimistic who shut their eyes to harsh reality and sing:
God is in His Heaven
All is right with the world.
Rather, he is a realist who focuses attention on the Evil, Wickedness and suffering that there is, for, “if a way to the better there be”, it implies a good look at the worst. The essential truth about human existence must be faced and understood, for such understanding is essential for any possible improvement and reform. He is a sane and balanced philosopher, a man of mature wisdom, who uses his poetry as, “a vehicle for his inquiries into the nature and meaning of life.”
Ways of Ameliorating Human Lot
No, Frost is not a pessimist. He is a realist, and an ameliorist. He studies the human predicament, examines its different facets, and then suggests ways and means by which human lot can be improved and bettered. First, he suggests that we must respect the ‘otherness’ of other individuals, and not try to impose ourselves upon anybody. Distances must be maintained. In Mending Wall, he teaches us that “Good fences make good neighbours”, and the moral of the Build Soil is, “keep off each other and keep each other off”. Amicable human relationship is possible only in this way. Loneliness and alienation may be the subject of his inquiry in many a poem, but this does not mean that he admires isolation, and dislikes democracy and brotherhood. Rather, he advocates the Aristotelian golden mean between self-centredness and self-love, and society and companionship. A man must try to under­stand his fellow men and love and sympathy would follow upon such understanding. Healthy social life is possible only in this way. In a way his pre-occupation with the theme of alienation may be taken as a psychological expression of his intensely felt need for human society. Lawrence Thompson agrees with this view and says, “His poems closely represent the confrontation of fear, lostness, alienation, not so much for purposes of shuddering as for purposes of overcoming fright, first through individual, and then through social, ingenuity, courage, daring and action.”
Secondly, he advocates devotion to work which in his view is necessary to make life bearable. Nature is imperfect and chaotic, and man must seek to perfect and order it through a constant process of ‘gardening’. “Fact is the sweetest dream that labour knows”, and one must do one’s duty under all circumstances. The woods may be ‘lovely and deep’, but their enchantment must not make one forget that,
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep.
True virtue is in the doing, not in what is done. In the Trail by Existence, he suggests, that, “the greatest reward of daring the struggle is still to dare”. The true purpose of life is to test the heroism of the human soul. Therefore, one must struggle and dare and suffer the uttermost on earth, for only in this way can man deserve the bliss of heaven, and the mercy of God.
Thirdly, he advocates that Man must have faith in God. The mystery of life and the ways of God cannot be understood through reason. His salvation lies in absolute Faith. While on earth do your duty with sincerity and devotion and with Faith in the divine, and then most certainly God would assuage the cruelty and injustice of man’s lot on this earth. He tells us in the Masque of Mercy:
I can see that the uncertainty
In which we act is a severity
A cruelty, amounting to injustice
That nothing but God’s mercy can assuage.
Man can be saved only by God’s mercy, which man receives for having laboured under grave injustice, and despite the many ‘barriers’, and limitations which have been imposed upon him, and which he must struggle all his life to overthrow. This is the only way to man’s salvation, for it he does not labour thus his limitations would not admit of any salvation. To Frost, God is still one who cares for man, “and will save him, no matter how many times or how completely he has failed.”
Fourthly, it should be remembered that in postulating a soulless and mechanistic universe, he is merely echoing the teaching of modern science. Nature is pure matter and man has a soul or spirit. Frost repeatedly asserts the superiority of man over nature. Man can impose his willover the chaotic world of nature and order and complete it. Man is superior to the lower creatures and other objects of nature. In the Tree at My Window, he tells us that the tree is concerned only with, ‘outer whether’ and a concern for ‘inner whether’ is possible only for man. In the White Tailed Hornet, he deplores our habit of instituting downward comparisons as a result of which “our worship, honour, consciousness”, have long since gone to the dogs under the table. In the Accidently on Purpose, he writes:
Grant me intention, purpose and design
That is near enough for me to the divine.
Frost’s Sanity: His Message
In short, Frost is a wise poet-philosopher who advocates not a rejection of life, but an acceptance of it with all its limitation. He loves the world and life in it, even though he often finds faults with it, quarrels with it as a lover often does with the women he loves. His quarrel with the world is a, ‘lover’s quarrel’. In Birches he tells us, “Earth is the right place for love”. He does not regard the universe as chaotic, though he is conscious of its many imperfections. He does not shut his eyes to the hardness of man’s lot, but suggests ways and means for its amelioration. His message to his fellow-men is to have,
…. Courage in the heart
To overcome the fear in the soul.
And go ahead to any accomplishment.
Action, determined and fearless, in the living present; is considered by Frost as essential for human salvation.

Frost’s Major Themes: Alienation, Isolation and Loneliness

Man: His Solitariness
Robert Frost has written on almost every subject, but alienation and isolation, both emotional and physical, are the major themes of his poetry. His, ‘book of people’, North of Boston, is full of solitaries who are lonely and isolated for one reason or the other. Frost is a great poet of boundaries and barriers which divide men from men and come in the way of communication, and so result in lack of understanding and friction. Man is not only isolated from other man, but Frost pictures him as also alone and solitary in an impersonal and unfeeling environment.

Separateness from the Stars
This concern with barriers, barriers which result in alienation and loneliness, is a predominant theme in Frost’s poetry. There are barriers at least of five kinds. First, there is the great natural barrier, the void, the space, which separates man from the stars. Man foolishly tries to bridge this gap, but all his efforts in this respect are of no avail. Such efforts only make him more conscious of his own littleness. As he tells us in the Lessons for Today, the contemplation of the ghast heights of the sky has a belittling effect on man and he is overwhelmed by a terrifying sense of his own solitariness in the universe.
In the poem entitled Stars, the poet tells us how man gets attracted by nature only to be disillusioned by it. Here, the stars shining in the sky at midnight do not lend any glory or state to the gazer. Rather, they produce a note of disenchantment:
“And yet with neither love nor hate
Though the stars like some snow-white
Mineroas’ snow-like marble eyes
Without the gift of sight.
Elsewhere, in Astro Metaphysical, love of looking at the changing skies leads to an unwelcome situation:
Till I have reeled and stumbled
From looking up too much,
And fallen and been humbled
To wear to Crutch”.
In another poem, we find how clever human plans to establish relationship with nature are thwarted. The protagonist of The Star-Splitter, purchases a telescope with the insurance money that he gets by burning his house down. He gazes at the stars but cannot escape the question that raises its ugly head towards the end:
We’ve looked and looked
But after all where are we
Nature’s Wilderness
Secondly, there are the barriers, between man and the immediate natural world,—the barren and desert places—which man must conquer, reclaim and cultivate. He must constantly wage a war against such wildernesses, if he is to survive in an environment which seems hostile to him, which at least, is not meant for him and in which he is an alien. Says Marion Montgomery, “there are those souls, of course, who are content to have a barrier stand as a continual challenge which they never quite accept; such is the old teamster of The Mountain who lives and works in the shade of the mountain he always intends to climb but never does. And there are those who accept the challenge and go down in defeat; the deserted village of the Census Taker with its gaunt and empty buildings is evidence of such failure. The woman in A Servant to Servants has lost out to the wilderness by losing her sanity. Her days are spent in caring for the house while the men are away, and the emptiness of the world has overcome her. There are others on the border line of tragic failure. The Hill Wife, though not out of her mind, still has a fear of her house once she has left it, deserted it, and has to return to it. When she comes back she has to reconquer it:
They learned to rattle the lock and key
To give whatever might chance to be
Warning and time to be off in flight.
Courage is needed to reclaim at home. The preacher in the long poem Snow insists on going into the heart of the blizzard when he could remain overnight with his neighbours with no inconvenience to them or himself. But he must go and conquer the blizzard “Wherever there is failure, wherever the natural world has won out there are always the young who follow the restore where their fathers failed. In Generations of Men the boy and girl meet for the first time at the ruins of an old homeplace, sit on the edge of the cellar, and talk about families and the decayed places. In the end they are in love, or about to fall in love, and have made a pact to return and rebuild the old homeplace.” Alone and helpless as he is, man must wage a constant war against his physical environment which is inimical to human existence.
The Otherness of Nature
Thirdly, Man’s physical existence itself is a barrier which divides man from the soul or spirit of nature. While Wordsworth denied the very existence of barriers between man and nature, for Frost a wide gulf separates man and nature, spirit and matter. In a number of poems he stresses the ‘othernes’s and indifference of Nature, and shows that it is futile to expect any sympathy from the spirit of soul which moves or governs the world. Individual man and the forces of nature are two different principles, and the boundaries which separate them must be respected. These boundaries are insisted upon. In Two Look at Two, the man and the woman do feel that there is an affinity between themselves and the buck and the doe that stare back at them. But such moments are rare. They are ‘a favour’, and even here there is the man-made fence of, ‘barbed wire binding’, which separates, “human nature from deer nature”. In Most of It man is shown in all his terrifying loneliness by the behaviour of the buck:
But after a time allowed for it to swim,
Instead of proving human when it neared
And someone else additional to him,
As a great buck—it powerfully appeared,
Pushing the crumpled water up ahead,
And landed pouring like a waterfall,
And stumbled through the rocks with horny tread.
And forced the underbush
and that was all
“The magnificent buck which swims toward him from across the lake is—’the most of it—all the nature can give. That this is so shows the completeness of man’s isolation.” A Minor Bird also stresses the active barriers between man and nature. The poet is bored by the bird which sings at his window and wishes it away:
I have wished the bird would fly away,
And not seen by me have of day
Have clapped my hands at him from the door
When it seemed as if I could hear no more
Emotional and Social Isolation—Fear
Fourthly there are barriers which separate man from man. Such barriers come in the way of social communication, and lack of communication leads to social alienation and emotional isolation and loneliness. Mending Wall is an ironic comment on those who raise walls between themselves and their neighbours, because they think, “good fences make good neighbours”. Read symbolically, the poem is a comment on racial, religious, national and ideological barriers which divide and separate man from man. Such barriers come to the way of human relationship, generate tensions, which result in neurosis and emotional imbalance verging on insanity. North of Boston is full of such emotionally isolated and alienated people. In the Home Burial there is a grievous lack of communication between the husband and the wife, and the mother’s grief deepens into insanity. The shadow of their dead child is the barrier which divides them and alienates them from each other. The Death of the Hired Man presents a terrifying picture of the loneliness of a socially alienated old servant, Silas, who must work even in his old age to support himself. His pride keeps him away from his own brother, and his increasing inefficiency compels him to change his masters, and move on, alone and helpless, like a stricken deer. The group of poems entitled The Hill Wife offer flawless portraits of fear and loneliness. The essential loneliness of the human spirit is also expressed convincingly in poems like Acquainted with the Night, An Old Man’s Winter Night, Stopping by Woods, etc. Desert Places points to a wasteland in the heart of man which is harder to bear than the wasteland of the surrounding world:
They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars
on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.
“It is a poem that overwhelms us what a sense of frightening forsakenness” Provide, Provide evokes an agonising emotion of alienation which no amount of bantering can attenuate or overcome. No one can miss the pronounced tragic tone of the ironic lines:
Die early and avoid the fate
Or if predestined to die late
Make up your mind to die in state.
Isolation from God
Fifthly, man’s reason and intellect is the barrier that alienates him from God, his Maker. His rational bias deprives him of the bliss of communion with God. The theme of the Masque of Reason is that reason combined with faith alone can lead to understanding and wisdom. It is only through faith that man can work out his own salvation and make life agreeable.
Conclusion: Ways of Improving Human Lot
Thus in Frost’s view man is a solitary, a stranger in this world, and so he remains upto the end. However, he can improve his lot, and make his life worth living, by recognising the otherness of other individuals. He should try to understand his own nature, and with self-understanding there would come greater and greater understanding of his environment and of his fellow men. With understanding would come an acceptance of the world as it is, and also of the differences which exist between man and man. He would then love his fellow men, as well as the world of nature, despite the barriers which divide him from both. Though barriers and alienation loom large in the poetry of Frost, it does not mean that he is against democracy or the brotherhood of man.  Speaking psychologically, Frost’s concern with loneliness is an expression of his intensely felt need for human love, sympathy and fellowship. W.G. O’Donnell rightly stresses that, “Democracy and America find representative voices in both Frost and Whitman, both writers are concerned with brotherhood and fellowship, although each approaches the problem in an individual fashion. Whitman responds to the question of the attainment of democracy by writing the vague and formless song of the open road, by spreading out his arms in a universal embrace that gathers in North and South, black, white, yellow, and red, good and evil, the prude and the rake. Others may be divisive, selective, or exclusive, but Walt Whitman accepts everyone and with romantic gusto loudly affirms all aspects of life in America. Robert Frost believe no loss strongly in the value of affirmation, but looking at the world more realistically than Whitman does, he knows that if alienation could be overcome by the repeated affirmation of fellowship, it would have disappeared a long time ago.” It can be achieved only through faith, courage and fortitude. Man must accept the human condition and try to make the most of it.