Friday, March 25, 2011

Springlight: Robert Frost

TO THE THAWING WIND (posted here as a celebration of Robert Frost's birthday on March 26th)

Come with rain, O loud Southwester!
Bring the singer, bring the nester;
Give the buried flower a dream;
Make the settled snow-bank steam;
Find the brown beneath the white;
But whate'er you do to-night,
Bathe my window, make it flow,
Melt it as the ice will go;
Melt the glass and leave the sticks
Like a hermit's crucifix;
Burst into my narrow stall;
Swing the picture on the wall;
Run the rattling pages o'er;
Scatter poems on the floor;
Turn the poet out the door.

Also see his “Spring Pools” (1928)

These pools that, though in forests, still reflect
The total sky almost without defect,
And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver,
Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone,
And yet not out by any brook or river,
But up by roots to bring dark foliage on.
The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods---
Let them think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
These flowery waters and these watery flowers
From snow that melted only yesterday.

Born in San Francisco but a self-adopted son of New England, Frost developed a style that remains fresh. It amalgamates qualities of mind (irony, wit), invention in phrasing (rural in its roots yet beneath it all educated and well read), and first-hand contact with local nature. He seeks nature but refuses the sentimental and transcendent sides of Romanticism. Poems such as (his) “Spring Pools” seem at first easy. Then one discovers how demanding, taut, and efficient the form is, and how closely Frost has observed what he depicts. The lines also capture complex ecological processes—forest growth and succession, wild flowers, light, shade, the change of seasons, hydrology, and the role of temporary wetlands.

And of course, I have to add a childhood favorite (that takes on new meanings later in life):

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Frost said his poem "The Road Not Taken" was tricky-very tricky. Three things make his poem tricky-the time frame, and the words "sigh" and "difference."

Frost claims that he wrote this poem about his friend Edward Thomas, with whom he had walked many times in the woods near London. Frost has said that while walking they would come to different paths and after choosing one, Thomas would always fret wondering what they might have missed by not taking the other path. never know what your choice will mean until you have lived it.

Is the sigh one of nostalgic relief or perhaps regre - the “oh, dear” kind of sigh, but also the “what a relief” kind of sigh. Or something else?

These reflections on "Two Roads..." found here

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