Term Paper: Frost's Poetry and Landscape

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[. . .] After the ceremony, Frost proposed to Elinor. Because they were going to distant colleges, Elinor wanted the engagement to be kept a secret. Frost wanted to be married right away, but she argued that there would be plenty of time for marriage when circumstances were different (Parini 31).

College life did not agree with RF, and after a year, he returned home to a series of odd jobs while he waited for his beloved Elinor. During this time his live of reading poems turned to writing them. When work was slow he wrote poetry. It was then that he started "My Butterfly," a poem he had thought up when he found butterfly wings among leaves while he was at Dartmouth College. Frost later called this work his "first real poem.

Robert Frost - The Poet

It is hard to construct a broad and complete basis on which a poet finds his inspiration, but in RF's life and writings, the theme of aloneness, loss, and personal isolation are oft repeated.

Many scholars, in reviewing his poetry, look at his departure from the traditionalist styles of Pound and Eliot, Frost and Doolittle, Conrad Aiken and Carl Sandburg, and label him as ingenious because he had the courage to depart from the accepted form to write his own verse.

The poet was in his twentieth year when he realized that the speech of books and the speech of life were far more fundamentally different than was supposed. His models up to that period.. had been literary models. But his found quite by accident that real artistic speech was only to be copied form life." (Interviews with Robert Frost, 4) However, it is quite possible that the traditional structure of large words, measured meter and rhyme did not suit the naked emotions with which RF felt compelled to write. It was less a stroke of genious as it was the necessity for real words and real settings, and images real to the common reader that RF chose to communicate his emotions.

His verse convincingly deals with social fragments.

Possibly his own fragmented familial history made him particularly sensitive to the same themes in human nature and society.

His call was one for individual thought, and moving away from sublime, overworked themes of traditionalist writers. His desire was for "American poets to only try to use all the tones of life, and will drop the eternal sublime and se that all life is a fit subject for poetic treatment... We must have a new subject matter, new treatment of it, and we must employ the neglected tones and forget the overworked ones." (Interviews, 14)

Frost does not allow his premise full development by the anthropocentric person. In other words, characteristics of his writings mean the same to Frost as his predecessors. Emily Dickinson's "The Soul selects Her Own Society" is a perfect example of characteristics. "Society" means to Frost very much what it means to Emily Dickinson, moreover, "divine majority" consist of not more than two souls more often than not. Sparingly, Frost denies an individual's achievements, and the denial is deeply implicated in much of his work.

Robert Frost finds freedom of movement out of a sense of restraint, another tactic he finds as an outgrowth of the conflicting moods and feelings within himself. The movement of one extreme is provoked by the imminence of another. "The Wood-Pile" is like a sequel to "Home Burial" with the person wandering from "home." More a meditation than a dramatic narrative, it offers the soliloquy of a lone figure walking in a winter landscape.

Soon after writing his first real poem, RF learned that "The Independent," a prominent literary paper, would publish his poem "My Butterfly: an Elegy" and would pay him fifteen dollars. Pleased with his achievement, Frost once again tried to get Elinor to marry him. He was turned down, and in despair, he traveled to the Dismal Swamp on the Virginia-North Carolina border. The swamp had been regarded by poets like Longfellow and Thomas Moore as a good place for those who had lost hope to run away to. One poem he wrote while in his gloomy environment was "Reluctance," where his frustrations were mirrored by his surroundings. It ends with one of Frost's most heart-wrenching stanzas:

Ah, when to the heart of man

Was it ever less than treason

To go with the drift of things,

To yield with a grace to reason,

And bow and accept the end

Of a love or a season?

Frost returned home November 30, determined to win the heart of Elinor White no matter what the cost (Parini 50). Robert's wish was finally granted when he married Elinor a in December 1895, a year after he had run away to the dismal swamp.(Chalton 42). Their first son Elliot was born on September 25. However, sorrow was not long absent from the Frost home. Not long after the Frost family had begun, it too was met with a traumatic loss. Their first son died in 1900 of cholera. The death of his son caused Robert to plunge into deep, prolonged depression. Frost's works, "Home Burial," "Out, Out-," and A Masque of Mercy were influenced by the death of Elliot. They contain description about the sadness he felt from losing a child (Parini 68).

In 1901, the Frosts moved to a farm in Derry, New Hampshire paid for by Robert's grandfather. The farm and its beautiful surroundings were the subject of many of Frost's poems in his two poetry books A Boy's Will and North of Boston. Later in his life, Frost himself said, "To a large extent the terrain of my poetry is the Derry landscape, the Derry farm. Poems growing out of this, though composite, were built on incidents and are therefore autobiographical. There was something about the experiences at Derry which stayed in my mind, and was trapped there for poetry in the years that came after (Parini 73). It is from this time forward that RF began to write, publish, and gain renown for his poetic genius.

Robert Frost overcame so many hurdles in his life to become one of America's favorite poets. His poverty, tragedies, and illnesses could have hindered him, but instead he used these experiences as a basis for his poems. By using simple themes and structures, Robert Frost found his way into the hearts of average Americans, making him an important part of American literature.

Robert Frost - The Poetry

Boy's Will - 1913

From the first lines in his early collections, RF's recurring lonliness, and the extent he associated with the lonliness of life appear in verse.

Ghost House

DWELL in a lonely house I know

That vanished many a summer ago,

And left no trace but the cellar walls,

And a cellar in which the daylight falls,

And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow.

O'er ruined fences the grape-vines shield

The woods come back to the mowing field;

The orchard tree has grown one copse

Of new wood and old where the woodpecker chops;

The footpath down to the well is healed.

A dwell with a strangely aching heart

In that vanished abode there far apart On that disused and forgotten road

That has no dust-bath now for the toad.

Night comes; the black bats tumble and dart;

The whippoorwill is coming to shout

And hush and cluck and flutter about:

hear him begin far enough away Full many a time to say his say

Before he arrives to say it out.

It is under the small, dim, summer star.

I know not who these mute folk are Who share the unlit place with me -- "

Those stones out under the low-limbed tree

Doubtless bear names that the mosses mar.

They are tireless folk, but slow and sad,

Though two, close-keeping, are lass and lad, -- "

With none among them that ever sings,

And yet, in view of how many things,

As sweet companions as might be had.

For those who live in a city setting, much of the intimacy of this poem could be lost. But to a country boy, the mixture of a deserted farm house, living, and healing paints a lonely man longing for a time, or place in his life that is no more. Time has passed on, but he remains, living in a ghost house. He dwells, and still resides in a lonely house, his own of childhood, that vanished many years ago. What he can still identify, like most of us can identify from our childhood home, is the foundation, and the setting in which this house stood. The walls are gone, but sunlight, his favorable memories, still pour into the foundation. The fences are ruined, and the forested part of the land has regrown right up to the edge of the mowing field. Time and overgrowth has retaken that which he tended, and mowed, but his heart is still there, cutting and mowing… [END OF PREVIEW]

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