Analyse The Woodpile and compare the language and themes to other Frosts poems
Frost writes a lot about the emotion of solitude and being isolated, either physically or mentally, and this poem is no different. The line, “I was just far from home”, is a good example to show how isolated and unhappy the narrator is feeling as home is a place of comfort. Pathetic fallacy is used, as the images in this poem set up a bleak icy day that reflects these emotions, for example, “frozen swamp one grey day”, the adjectives, “frozen” and “gray” emphasise this lonely feeling.
Frost also gives the reader the impression of the horizon looking the same, emphasising how lost the narrator is feeling, “Too much alike to mark or name a place by”. There are other poems that resemble the idea of being alone; two examples are Home Burial and The Tuft Of Flowers. Home Burial is, for me, the loneliest poem in this selection, as it says that even though you may be surrounded by people it is possible to feel alone emotionally. In the beginning of the poem The Tuft Of Flowers the narrator is feeling alone physically.
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However this poem questions whether or not people can ever be truly alone, and, as a contrast to most of Frost’s poems like Home Burial, decides you can’t. Many parallels can be drawn between Tuft Of Flowers and The Wood Pile, another being nature, in a way, leading the narrator to an object that consequently leads the reader to the meaning of the poem. In The Wood Pile a bird flies down close to the narrator and whilst being distracted by the bird the narrator comes to the foot of a neatly measured woodpile.
To show the reader that this concrete image is the most important in this poem, Frost describes it precisely, “and measured four by four by eight”. This Woodpile lets Frost make his point that people get tired of the things they do and consequently forget about them, the reader can see this from the image of the wood decaying, “slow smokeless burning of decay”. Frost also talks about the uselessness of the woodpile if it is left there “leave it there far from a useful fire place”. The words decay and useless mean the same thing as waste and wastefulness, showing that Frost’s meaning is that of humans discard for the things they do.
In Tuft Of Flowers, the narrator is in the process of turning some freshly cut grass, so it can be dried and made into hay, when they spot a butterfly, that whilst following it with their eyes sees a beautiful area of flowers that the mower had left for the enjoyment of others. The narrator then realise that even though they and the mower are working separately they are not just working for themselves but for other people, and thus decide that men can never truly be alone, ” ‘Men work together’ I told him from the heart ‘whether they work together or work apart'”.
As these two concrete images lead the reader to the meaning of the poem we can see that Frost uses concrete lexis to portray abstract ideas. I believe The Woodpile is sending out the message that people are wasteful and forgetful as the wood chopper has made this stack of wood perfectly and then went off and forgot about it, however, it might be that Frost is trying to tell us that the work is more important than the reward.
I think the message Frost is trying to send across is that of humans’ forgetfulness as the woodpile is left there to rot, the quote, “and leave it there far from a useful fire place” shows this. As Frost ends this poem on the image, “Slow smokeless burning of decay”, which is a rather nasty image, I feel the underlying message can’t be a nice one; further, as the last word in the poem is decay, that is another way of saying waste, I feel Frost is criticising people by calling them wasteful.
However, Frost does say, “I thought only someone who lived in turning to fresh tasks could so forget his handiwork”. As Frost says that this person must have moved on to another job very quickly in order to forget his amazing work this poem could be read on a level that Frost believes everybody should live like this and not care for the reward but the pleasure of working. The idea that people get tried of the things they do too quickly is repeated in the poem After Apple Picking.
In this poem the narrator admits that even though he was really looking forward to this harvest he is bored of it now, “I am overtired of the great harvest I myself desired”. In the end of The Wood Pile we can see one of Frost’s major themes that nature is stronger and in the end more powerful than humans. We can see this in two ways. Firstly, that the snow has obliterated all evidence that humans have been here to make this woodpile, “No runner tracks in this year’s snow looped near it”.
Secondly, the reader can see that the man made objects-the stake and the prop that were originally put there to support the woodpile are falling over, and that nature is supporting the woodpile now, firstly from a plant wrapped around it and secondly from a tree that it is balancing on. This idea that nature is protecting it now is emphasised by the simile, “clematis had wound string around it like a bundle”, the words wrap and bundle make this quote sound like he is relating the clematis to a mother and the woodpile to a new born baby, and thus emphising the effect of nature protecting the woodpile.
Two of Frost’s earliest poems, Ghost House and Mending Wall, also shows his idea that nature is more powerful than humans. Ghost House is about a house that has been abandoned and is now so overgrown it is like nature is claiming it back, just as the woodpile has been claimed back by the clematis. “The footpath down to the well is healed” this line from The Ghost House symbolises that the grass has grown over the footpath and the word healed shows that it is better than it was before. Mending Wall is about two farmers relentlessly putting up a wall that has been knocked down by wind and ice.
The line, “The gaps I mean, no one has seen them made or heard them made” symbolises that something beyond their control is knocking the wall down, and as this thing is nature we can see that nature is more powerful than humans. The Woodpile, like many of his later poems, is written in blank verse. This poem is also written in the form of an un-rhyming monologue that gives the impression of a person that doesn’t really have anything to say and thus is rambling. The frequent enjambment used also makes this poem sound like a one sided conversation.
Frost uses this conversational technique in plenty of other poems such as After Apple Picking. This technique of making his poem sound like a conversation is backed up by the trivial and unexciting moment of experience that starts of the deep hidden meaning of this poem. Therefore, I believe that The Woodpile is quintessential Frost as it uses many of his techniques, such as his un-rhyming monologue, nature being stronger than humans, abstract ideas represented by a concrete lexis, and the bleak emotion of solitude.