Robert Frost has been described as an ordinary man with a deep respect for nature, talking to ordinary people. To what extent do you agree with this view? Poetry is a literary medium which often resonates with the responder on a personal level, through the subject matter of the poem, and the techniques used to portray this. Robert Frost utilises many techniques to convey his respect for nature, which consequently makes much of his poetry relevant to the everyday person.
The poems “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ and “The mending wall” strongly illuminate Frost’s reverence to nature and deal with such matter that allows Frost to speak to ordinary people. On the surface, “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” deals with a seemingly unimportant event, of the poet stopping one winter evening, mesmerised by the snow and the wood. However, at a figurative level, the poem goes deeper dealing with the concept of the choices that people make in life. The poem is set in a rural area, with merely an implication of the city in “his house is in the village”.
This setting choice as well as stanza 1, which tells of the poet stopping to “watch his woods fill up with snow”, creates a strong image of nature being a predominant feature of this poem. The first stanza also creates a contrast between the poet and the owner of the woods who is presumably a ‘sensible’ person staying warm in his house. This raises the question of why the poet has stopped in such cold weather. Hence, this contrast serves as a metaphor that provides a link back to the concept of the poem, as it may speak of his choice to be involved with life, rather than choosing ‘comfortable withdrawal’ [‘Poetry of Robert Frost’].
The poem continues contrasting the poet with his horse, Frost personifying the latter in “My little horse must think it queer/ To stop without a farmhouse near”. This metaphor shows that even the persona acknowledges, through his horse, that others may not make sense of the choice he has made to continue his journey on the “darkest evening of the year”. However, the responder is able to get a sense of what the persona is so entranced by in the third stanza, where there is a beauty in the woods as the “The only other sound’s the sweep/ Of easy wind and downy flake”.
The assonance of the letter ‘o’ in this creates a soft, dream-like tone, which emphasises the poet’s captivation by the scenery. The final stanza expands on this, opening with “The woods are lovely, dark and deep”. The use of the word “lovely” reinforces the beauty of the woods, but the alliteration of the letter ‘d’ creates a heavy tone which may indicate that they could be perilous. For the poet, these words could mean that for him the woods represent escapism and irrationality.
Due the allure that the woods clearly have over the poet, he is faced with a choice at the end of the poem- to stay and enter the “woods” or to continue on his journey in life. He makes his choice clear in the final lines of the last stanza saying “But I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep/ And miles to go before I sleep”. His choice is clear through the use of the word “but” and the repetition of the final two lines emphasises that it is ‘life and personal involvement that he chooses, rather than withdrawal and death’ [‘Poetry of Robert Frost’].
Hence, Frost effectively juxtaposes the gentle attractiveness of the woods with the clear call to journey on and fulfil promises. Throughout this poem, Frost uses much of the imagery of the natural environment to ‘enhance the aural and visual impact of the poem’ [Common Poetry, Robert Frost], and deals with a concept that is faced ‘ordinary people’ everyday- that of making a choice to go on in life even when it is so appealing to simply go into the “dark and deep”.
Therefore, this poem illuminates Frosts’ respect for nature as well as his ability to speak to ordinary people. This ability is also conveyed in ‘Mending Wall’, a one stanza poem that explores Frost’s ideas about the barriers’ that exist in relationships. Literally, the poem is about two neighbours who disagree about the need of building a wall to separate their properties. However, when the responders’ delves deeper into the poem, it is clear that at a allegorical level the wall is a metaphor representing the barrier that exists in the neighbours’ friendship.
The first eleven lines of the poem if rife with imagery that describes the dilapidation of the wall. The first line of the poem emphasises that “something” exists that “doesn’t love a wall”. This personification makes the “something” seem human-like. The use of words such as “spills” and “makes gaps” convey an image of animate actions and create a vivid impression of the degradation of the wall. Nature, presented in the form of cold weather, frost and the activities of creatures, also seeks to destroy the wall.
The idea that walls are unnatural and therefore nature abhors walls is portrayed in the phrase “makes gaps even two can pass abreast”, which metaphorically indicates that nature desires for man to walk side by side with no barrier between them. When the two meet to fix the wall, it is a metaphor that could be interpreted as the two repairing their friendship as “To each the boulders have fallen to each” which shows that faults in their relationship lie on behalf of them both.
While they are mending the wall, a light-hearted tone is established. This is shown through the inclusion of the metaphor “spring is mischief in me” which shows the neighbours having fun together in repairing the wall, creating a cheerful atmosphere. This creates an ironic feel to the poem, as although the beginning of the poem presented negativity to erecting the wall, mending the wall is allowing the neighbours to spend more time together and hence strengthening their communication and friendship.
Despite this, the narrator continues to question the purpose of the wall. To portray this, there is a repetition of “something there is that doesn’t love a wall”, which emphasises that-like nature- the narrator wants the wall to be taken down. However, the neighbour who is described using the simile “like an old-stone savage” and thus could be a representation of society which is also rigid in its views, only replies with “Good fences make good neighbours”.
There is a repetition of this statement throughout the poem, which effectively asserts the opinion that society adopts in regards to ‘barriers’ between people: that although people can be close friends, for a successful relationship there will always be a barrier in between them, acting as a boundary that grants privacy and security. Like many of his other poems, Frost once again shows his respect for nature in this poem through his portrayal of it as a sort of body that only wills harmony and friendship among all.
He also succeeds in speaking to ordinary people through his exploration of such a universal matter, that impacts upon each human’s life everyday- that of the perpetual metaphorical wall that is present in relationships. In conclusion, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and “Mending Wall” are poems that use nature to epitomise what the poet is trying to portray and deal with concepts that have a personal meaning to every single responder. Hence, it can be said that Frost indeed had a deep respect for nature and spoke to ordinary people.