Robert Frost poetry poems To Be Covered



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Robert Frost

  • POETRY

Poems To Be Covered:

  • The Tuft of Flowers
  • Mending Wall
  • ‘Out, Out – ’
  • Acquainted with the Night
  • The Road Not Taken

Biography

  • Robert Frost was born in San Francisco in 1874 but after his father died when he was 11 his family moved to New England, on the east coast where his grandparents lived.
  • Here he attended high school where he was honoured as an exceptional student, with a fellow student Elinor White. Recognising that they were both very bright and adored poetry, they began a relationship and ultimately married.

Biography

  • Frost wished to remove the elitism from poetry and he disliked poetry where lines were only meaningful if you had read obscure books.
  • This feeling most likely stems from the fact that, in spite of his intelligence, Frost was a college dropout who came from an unprivileged background.
  • Frost had not settled into college life. He did not take to fraternity life and hated being apart from Elinor.

Biography

  • Frost supported his family through work on various farms and through teaching.
  • In 1912 Frost and his family moved to England, where, with the money he got from selling his farm, he was able to devote himself entirely to writing.
  • His efforts to establish himself and his work were almost immediately successful. Favourable reviews on both sides of the Atlantic resulted in Frost’s reputation as a leading poet.
  • Frost moved back to America in 1915 where, with the money he got from book sales enabled him to buy a farm in New Hampshire.
  • In 1924 he received a Pulitzer Prize in poetry.

Biography

  • During the 1930’s, as he become ever more honoured as a poet, Frost endured a terrible series of family disasters.
  • In 1934 his youngest and best loved child, Marjorie, died a slow death from a fever she contracted while having her first child.
  • In 1938 his wife Elinor died suddenly of a heart attack.
  • And just as he seemed to be pulling things together once more, his son Carol committed suicide in 1940.
  • Another daughter, Irma, suffered from mental disorders and was finally institutionalised.

Biography

  • In his work, Frost found the greatest meaning in the natural world.
  • Shunning the modern world of the city, Frost relied upon the natural surroundings of his various farms to provide him with inspiration and symbols.
  • But he always refused to be classified as a nature poet, insisting his poems contained so much more.
  • However, the appeal of Robert Frost to so many people during his lifetime and afterwards, was the connection he allowed them to an almost forgotten world of nature in a modern world of cities and industry.

The Tuft of Flowers

  • The speaker comes to a field to turn the grass another man has cut.
  • Before beginning his work, the speaker looks for the mower but he is already gone. The speaker resigns himself to the fact that he must get on with his work alone, just as the mower had to do.
  • He is left feeling dejected and comes to the conclusion that we are all ultimately alone.
  • However, just as he thinks this a butterfly goes by and distracts him.

The Tuft of Flowers

  • The speaker watches the butterfly and it brings a tuft of flowers to his attention.
  • He realises that the mower did not cut them down because he thought they were beautiful and they gave him great joy.
  • The flowers inspire the speaker and he begins to think differently about his circumstances. The fact that the mower spared the flowers makes him a kindred spirit.
  • He has made a connection with this man even though he has never met him and this changes his opinion on man’s condition.
  • Now he believes men always work together, whether together or apart.

THEMES

  • Nature
  • This poem celebrates the beauty and power of the natural world. The speaker is inspired and delighted by the beauty of the flowers.
  • In a vivid image he describes the flower’s dramatic colours in terms of flames leaping from the ground: “A leaping tongue of bloom”.
  • The mower too had appreciated the beauty of the natural world. He decided to spare the tuft of flowers because the sight of them made him feel good.

THEMES

  • Nature
  • The natural world consoles the speaker, allowing him to get over his gloomy mood.
  • Before spotting the flowers he had been preoccupied with his own thoughts, thinking about “questions that have no reply”.
  • However, once he sees them he suddenly engages with the world around him and his eyes are opened to all the beauty in nature.

THEMES

  • Nature
  • The natural world also acts a guide for the speaker. The butterfly draws the speaker’s attention to the flowers and is ultimately responsible for the speaker overcoming his sad mood.
  • The tuft of flowers acts as a “message from the dawn”, or a signal that others share his appreciation of beauty. The flowers allow the speaker to overcome his loneliness.
  • They teach him the lesson that nobody is truly alone in this world.

THEMES

  • Isolation and Community
  • The speaker’s initial loneliness and isolation leads to a rather depressing conclusion regarding the human condition, stating that all must be alone.
  • As such, he denies the concept of community, of people working together to enrich each other’s lives and suggests we are solitary beings, concerned with only our own lives.
  • However, the discovery of the flowers changes the speaker’s mind.

THEMES

  • Isolation and Community
  • The mower clearly appreciated the beauty of the flowers, as does the speaker. They experience the same joy.
  • These flowers give the speaker a sense of community and shows him how the actions of others have a bearing on our lives.
  • The mower’s decision to spare the flowers has enriched the speaker’s day and allowed him to overcome his loneliness.
  • In the end, he must acknowledge that we cannot operate independently from others and that all “men work together … Whether they work together or apart”.

Questions

  • Describe the speaker’s view of life as expressed in lines 8 – 10.
  • What effect does the appearance of the butterfly have upon the speaker?
  • “I thought of questions that have no reply”. What sort of questions “have no reply”? What sort of mood is the speaker in?
  • Though he is still the only person in the field, why does the speaker say at the end that he “worked no more alone”?

LANGUAGE

  • Vivid Imagery:
  • This poem features vivid and beautiful nature imagery. Nature not only acts as a guide for Frost but its beauty also lifts his spirits and allows him to appreciate the beauty of the world: “A leaping tongue of bloom”.
  • Can you think of another example?

LANGUAGE

  • Mood:
  • The poem begins with a mournful mood or atmosphere as the poet struggles to come to terms with his loneliness and dwells on deep questions that “have no reply”. This depressed mood is also reinforced by the image of the butterfly searching for the flower that has been cut down.
  • However, there is a change of mood which is signalled by the repetition of the word “turned”. With the appearance of the tuft of flowers the mood/atmosphere changes dramatically. The poet seems renewed and the mood becomes hopeful rather than despairing.
  • The imagery also reinforces this turn in mood as the field seems to come alive with the dramatic colour of the flowers and the sound of the birds singing in the trees.

QUESTIONS

  • Describe the theme of this poem and explain your personal response to it. Use quotes to provide evidence.
  • How did Frost’s use of language (poetic techniques, style etc.) help bring the poem to life for you?

Mending Wall

  • Where is this poem set?
  • Like many of Frost’s poems ‘Mending Wall’ has a rural setting. The speaker is a farmer and each spring repairs gaps in the wall dividing his property from his neighbour’s.

Mending Wall

  • What causes the gaps in the wall?
  • Freezing conditions cause the ground under the wall to expand: “The frozen-ground-swell under it”. When the frost melts in the sun the ground moves again. This process continues throughout the winter and causes the stones that make up the wall to topple: “spills the upper boulders in the sun”. As a result large gaps appear.

Mending Wall

  • How does the speaker feel about those gaps?
  • Though there seems to be a simple scientific explanation for the appearance of these gaps, the speaker presents them as a weird and almost supernatural phenomenon. He claims there is “something”, some mysterious force that dislikes walls.
  • However, these are not the only gaps that appear in the wall. Hunters accompanied by dogs also make gaps. The speaker fixes those gaps as they appear and differentiates between them and the naturally occurring gaps he plans to repair with his neighbour on this spring day.

Mending Wall

  • How are the naturally occurring gaps repaired?
  • The speaker informs the neighbour that the wall is in need of repair: “I let my neighbour know”. The two men arrange to meet and fix the wall: “And on a day we meet to walk the line/And set the wall between us once again”. Though the men work as a team, each remains on his own property, on his own side of the wall: “we keep the wall between us as we go”. It is important that they respect the boundary between their farms.

Mending Wall

  • What does the speaker suggest?
  • They come to a section of farmland where there are no animals, only trees. Apple trees on the speaker’s side and pine trees on the neighbour’s. The speaker suggests that this part of the wall is unnecessary then. “There where it is we do not need the wall”. There are no animals to cross the boundary and cause tension between the farmers.

Mending Wall

  • How does the neighbour react?
  • The neighbour, however, insists on rebuilding the wall even though it is serving no practical purpose in this area. He quotes an old proverb: “Good fences make good neighbours”. He is guided by this old saying and suggests the boundary lines between people and their property should always be clearly defined and respected. This is the only way good relations can be kept on both sides.

Mending Wall

  • What is the speaker’s attitude to this proverb?
  • The fresh spring air makes the speaker feel mischievous: “Spring is the mischief in me”. He considers challenging the neighbour on the wisdom of this proverb: “Why do they make good neighbours?”.
  • He wants to reiterate how foolish it seems to build a wall that is containing nothing.

Mending Wall

  • What is the speaker’s attitude to this proverb?
  • He wants to tell the neighbour that there is a certain force in nature that “doesn’t love” walls and wants to knock them down whenever it can. He’d like to say how this mysterious force might be offended by the building of unnecessary walls.
  • However, the speaker wants the neighbour to acknowledge the existence of this mysterious force himself: “I’d rather he said it for himself”.
  • These mysterious powers remind the speaker of mischievous elves “but it’s not elves exactly”, this “something” that doesn’t love a wall.

Mending Wall

  • What does the speaker think of the neighbour?
  • The neighbour is guided completely by the proverb handed down to him by his father and seems pleased with himself for remembering it.
  • He has no time for the speaker’s objections to building a wall where there is no need.
  • He has not time for the notion of this mysterious “something”, this force in nature that despises walls. He answers the speaker’s objections by repeating the old proverb.

Mending Wall

  • What does the speaker think of the neighbour?
  • According to the speaker, the neighbour moves not only in the physical darkness of the woods where they work but also in a kind of mental darkness: “He moves in darkness as it seems to me,/Not of woods only and the shade of trees”.
  • This darkness is caused by his failure to question the wisdom of the proverb, by his refusal to even attempt to think for himself: “He will not go beyond his father’s saying”

THEMES

  • Boundaries
  • In some ways this is a poem that emphasises the importance of walls and boundaries.
  • It reminds us that people should have clear and defined boundaries between them if we want to live in peace and harmony together.
  • The idea is presented that a failure to respect these boundaries, even when they serve no practical purpose, would lead to chaos.
  • To some degree, the speaker believes in the importance of boundaries – he repairs the damage caused by hunters throughout the winter and when spring arrives he is the one to initiate the process of mending the wall.

THEMES

  • Boundaries
  • It is also important to the neighbour that the wall between the farms be maintained.
  • He is convinced that “Good fences make good neighbours”. Both the speaker and the neighbour respect the concept of boundaries by staying on their own property even as they work together.
  • Yet the speaker also questions the old tradition and the concept of boundaries.
  • His mischievous mood makes him want to point out the silliness of building a wall where there are no animals to contain.
  • He questions the need for boundaries and seems convinced that there is some force or power in nature that despises walls – as if the idea of man made boundaries and restrictions is against nature.

THEMES

  • Boundaries
  • The speaker is quite critical of the neighbour, presenting him as a simple and unthinking character who behaves almost like a caveman: “an old-stone savage”.
  • The speaker’s irritation stems from the neighbour’s refusal to think for himself or questions the idea of boundaries. The neighbour is wither unwilling or unable to engage the speaker in a proper debate, relying instead on the wisdom passed down from his father.
  • The speaker feels the neighbour should learn to think for himself and questions these old sayings and traditions rather than “move in darkness”.
  • ‘Mending Wall’ provides a good insight in Frost’s own personality. He himself suggested “maybe I was both fellows in the poem … a wall builder and a wall toppler. He makes boundaries and he breaks boundaries. That’s man.”

THEMES

  • Nature
  • The speaker also seems in two minds about the cause of the gaps that appear in the wall.
  • In one sense the speakers offers a valid explanation for them suggesting they are the result of frost, a natural process.
  • On the other hand, he suggests they are caused by a strange and invisible “something”, a force that hates walls. This mysterious power, the speaker suggests, is offended by the existence of walls: “And to whom I was like to give offence”.
  • The poem personifies nature as the force “doesn’t love a wall”. Nature is depicted as resisting man’s attempt to tame and control her, to impose order on her wildness with walls, bridges and boundary lines.

THEMES

  • Isolation and Community
  • An important feature of ‘Mending Wall’ is that walls unite as well as divide.
  • The task of the mending the wall brings the two men together. It is described almost as an annual social occasion – “a kind of out-door game”.
  • Every spring then, the maintenance of the wall brings neighbours together and has them working as a team. Their work is a celebration of community and reaffirms that boundaries are needed for that community to function.
  • The wall, therefore, unites the farmers even as it divides their land.

LANGUAGE

  • The poem features plain, everyday language. However, it has a very definite rhythm because it is written in iambic pentameter.
  • The poet makes interesting use of repetition. He repeats the two key phrases: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” and “Good fences make good neighbours” to highlight the two competing viewpoints in the poem.
  • The poem also features several memorable images: the ground swelling under the wall, the farmers using a “spell” to keep the rocks balanced, the neighbour moving like a caveman in the darkness of the trees.
  • There is also the playful image of the speaker’s apple trees sneaking onto the neighbour’s land to eat his pine cones.

LC Style Questions

  • ‘Mending Wall’ is often describes as a mysterious poem. How is this sense of mystery created? What words or phrases give the poem a mystical or other worldly atmosphere?
  • Twice the speaker refers to “something” that dislikes walls and “wants them down”. Based on your reading of the poem suggest what this “something” might be.
  • ‘The speaker of the poem is opposed to the building of walls.’ Detail the arguments both in favour of and against this statement. Refer to the poem in your answer.

‘Out, Out – ’

  • This is based on a true event which is believed to have occurred in April 1915, Raymond Fitzgerald, the son of Frost’s friend and neighbour, lost his hand to a buzz saw and bled so profusely that he went into shock, dying of heart failure in spite of his doctor’s efforts. 

‘Out, Out – ’

  • Frost’s title invites us to compare the poem’s shocking story with Macbeth’s speech on learning of his wife’s death:
  • Macbeth says, on learning of the death of Lady Macbeth, his wife: She should have died hereafter ; There would have been a time for such a word.
  • To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time ; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

‘Out, Out – ’

  • Frost hints at this soliloquy to borrow not only its theme, but the way Macbeth treated death without rage, tears, or wailing similar to the young man’s family: ‘And they, since they / Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs’
  • They deal with death with an understanding of how little life really means, “a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/ Signifying nothing”.

Lines 1-8: Setting the scene

  • Frost beautifully describes the landscape of a farm in New England. A young boys works on the farm and uses a buzz-saw to cut pieces of firewood.
  • The buzz-saw is presented in a menacing light. It “snarls and rattles” like a wild beast. This suggests how dangerous the saw is and warns us of the terrible tragedy that is about to take place.

Lines 9-12

  • The workday is almost over and it has been uneventful: “And nothing happened. Day was all but done”.
  • The poet wishes that the farm workers had stopped work a little early. They could have given the boy an extra half-hour off work, a treat that would have meant a lot to him.
  • By finishing early they also could have saved his life.

Lines 13-18: The accident

  • The boy’s sister announces that their dinner is ready. Tragedy strikes as the boy loses concentration and cuts his hand open with the buzz-saw.
  • The poet describes the saw “leaping” at the boy, as if attempting to eat him for dinner. In reality, the boy must gave “given the hand”.
  • The poet never describes the injuries in detail. He response to the accident is conveyed in the simple but moving exclamation “But the hand!”
  • The poet seems unable to describe the saw slicing through flesh and bone, instead leaving the gruesome image to our imagination

Lines 19-26: The boy’s reaction to the accident

  • The boy’s response is one of shock. His first reaction is to laugh at the disaster, indicating his disbelief at his injuries.
  • The boy turns to his workmates in appeal but there is nothing they can do for him.
  • The boy quickly realises that his injury is very serious. He is a “big boy” who is doing “man’s work”. He realises even if he survives the accident, his life will be ruined: “Then the boy saw all … all spoiled”.

Lines 27-34: The boy’s death

  • The boy’s hand is amputated and after some time, the person monitoring him realises that something is seriously wrong: “And then – the watcher at his pulse took fright”.
  • The people on the farm can hardly believe the boy is dying in front of their eyes. “Little – less – nothing!”
  • Finally, the boy’s heart stops altogether: “And that ended it”
  • The poem’s final lines seem very cruel and cold. The boy is dead and gone and there is nothing anybody can do about it: “No more to build on there”. Life, the speaker maintains, has to go on: “And they, since they/were not the one dead, turned to their affairs”.

THEME: The nearness of death

  • This poem makes the point that death is always near. All it takes is a simple accident and our lives can be snatched away from us in an instant.
  • This poem reminds us that in the middle of even the most ordinary day, life can be ended.
  • The poem then, urges us not to take being alive for granted, to appreciate the gift of life while we still have it.
  • The poem also highlights the terrifying randomness of human existence. Any of us can be killed at almost any moment in a random accident, extinguished like the candle the title refers to.

THEME: A cold view of the world

  • Many feel like ‘Out, Out – ’ presents a cold, brutal view of life and death.
  • There is something shocking about the way the people on the farm so quickly “turn to their affairs” after the boy’s death.
  • They have no time to mourn the boy’s loss. Instead, they must get on with their own lives, deal with their own struggles and difficulties.
  • The poem suggests that in this world there is little room for emotion and sentimentality.

THEME: A cold view of the world

  • Macbeth’s soliloquy, where the title comes from, suggests that human life is ultimately pointless: “Out, out, brief candle!”
  • The poem suggests that life is nothing but a desperate struggle for survival, an endless fight to build a life for ourselves. But what does it really matter when that life can be snatched away from us so quickly?
  • Once we are gone, the people left behind must simply get on with things.

THEME: Child labour

  • It is also possible to read the poem as a protest against child labour.
  • The boy is still a “child at heart”, an innocent lad who takes great pleasure in getting a half-hour off work.
  • Yet this child is forced to do a “man’s work”, labouring all day with a highly dangerous power tool.
  • The poem suggests children should be free to be children, to enjoy a time of fun and innocence before they are forced to deal with the difficulties of the adult world.

LANGUAGE

  • Alliteration is used in the lines that describe the pleasant smell of the fresh cut sticks: “sweet scented stuff”. This adds to the pleasant and musical effect of the beginning of the poem.
  • There is also a beautiful image of the mountains on the horizon, an image the farm workers are too busy to take in or fully appreciate.
  • Frost makes excellent use of onomatopoeia in the use of the buzz-saw. In the phrases “snarled and rattled” we can almost hear the noise made by the saw as the boy uses it and adds to the threatening atmosphere.
  • Frost also makes excellent use of personification in describing this potentially deadly tool. It is presented almost as a living thing, a vicious snarling animal that is capable of leaping out at the boy and injuring him.

Questions

  • ‘Out, Out – ’ is a poem of images. Pick out three different images from the poem. In each case describe the image and explain what this image reveals.
  • Do you think the poet shows sympathy for the boy? Choose words or phrases from the poem to explain your answer.
  • What do you think is the central message of theme of this poem?

Acquainted With the Night

  • The speaker declares he is “acquainted with the night”. His nights are spent walking through deserted streets.
  • The city at night is depicted as a sad and melancholy environment. It rains constantly: “I have walked out in rain – and back in rain”.
  • The lanes he passes are desolate and depressing: “the saddest city lane”.

Acquainted With the Night

  • The city at night is also depicted as a dangerous and menacing environment.
  • It is hard to read the lines about the “interrupted cry” without suspecting the person crying out is the victim of some violent act.
  • The sighting of the night watchman further reinforces this sense of menace, suggesting that the city streets are dangerous by night and need a police presence.

Acquainted With the Night

  • The speaker seems utterly isolated as he wanders through this dangerous and depressing landscape.
  • Even when he comes across another human being he is unable or unwilling to communicate. He is barely able to look the night watchman in the eye as he passes him by: “And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain”.
  • The speaker looks at the moon, which using a wonderful metaphor he describes as a “luminary” or glowing clock. The moons suggests the time is “neither wrong nor right” which indicates both the blank numbness associated with the speaker’s depression and the fact that nobody is waiting for him to return.

THEME: Sorrow

  • The poem provides a moving portrayal of a mind in the grip of depression. The speaker is a man whose inner demons will give him no rest.
  • There is something terrible and bleak about the fact he is driven to keep walking all night. His inner turmoil will not allow him to sleep, relax or even sit still.
  • He must always keep moving, his physical restlessness mirroring the restless, agitated condition of his mind.

THEME: Sorrow

  • The dark, desolate streets through which he walks reflect the speaker’s depression.
  • There are vivid images of empty and menacing streets, the sad and sordid lanes, the darkness at the edge of town where the streetlights are left behind. This grim urban landscape serves as the perfect metaphor for the speaker’s downcast state of mind.
  • Many people who suffer from depression describe how it seems that nothing can ever change, that the world is locked in a constant pattern of despair and hopelessness. ‘Acquainted With the Night” illustrates this powerfully.

THEME: Sorrow

  • The speaker appears to be trapped in a loop, as he repeats the same steps over and over again.
  • Sufferers of depression also describe how difficult they find it to communicate or to connect with another human being. This aspect of depression is also reflected in the poem.
  • The speaker never tells us what misfortune, if any, has plunged him into such despair. In the poem then, communication between the poet and the readers is also blocked.
  • This theme of communication breakdown is clear in several parts of the poem: the speaker silently passing the night watchman, the “interrupted cry”, even the moon’s lack of answers.

LANGUAGE

  • ‘Acquainted With the Night” is a sonnet. Like all sonnets, it has fourteen lines. Most sonnets are divided into an eight line octet and a six lines sestet. Unusually then for a sonnet, this poem is divided into four three lines stanzas and a final two line couplet.
  • The poem’s form is in keeping with its theme. Its first and last lines are the same, reflecting the fact that the speaker is going round in circles.
  • The poem is made up of six sentences and each ones begins with the word “I”, suggesting that the speaker is trapped in his own mind, in his internal suffering.

LANGUAGE

  • The structure of ‘Acquainted With the Night’ echoes that of Dante’s ‘Inferno”, a poem which describes a journey into hell.
  • Just as Dante described an actual journey into the physical reality of hell, so Frost describes a journey into a psychological or mental hell, a state of total despair.
  • Frost vividly creates the sinister atmosphere of t he city at night. In a few short lines he sketches an atmospheric landscape of deserted and rain-soaked streets, of depressing, rundown lanes, of darkness illuminated only by feeble streetlights.

LANGUAGE

  • Frost’s use of assonance (repetition of vowel sounds) and alliteration throughout the poem contributes to the haunting and despairing mood. They slow the pace of the verse and create a sad, aching music.
  • We see this in line 4 with its repeated ‘o’ and ‘a’ sound. It is also evident in line 7 with its repeated ‘o’ sounds.
  • The slow, steady iambic rhythm of the lines suggests the sound of footsteps echoing on a midnight street.

The Road Not Taken

  • The poet describes a day when he came to a fork in the road while he was walking through the woods. The speaker wishes he could somehow have travelled both roads simultaneously but since that is impossible he has a decision to make.
  • He stood for a long time inspecting one road carefully before deciding on the “the other”.
  • The speaker decides to take it because it was “grassy” and needed to be worn down more than the first road.

The Road Not Taken

  • But he then immediately contradicts himself saying that both roads were worn “about the same”. In fact, the roads were very much alike.
  • The speaker thinks he might return to the other road at a later point: “I kept the first for another day!” But he knew even then the chances of getting back to the same point were unlikely.
  • The poem finishes with the poet imagining how he will recount the moment later in his life. He will tell the story “with a sigh”. He will describe how he took the more difficult path: “I took the one less traveled by” and that “made all the difference” to his life.

THEME: The Nature of Choice

  • This poem is a reflection on how important choices are made. We might deliberate for a long time, as the poet does, but the choice is never easy.
  • The metaphor of choosing a road suggests the idea of making an important, perhaps life-changing, decision.
  • We can only see so far into the future, only anticipate so much. Frost describes how he could only see so far down one of the paths before it turned into the undergrowth.
  • In this way, the right choice is not always obvious. We might have to choose between two ways that are equally appealing or “just as fair”.

THEME: The Nature of Choice

  • The poem also suggests that the important choices we make in life are often based on impulse and chance. The way the poet closely inspected the first path but then “took the other” suggests that the choice was ultimately impulsive and he had no way of knowing if it was the right choice.
  • Though he originally decided both roads were very similar, in hindsight he believes his was a harder road and “that has made all the difference”. However, it is unclear whether he means this is a positive or negative light .

THEME: Sorrow and Despair

  • Like many of Frost’s poems, ‘The Road Not Taken’ contains elements of sorrow and despair. The title suggests that is what the poet did not get to experience that preoccupies him, more than the memories he has experienced.
  • The poet is sorry he is unable to travel both roads and has to choose between them. There is a real sense of sorrow to the acknowledgment that he will never be able to return to this fork and see where the other road led.

LANGUAGE

  • The poem uses the metaphor of the fork of the road to represent important choices we must make in life.
  • It suggests life is a journey and that there are different paths we can take along the way.
  • The fact that both paths look the same suggests that the choices we face are often not as clear as we might like them to be and that chance plays a big part in everything we do.
  • Lines 2-4 begin with the same word. The repeated use of the word “and” at the beginning of these lines seems to reflect the speaker’s uncertainty as he tries to make a choice.

LANGUAGE

  • Frost paints a vivid image of the scene that lay before him as he walked through the woods. He mentions that the wood was “yellow” and that leaves covered the ground, revealing the season.
  • He also describes how the road “bent in the undergrowth”. The description works to create a clear image that stays with us long after we have finished reading the poem.

Spring Pools

  • This poem is set in a forest at the very beginning of spring. Ice has melted on surrounding mountaintops and melt water has poured down creating pools upon the forest floor.
  • According to the speaker, these pools “chill and shiver” which suggests how very cold they are.
  • Because it is very early springtime there are no leaves on the trees. The pools, therefore, reflect an almost perfect mirror image of the sky above them: “These pools that, though in forests, still reflect/The total sky almost without defect”.

Spring Pools

  • Some winter flowers have taken root in the moisture around the pool’s edges. We can imagine these as pale and fragile blooms and picture how they seem to “chill and shiver”
  • While the trees are presently leafless, each has thousands of buds that are “pent-up” with energy and bursting with life.
  • Soon leaves will sprout from each of these buds and the forest of bare trees will be transformed into lush and leafy “summer woods”

Spring Pools

  • In the process of flowering, however, the trees will destroy the spring pools. The water in the pools will be “sucked up” by the trees’ roots.
  • The trees will “drink up” the pool water and use its nourishment to being forth leaves: “To bring dark foliage on”
  • The trees will also destroy the flowers that grow beside the pools. Their new leaves will “darken nature”, will prevent sunlight from reaching the floor of the forest. The flowers will then wither and die.
  • By blossoming, then, the trees will “sweep away” both the pools and the nearby fragile flowers.

Spring Pools

  • The speaker regrets that both the pools and the flowers will “soon be gone”. He urges the trees to “think twice” before they commit this act of destruction.
  • The poet addresses the woodland trees as if they had minds of their own, as if they are capable of hearing him and choosing not to consume the water from the spring pools.
  • We realise, however, that the speaker’s pleas will serve no purpose. Nature, as always, must take its course and the pools will disappear into the forest’s roots. The wintery scene he loves so much will soon be no more.

THEME: Nature

  • Frost was famous as a writer who loved and celebrated the New England countryside. ‘Spring Pools” is one of Frost’s classic nature poems, a moving and vivid portrayal of nature’s fragile beauty.
  • The scene has an unusual icy beauty: leafless trees, the shivering winter flowers, and the freezing pools that reflect the sky with crystal clarity.
  • The water in the pools is described as “flowery” because it allows flowers to grow around its edges and reflects their beauty on the surface.

THEME: Nature

  • Similarly, the description of the flowers as “watery” reminds us that they grow at the pool’s edge, suggesting their weakness and fragility.
  • The poem also reminds us how death and life coexist at the heart of nature. With the changing of each season some elements of nature are destroyed and some are born again.
  • The spring pools and winter flowers will be “swept away” so that the trees may flourish.

THEME: Nature

  • The poem is keenly aware of just how destructive nature can be. The trees are presented as sinister, almost malevolent “powers”.
  • They are powerful and strong with their “pent-up buds” full of energy waiting to be unleashed. They possess the ability to “darken nature”. The trees are presented as a threatening, destructive force, associated with such negative verbs as “blot out” and “sweep away”.
  • An important aspect of the second stanza is the difference between the portrayal of the pools and flowers on the one hand and the trees on the other.

THEME: Nature

  • The pools and flowers are presented as fragile and vulnerable, innocent aspects of the woodland that have little capacity for survival.
  • Yet the poem also considers the way nature moves in cycles of death and rebirth. Each elements of nature dies and is reborn as the seasons change.
  • Though the spring pools will “soon be gone”, they will return next year when the snows melt once more.
  • The poem suggests that nothing in nature is ever permanently destroyed. The poet resents the trees for destroying the pools and flowers, yet he knows deep down that nature can only take its course.

LANGUAGE

  • ‘Spring Pools’ is written in two stanzas, each rhyming AABCBC. The two stanzas mirror each other almost perfectly, just as the pools reflect the sky above them.
  • Frost uses vivid imagery throughout the poem. The image of the spring pools possesses a strange, wintery beauty. It is an uncluttered scene of light and clarity, with the pools reflecting the sky so perfectly.
  • It is an also image of immense fragility, these weak “watery flowers” and “flowery waters” will be swept away as the trees’ leaves begin to appear.

LANGUAGE

  • Usually when we think of summer, we think of a happy, innocent time. Winter, on the other hand, often has negative associations. In this poem, however, Frost performs an unusual reversal of these stereotypes.
  • The imagery that depicts the arrival of summer is portrayed as menacing and destructive, bringing with it the end of this beautiful scene.
  • Assonance is used skilfully throughout the poem. The repeated ‘I’ sound in “chill and shiver”, the repeated ‘a’ sound in “dark foliage” and “darken nature”. This gives the poem a pleasant verbal music.
  • Frost also uses personification, referring to the trees as if they possessed human reasoning and were capable of deciding whether or not to use their power to “darken nature”. By doing so, he powerfully conveys his appreciation of the spring pools and his dismay at their destruction.

6th YEAR: Frost |Essay Question: 2011

  • “Frost’s simple style is deceptive and a thoughtful reader will see layers of meaning in his poetry.”
  • Do you agree with this assessment of his poetry? Write a response, supporting your points with the aid of suitable reference to the poems on your course.

Frost Essay Preparation

  • Establish a point of view:
  • The first thing you have to do when planning your essay is to find your point of view. What do you think about Boland’s poetry? What reason does it appeal to you?
  • This is going to be the point of view you argue throughout your answer so you have to pick something definite. You cannot just say ‘it appealed to me because it was good’. You must be specific.

5th Year Boland Essay Preparation

  • Establish a point of view:
  • I’m going to say that:
    • Her poetry is interesting because she writes about themes she feels passionately about, including her personal life
    • Her vivid imagery and language brings the themes of her poetry to life.
  • I now have a definite, specific point of view. I will not be rambling or summarising in my answer. Everything I discuss in the poem will relate back to the point above.
  • Which poems to talk about:
  • You don’t have a choice in the poems you talk about. You must discuss all 5 poems we have studied:
    • ‘Child of Our Time’
    • ‘This Moment’
    • ‘Love’
    • ‘The Pomegranate’
    • ‘The Black Lace Fan My Mother Gave Me’
  • Before you begin to write your essay, jot down a few quotes for each of these poems that relate back to your point of view. Quotes that connect to the themes and that show her use of language.

Structure the essay:

  • Structure the essay:
  • Now, before I begin writing my essay, I’m going to plan all the paragraphs I intend to include.
  • The first paragraph, the introduction, will clearly state my point of view.
  • The second paragraph will deal with ‘Child of Our Time’. I will be discussing how Boland deals with the theme of war and violence.
  • My third paragraph will discuss ‘This Moment’. I will discuss how Boland feels passionately about life in the suburbs as a mother.
  • My fourth and fifth paragraphs will discuss ‘Love’ and ‘The Pomegranate’. I will discuss how Boland uses mythology to explore her personal relationships.
  • My sixth paragraph will discuss ‘The Black Lace My Mother Gave Me’. I will discuss how Boland deals with the theme of love and marriage.
  • The final paragraph will be my conclusion.

5th Year Boland Essay Preparation

  • Writing the introduction:
  • I’m going to write my introduction. The first one or two sentences of my introduction will simply state the point of view I came up with in the planning stage or the point of view stated in the question asked.
  • “I really enjoyed the poetry of Eavan Boland. I found her poetry original and particularly liked the themes she deals with, such as violence, motherhood, love and relationships. Her vivid imagery stayed with me long after I read the poems.”
  • I am now going to flesh this out in a few more sentences. It is good to make these sentences personal, if possible, to describe the impact the work had on you. In this instance, I am going to emphasise the impact Bishop had on me.

5th Year Boland Essay Preparation

  • Writing the introduction:
  • “I really enjoyed the poetry of Eavan Boland. I found her poetry original and particularly liked the themes she deals with, such as violence, motherhood, love and relationships. Her vivid imagery stayed with me long after I read the poems. I appreciated that she gives an insight into her personal life and I was moved by the issues which are close to her heart. I also found her use of myth and legend very appealing. Anyone can connect with these poems because the myths she uses can be applied to anyone’s life, not just her own. Boland’s use of vivid imagery and language helped bring to life these themes and personal issues and made the poetry very enjoyable for me.”
  • It’s obvious that the five sentences I have added here flesh out my point of view. The sentences are personal and show that I have really engaged with the work of the poet.

5th Year Boland Essay Preparation

  • Writing the body paragraphs:
  • I can see from my plan that my first body paragraph will deal with the theme of war and violence in ‘Child of Our Time’. So I’m going to start my paragraph with a topic or lead sentences, declaring what the paragraph is going to be about:
  • “In ‘Child of Our Time’ we see Boland expressing an emotional response to the war and violence which have ended this child’s life.”
  • Every other sentence in this paragraph is going to relate to or expand on this topic sentence. If I find myself writing something that does not relate directly to this topic sentence, I know I’ve gone wrong.

Writing the body paragraphs:

  • To complete this paragraph I am going to write more sentences about ‘Child of Our Time’:
  • Example: “In ‘Child of Our Time’ we see Boland expressing an emotional response to the war and violence which have ended this child’s life.” . Boland suggests we have created a world that makes victims of our children. Our times are marked by violent acts and bloodshed and it is time to that we learnt from the tragedies and start to do things differently. We must find “a new language”. This poem was written at the height of the Troubles and after this particularly brutal incident there seemed little hope that peace would come about unless things changed radically. Boland’s use of language brings to life the deep sense of anger and frustration at how little progress was being made. She characterises the talk of the time as “idle”. The child is tragically “Of our time”, a time of great discord and violence. The poem features a number of very poignant and sad images. There is the image of the “animals” or toys that the child ought to be taking to bed. There is also the image of the robbed cradle, a heart-breaking reminder of the child’s death: “our times have robbed your cradle”. The only silver lining Bishop can grasp is that this child’s death will finally have awoken the world it has left behind: “Sleep in a world your final sleep has woken”.

5th Year Boland Essay Preparation

  • Writing the body paragraphs:
  • Note how every sentence I have written relates to my topic sentence. I don’t wander off the point by talking about every single detail about the poem or the history of the time.
  • Note also how I don’t fall into the trap of summarising the poem, of telling the examiner everything that happened in it. I simply take a few aspects that are relevant to my topic sentence.
  • Note also how I back up every point with a quote. The golden rule here is ‘Always be quoting’.

5th Year Boland Essay Preparation

  • Writing the body paragraphs:
  • I see that my next paragraph is going to deal with feelings about motherhood and suburban life in ‘This Moment’. Once again I start off with a simple topic sentence:
  • “ ‘This Moment’ displays Boland’s passionate feelings about motherhood and life in the suburbs.”
  • Once again I am going to write a number of sentences that relate to this topic sentence. I’m going to make sure that nothing I write strays away from this topic.
  • The remainder of the body paragraphs will follow the same format outlined above.

Writing the conclusion:

  • Writing the conclusion:
  • The idea here is to sum up what I have said in the essay without repeating myself too much. I am going to bring the point of view I established in the introduction. I am going to try and get personal. The first thing I am going to do is rewrite my point of view in slightly different language:
  • “For me, then, Boland’s poetry stands out because of her interesting themes and careful use of language.”
  • Now I am going to add a sentence that contains a phrase like ‘In the poems discussed above’ or ‘As I have outlined above’ or ‘As I have discussed”. This sentence will refer back to the essay I have just written
  • “For me, then, Boland’s poetry stands out because of her interesting themes and careful use of language. In poems like those discussed above, she gives us insights into what she cares most passionately about, including memories, love and relationship.”
  • Now I am going to add two or three more sentences that flesh out this point. I am going to try to make these as personal as possible:

5th Year Boland Essay Preparation

  • Writing the conclusion:
  • “For me, then, Boland’s poetry stands out because of her interesting themes and careful use of language. In poems like those discussed above, she gives us insights into what she cares most passionately about, including memories, love and relationship. Reading Boland’s poetry, I felt she was really talking to me, that she was describing issues and experiences that I and every other human could experience at some point. The powerful imagery, like that of the “robbed” cradle and the blackbird’s “flirtatious” wing, have remained with me long after finishing studying these poems.
  • Note how, though the conclusion is substantial, it is not too long and does not ramble on and on repeating the points made in the essay. Also note how the conclusion describes a personal response. Finally, not how the conclusion is tied into the point of view established at the start of the essay.

THE SEVEN GOLDEN RULES

  • Read the question carefully. This sounds obvious but I can’t stress how important it is.
  • Establish a point of view. Do this at the beginning of your planning stage. Remember that every sentence in your essay will relate to this point of view.
  • Structure the essay carefully. Determine what every paragraph is going to be about before you start writing.
  • Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence. Every other sentence in the paragraph will relate to this sentence.

THE SEVEN GOLDEN RULES

  • Don’t paraphrase. Don’t retell the story or the action of the poem, - the examiner already knows this. Just identify the elements of the poem that relate to your topic.
  • Always be quoting.
  • Be aware of the genre. Are you being asked to write a straightforward essay or are you being asked to do something else like write a letter or give a short talk, then the introduction and the conclusion of your piece will need to reflect this.


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