Hyla Brook : by Robert Frost || Summary and Analysis

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Hyla Brook

By June our brook's run out of song and speed.
Sought for much after that, it will be found
Either to have gone groping underground
(And taken with it all the Hyla breed
That shouted in the mist a month ago,
Like ghost of sleigh-bells in a ghost of snow)--
Or flourished and come up in jewel-weed,
Weak foliage that is blown upon and bent
Even against the way its waters went.
Its bed is left a faded paper sheet
Of dead leaves stuck together by the heat--
A brook to none but who remember long.
This as it will be seen is other far
Than with brooks taken otherwhere in song.
We love the things we love for what they are.

By June our brook's run out of song and speed. Sought for much after that, it will be found Either to have gone groping underground (And taken with it all the Hyla breed That shouted in the mist a month ago, Like ghost of sleigh-bells in a ghost of snow)-- Or flourished and come up in jewel-weed, Weak foliage that is blown upon and bent Even against the way its waters went.
Hyla Brook

Summary and Analysis

Introduction:

      Hyla Brook is a short poem of fifteen lines and is illustrative of Frost's thought and also of certain aspects of his artistry. It is one of those short, compact poems of Frost that show that even within the space of a dozen lines or so he can create an image of the entire locality. The centre, main object of Frost's poem is the brook, but the poet's art etches out in all directions - the poet's description goes out beyond the brook and encompasses the whole backdrop. Along with Frost, we sense the presence of an entire locality inhabited by a particular breed of men who live in a certain way by certain lights'.

Summary:

      There is nothing physically striking about Hyla Brook. lt is a very ordinary stream. In fact it is 'a brook to none but who remember long. Though an ordinary stream, Hyla Brook flows in the spring with "song and speed" singing like Hyla Breed, like the frogs which breed in and sing round it. With tongue in cheek humour, the poet's imagination leads him to think that the stream is like its breed - a block of the same chip. Like the frogs that live and breed in it, in summers, perhaps the stream also goes underground to hibernate and comes out only with the rains. In June, when summer is at its peak, the brook becomes so emaciated that it is recognised as a brook only by those who have good, retentive memories. Those who have seen the brook in its fully bloom in spring, love it even when it is almost evaporated out of existence. One who loves a thing, loves it for what it is, not for what it should be. Love achieves its highest development when one accepts weakness and loves in spite of these drawbacks - in fact, a person starts loving a thing or a person for its weaknesses. This particular weakness becomes the peculiar speciality of the loved object.

Critical Appreciation:

      Like most of Frost's poems, in this poem, too, Frost has brought together apparently contradictory elements. The casual style and easy, gay tone often enwraps profundities. It is playful yet reaches out straight to the heart. There is an outward movement, from the point towards the outer circle. Though about a locale, the poem is suggestive of ideas that bubble forth beyond the barriers of time and place. The local and the universal combine in a uniquely efficacious manner in Hyla Brook. For this poem, the poet has accepted the sonnet mould which he has stamped with originality. He has added a fifteenth line to it. This fifteenth line is in perfect harmony with the sound and the approximate shape of the sonnet that the poem has - in fact, it is this line which caps the poem with appropriately clear and universal wisdom in forceful and epigrammatically terse manner:

We love the things we love for what they are.

      Hyla Brook is a nature poem that shows the modernity of Frost and his twentieth century attitude. This stands sharply contrasted with the romantic attitude. Bringing out this point Brower says: "The differences in poetic form that this temper makes are evident in his reservation of tone but also in his whole presentation of the scene and in the kind of clarification his poems reach. We can see the differences most clearly when Frost takes a subject that was a favourite with the romantics early and late. The country observer will have us look very closely at his brook: at jewel-weed bent back in the wind at the papery dryness of leaves harshly described as 'stuck together by the heat'. The attentive eye, the little and the easy reference to Hyla Brook remind us again of the Thoreauvian naturalist.... The poem had a moral but instead of being tagged forcibly at the end it flows naturally from it. The moment of wisdom rests on the same quiet joke as that in The Oven Bird: the brook in summer is not a brook and the gleam of irony throughout the lyric adds a touch of amused wilfulness to the notion of loving this particular brook. For what they are refers us to the realism of the description and the mood of the moral is one of humorous experienced acceptance, not of indulgent consolation". Brower very rightly says that Frost has succeeded in assimilating the Wordsworthian and Tennysonian traditions of the treatment of Nature. He can be refined in imagery, like Tennysorn, blending sight and sound in symbolist synaesthesia (ghost of sleigh bells in a ghost of snow') and like Wordsworth he can feel the loss of beauty through tine. He is an ordinary man in the sense that he does not have the power to supplement this loss or to defeat time through inner vision; he can accept this change in all its reality. His attitude is an amalgam of the charm of poetic fiction and knowledge of country matters.

Conclusion:

      Hyla Brook is a combination of the local and the universal - in fact the poem is also an example of the poet's habit of ending his nature-lyrics with amoral tag. Hyla Brook succeeds in projecting Frost's fast and enduring belief. Frost, here, gives way to his personal feelings by using the plural we: "We love the things we love for what they are - a famous and an oft-quoted line.

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