The Onset : by Robert Frost || Analysis

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The Onset

Always the same, when on a fated night
At last the gathered snow lets down as white
As may be in dark woods, and with a song
It shall not make again all winter long
Of hissing on the yet uncovered ground,
I almost stumble looking up and round,
As one who overtaken by the end
Gives up his errand, and lets death descend
Upon him where he is, with nothing done
To evil, no important triumph won,
More than if life had never been begun.

Yet all the precedent is on my side:
I know that winter death has never tried
The earth but it has failed: the snow may heap
In long storms an undrifted four feet deep
As measured against maple, birch and oak,
It cannot check the peeper's silver croak;
And I shall see the snow all go down hill
In water of a slender April rill
That flashes tail through last year's withered brake
And dead weeds, like a disappearing snake.
Nothing will be left white but here a birch,
And there a clump of houses with a church.

Always the same, when on a fated night At last the gathered snow lets down as white As may be in dark woods, and with a song It shall not make again all winter long Of hissing on the yet uncovered ground, I almost stumble looking up and round, As one who overtaken by the end Gives up his errand, and lets death descend Upon him where he is, with nothing done To evil, no important triumph won, More than if life had never been begun.
The Onset

Analysis

Introduction:

      Robert Frost poem The Onset is from New Hampshire and is written against the background of the seasonal cycle. The poet describes his feelings at the onset of winter and the change of feelings on thinking about recurring spring. Season is the main concern here in the poem. The poet describe seasonal feelings in elaborate manner with the orientation of different seasons. Every season has its own different flavour, here the narrator onset to feel the gesture out of it.

Development of Thought:

      The Onset begins with a reference to a winter storm when the snow falls - "always the same". The snow becomes a symbol, not only of death, but of evil (the hiss of the snow suggesting the serpent). Man cannot overcome death or evil; he can only accept it with stoic resignation. However, the positive note comes with the observation that "winter death" has failed to bury humanity permanently. Spring will once again bring "the Peeper's silver croak". But Frost is not here endorsing Shelley's "If winter comes, can spring be far behind ?" Frost qualifies his optimism - if death and evil cannot completely overwhelm life and good, nor can death and evil be completely vanquished. The idea is implicit in the cycle of seasons. Spring, after all, leads back to winter.

Critical Comments:

      Frost's realism is obvious. As in the poem Design, he hints at something mysterious connecting things of the same colour - the birches, the houses, the church, the disappearing snake and the Snowflakes are all white, and thus, good and evil are disturbingly associated. Man's answer to the "onset" of winter is to see the whole of reality - spring as well as winter. Man's power is limited, as he is bound by physical reality.

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