At Woodward's Gardens : by Robert Frost || Summary and Analysis

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At Woodward's Gardens

A boy, presuming on his intellect,
Once showed two little monkeys in a cage
A burning-glass they could not understand
And never could be made to understand.
Words are no good: to say it was a lens
For gathering solar rays would not have helped.
But let him show them how the weapon worked.
He made the sun a pinpoint on the nose
Of the first one, then the other, till it brought
A look of puzzled dimness to their eyes
That blinking could not seem to blink away.
They stood arms laced together at the bars,
And exchanged troubled glances over life.
One put a thoughtful hand up to his nose
As if reminded--or as if perhaps
Within a million years of an idea.
He got his purple little knuckles stung.
The already known had once more been confirmed
By psychological experiment,
And that were all the finding to announce
Had the boy not presumed too close and long.
There was a sudden flash of arm, a snatch,
And the glass was the monkey's, not the boy's.
Precipitately they retired back-cage
And instituted an investigation
On their part, though without the needed insight.
They bit the glass and listened for the flavor.
They broke the handle and the binding off it.
Then none the wiser, frankly gave it up,
And having hid it in their bedding straw
Against the day of prisoners' ennui,
Came dryly forward to the bars again
To answer for themselves:
Who said it mattered
What monkeys did or didn't understand?
They might not understand a burning-glass.
They might not understand the sun itself.
It's knowing what to do with things that counts.

A boy, presuming on his intellect, Once showed two little monkeys in a cage A burning-glass they could not understand And never could be made to understand.
At Woodward's Gardens

Analysis

Introduction:

      The poem At Woodward's Gardens by Robert Frost from A Further Range is obviously didactic. There is no questioning or doubt or subtlety. Occurance of imaginative event with monkeys in a zoo, a little boy happens to play the leading role. This assertive, over-assured attitude makes the poem not too appealing. 

Summary:

      At Woodward's Gardens is a poem presents an imagined incident at the zoo. A boy focuses the sun's rays through a burning-glass on the nose of one monkey after another. The monkeys cannot understand the burning sensation and can only feel puzzled. One of the monkeys snatches the glass from the boy. The monkeys then 'institute an investigation' into the nature of the object and then break it to pieces as they are unable to understand it. And the poet concludes with: "It's knowing what to do with things that counts".

Critical Remarks:

      The last line has a schoolmasterly ring about it. But the poem has enjoyable humour in it. Frost seems to prefer "the common sense resourcefulness of monkeys to the theoretical understanding of people". The blank verse of the poem is flexible and suits what Frost wants to convey. Annoying repetitive incident of monkeys make the poem undesirable.

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