Concept and Practice of Robert Frost Poetry

Also Read

      Frost has given us three essays entitled Constant Symbol, The Figure a Poem Makes and Poetry and School. They have segments of concepts in his poetry. The first two are mere prefatory treatises appended to his books but they contain very good remarks about poetry. The third one is an independent treatise and all these contains very significant remarks about what Frost conceives as an ideal poem. As a poet Frost is famous for his epigrammatic summing up of wise utterances of a general character on various problems that confront us in our day-to-day life. In the same manner he has given us brief definitions of poetry in different contexts. Let us have an idea of some of these descriptions of poetry:

Frost has pointed out the fantastic variety of restrictions imposed by experimentalists - "Poetry was tried without punctuation. It was tried without capital letter. It was tried without any image but those to the eye.
Robert Frost

1. A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.
2. A poet is essentially an accidental collector of impressions and of knowledge.
3. The reality a poet touches is chaos - the vast chaos of allI have lived through.
4. The making of a poem is largely a matter of trusting to luck.
5. A poem's logic is backward in retrospect after the act.
6. From his contacts with reality the lucky poet may produce a clarification of life - not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but a momentary stay against confusion. A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness or a love sickness.
8. It is a reaching out toward expression; an effort to find fulfilment.
9. A complete poem is one where an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found the words.
10. My definition of poetry (if I were forced to give one) would be this: words that have become deeds,
11. Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting
12. A poem may he worked over once it is in being, but may not be worried into being.
13. Read it a hundred times; it will For ever keep its freshness as a metal its brilliance.
14. No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.
15. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.
16. For me the initial delight is in the surprise of remembering something I didn't know I knew.
17. Originality and initiative are what I ask for my country. For myself the originality need be no more than the freshness of a poem run in the way I have described -f rom delight to wisdom.

      Frost has pointed out the fantastic variety of restrictions imposed by experimentalists - "Poetry was tried without punctuation. It was tried without capital letter. It was tried without any image but those to the eye. It was tried without content, without phrase, epigram, coherence, logic and consistency. It was tried without feeling or sentiment like murder of small pay in the underworld". But Frost rejects these gimmicks in the name of experimentalism.

      Frost does not believe that poetry should be regarded solely as pure art or solely as pure preaching. Art for art's sake some say; Art for propaganda some others say; but Frost follows a via media. Frost regards the problem of the poet to lie in achieving integration wherein lies the magic of poetry. The metre, the rhyming pattern, balance and equilibrium and the regulated organisation of the subject matter - all these must be harmoniously blended together to bring about a pleasing form. Some of Frost's phrases must be explained to understand his poetry the better.

      Many-sided Content: Although the form and content of a good poem are inter-related elements and they cannot be arbitrarily separated, still variety in poetry is more closely allied lo many - sidedness of content than to that of form. Frost's poetry at its best has the two elements happily reconciled.

      The present moment is used by Frost to illuminate the essence of human experience. In each poem he gains a fresh awareness. Birches is an example. Two Tramps in Mud Time leads up to the resolution that love and need should unite in work. This is not merely a recollection of an experience but an evolution from that particular experience to a more universal meaning. Frost gives layers of meaning to the apparently simple Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.

      Momentary Stay Against Confusion: By describing poetry as 'a momentary stay against confusion' it is the duty of the poet to capture a moment with his words, out of the chaotic confusions of daily impressions and thoughts. West-Running Brook is perhaps the best illustration of this concept. The brook presents an analogy of existence by indicating that man has to resist and continue to grow against all contrarieties. In Stopping by Woods ona Snowy Evening, the confusion and darkness and mystery of the snow covered woods tempts, but the traveller ultimately refuses to be drawn in; he realizes that he has promises to keep and miles to go before he sleeps.

      Impulse and Art Combined: Frost believed in the combination of impulse and art. The reader's excitement should be aroused by the slow unveilings and the inevitable approach of the moment of complete disclosure.

      Expression of An Experience: Like the Romantics, Frost believed that a poem is an expression of experience. His poems are marvels of deliberate beautiful construction unfolding rich experience.

      Scholars versus Poets: Frost used to say - Scholar's get their conscientious thoroughness along projected lines of logic, poets get theirs cavalierly and as it happens in and out of books. They stick to nothing deliberately but let what will stick to them like burrs when they walk in the field'.

      Clarification of Life: When Frost said that there should be a clarification of life in poetry he meant that poetry should avoid debating on controversial topics but should touch realms of spiritual value. As Lawrance Thompson puts it: "It is not the poet's function to argue that 'in Adam's fall we sinned all' or that in Christ's death we were all saved. There are still a few of us who consider these as subjects for controversy. And Frost points out that we don't join together in signing an argument. But in human nature there are certain enduring qualities and everlasting truths which permit us to join in hymns of joy or threnodies of sorrow. Let a poem be written on these themselves and it will last for ever keep its freshness as a metal keeping its brilliance".

      Poetry as a Metaphor: Lawrance Thompson has commented on the poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and elaborated Frost's idea nat poetry is a metaphor. Poetry may say one thing but mean another. It may also say one thing in terms of another. The words 'promises, miles to go' and 'sleep' with their additional implied meanings complete the metaphor beautifully.

      Pleasure of Writing Poems: The great pleasure in writing poetry is in having been carried off. "It is as - if you stood astride of the subject that lay on the ground and they cut the cord and the subject gets up under you and you ride it. You adjust yourself to the motion of the thing itself. That is the poem".

      Craftsmanship of a Good Poet: The perfection of a poem arises out of the poet's pleasure in discovering words, images, metaphors and phrases, native to the grain of the emotion. This implies that a good poet must strive for conscious craftsmanship with a sense of surrender to the poet's material. The poet must give shape and weight to the chaotic confusion of daily impressions and thoughts and create a sense of stability which Frost calls 'a momentary stay against confusion' Wordsworth's definition of poetry as 'spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings' implies an expression of intensity and the poet's need for expression. This inherent need is expressed by Emerson also. Frost says in this connection - A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness. It is a reaching out toward expression; an effort to find fulfilment. Frost yearns for a correspondence between his experience and the reader's experience.

      Revelation versus Statement: Frost does not believe in poetry of statement like Wordsworth's. He believes in poetry as revelation for both the poet as well as the reader. In Wordsworth's romantic poetry of statement only the reader enjoys revelation. Frost takes meaning in poetry as affirmation of human morality. There is fusion of ethics and aesthetics in Frost's poetry. His didacticism is unobjectionable. Frost as a man has inherited Puritanism but he is no slave to Puritan Aesthetics.

Previous Post Next Post