God and Man : in Robert Frost's Poetry

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      Robert Frost's Views on God: If the poems that Frost has written were to be our sole basis for an appraisal of the man, for his belief or otherwise in God, we cannot come to a definite conclusion. He has baffled his readers by writing differently in different contexts. Sometimes he speaks of God and Heaven but avers that it is the mundane world, the world of our everyday sense experience, that he fuly believes in; on the other hand, he never boasts of his materialistic views.

In his later poems Frost lays an emphasis on human limitations. In the face of difficulties confronting him, Man can do precious little. He confesses that to him "God is still what Man to be sure cares for and what will save him no matter how many times or how completely he may have failed". Frost has often expressed that justice is only for the deserving but mercy is for the undeserving.
Robert Frost

      In his later poems Frost lays an emphasis on human limitations. In the face of difficulties confronting him, Man can do precious little. He confesses that to him "God is still what Man to be sure cares for and what will save him no matter how many times or how completely he may have failed". Frost has often expressed that justice is only for the deserving but mercy is for the undeserving. In the long narrative, reflective, dramatic poem A Masque of Mercy, Frost says

I can see that the uncertainty
In which we act is a severity,
A cruelty amounting to injustice
That nothing but God's mercy can assuage.

      For all purposes we can take these to be the views of the poet as well. Keeper is convinced that man can be saved only by God's mercy. God showers his mercy on the man who is the victim of injustice and who is unable to overcome the barriers he is confronted with. It does not make any difference if those barriers have been erected by man himself. This poem and the other one entitled A Masque of Reason, give expression to Frost's views on God.

      From the many things that Frost has given us leading to the assumption that God exists, we have to conclude that Frost's God finds a place between the God of the Book of Job in the Bible and the God of Voltaire, i.e., not wholly stern and majestic as adumbrated in the Bible and not logically inclined like the one in Voltaire's conception. The poem The Fear of God speaks of an arbitrary God:

Whose mercy to you rather than to others
Won't bear too critical examination.

      In these lines, it is evident, the oft-repeated age-old fear of God is hinted at. In the poem of Frost, however, it appears that the loneliness of the soul is graphically painted rather than its dependence on any deity.

      In some of Frost's poems we find some vague reference to God as a Being so remote from Man as to be meaningless if not definitely of no significant use. The universe does not care for the fate of Man but that does not prevent the poet from hoping secretly that there is a future for the soul of Man, howsoever cryptic it may be in as much as the space is astronomically vast and the potentiality of the atomic energy inconceivably unlimited. Man must make the fullest use of everything available to him on this planet without worrying about or complaining of the cruelty of anyone extraneous. Some critics have called Frost an agnostic. There are two remarkable lines in a very short poem, A Passing Glimpse at its end:

Heaven gives its glimpses only to those
Not in position to look too close.

      The closing lines of the poem For Once, Then, Something are also remarkable;

One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness ?
Truth ? A pebble of quartz ? For once, then, something.

      From these lines critics assume that Frost may be called an agnostic. Critics have remarked that there is a sort of cynicism in the way in which he rejects Christian conception of God. God is accused of cruel injustice to Man in The Masque of Reason. This is contrary to the Christian conception of a merciful benevolent God. Some of course explain the inconsistency by asserting that Frost does not depict God's lack of justice or reason but he wants to clarify the situation by projecting Man's stubbornness and lack of understanding. Written somewhat in a satirical fashion the poen underscores the problem. "Is Man's reason adequate enough to enable him to overcome the wall between himself and God ?"

      Frost's Views on Man: If as a nature poet Frost can be called great he is surely greater as a poet of man. Untermeyer says that Frost's central subject is humanity. His poetry lives with a particular aliveness because it expresses living people. Other poets have written about people. "But Robert Frost's poems are the people: they work and walk about and converse and tell their tales with the freedom of common speech."

      Frost's world of man is, if we literally go by the description, his own New England and there too the Yankee population dwelling in the countryside engaged in the humble occupations of the rustic. Shop girls, truck drivers, mechanics and other people of New England are not favoured by him in his poems. Still rarely do we find complex characters and sophisticated intellectual elite of the society. But the rural workers of New England are depicted by Frost in all possible aspects of their life and activities. Their humble joys and sorrows are brought to light with a genuine heart-felt sympathetic interest. Robert Frost identifies himself with the humble folk he describes. He does not assume a superior patronising attitude. But he treats of humanity divested of all romantic exaggeration. Nor can we say that he presents photographic pen-sketches. Frost said: "There are two types of realists. There is the one who offers a good deal of dirt with his potato to show that it is a real potato. And there is the one who is satisfied with the potato brushed clean. I am inclined to be the second kind. To me the thing that art does for life is to clean it, to strip it to form." The people in his poems are real, breathing human beings and their reality and actuality has been repeatedly attested to by those who have travelled through the region which Frost has made peculiarly his own.

      The people portrayed in the poems of Robert Frost can be classified into two types, (i) The abnormal ones - the scums of the society. They are frustrated, disillusioned, disgruntled, alienated, isolated neurotics hovering on the verge of lunacy. The renowned critics of Robert Frost e.g. W.G. O'Donnell, M.L. Rosenthal and others have endorsed this remark in their critical analyses. Poems such as Home Burial, A Servant to Servants illustrate this aspect, (ii) The well-adjusted lucky people. The other type of people in Frost's poems are the normal, well-balanced happy and lucky people among the rural folk. These people face life with courage and determination against odds if there be any. They put up a dogged resistance, and gaining success, feel proudly happy. In the poem The Death of the Hired Man there is a farmer who discovers that everyone needs at least one place of refuge where the demands of strict justice are tempered by a spirit of charity.

      Conclusion: Frost's views on God are not clearcut. He called himself a Free Thinker. As far as Man and God are concerned, Frost sees between them the same sort of barrier which existed between Man and other things. Man's own reason is responsible for his alienation from God. Only faith can bridge this gap and this is difficult for modern man who seeks t penetrate all mysteries not with standing his limitations.

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