Traditional Elements in Robert Frost Poetry

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      When North of Boston appeared, a reviewer called it "the old poetry as young as ever". The observation could well describe the whole of Frost's poetry, which evinces "old ways to be new". According to Frost himself, new was as important as old, experiment as much required as tradition. Robert Frost's poetry manifests his traditional inheritance of the American civilization which had its roots in the ancient Western civilization. The Gift Outright epitomises the land, prehistory and history of the American people.

Frost inherited discernible influence of Thoreau and Emerson. From Emerson he learnt the necessity of communion with the environment and the significance of physical labour. From the Georgians he learnt to treat nature in a clear and natural way. But while the Georgians were superficial, Frost invests his nature poems with layers of meaning dealing with problems of universality.
Robert Frost

      Being a modern poet, it appears strange to some people that he adhered to old forms in his poetry. He wrote dramatic monologues, lyrics, sonnets, narratives. He rejected the modern penchant for formless poetry. Nor did he experiment unnecessarily in versification.

      Robert Frost inherited discernible influence of Thoreau and Emerson. From Emerson he learnt the necessity of communion with the environment and the significance of physical labour. From the Georgians he learnt to treat nature in a clear and natural way. But while the Georgians were superficial, Frost invests his nature poems with layers of meaning dealing with problems of universality.

      Robert Frost retained his individuality amidst all the currents of change sweeping the literary scene in his time. He was unaffected by the Imagism of World War Iyears, the art-for-art's sake of the 1920's the social consciousness of the 1930's or the super-patriotism of the 1940's. Frost accepted the traditional metrical forms. However, to suit his realistic spirit, he gives these old forms a touch of originality with an informal, sharp and subtle turn.

      The traditional and the original blend in Frost's nature-poems. His poetry gives sharp and lovely descriptions of Nature. The hills, woods, the lonely farmsteads, the snow and thaws of New England landscape are dealt with in Frost's poems, but these achieve an original touch in the concept of Nature held by the poet. Frost as nature poet presents a contrast to earlier nature poets. Nature changes its meaning for Frost from poem to poem. He neither treats Nature as benevolent in the Wordsworthian tradition, nor as malevolent in the tradition of Hardy. Affinity between Nature and Man is absent in Frost's poetry. Nature is treated as friend or foe or as totally indifferent to man.

      With traditional forms and concepts Frost did, however, experiment, and he added his own original aspects to them. He extended the subject matter of the lyric and brought to it an extraordinary sophistication. He blends the talking voice' with music; this is evident in many a poem of North of Boston. He captured the "sound of sense", or the rhythm of everyday talk, which were then blended with the regular beat of metre. The effect could not have been achieved without a certain amount of experimentation.

      Frost constantly paid attention to the blend of theme and technique. The thematic tension and the technical tension inter-relates beautifully in the lyric Come In, for instance. Frost concentrated on the establishment of a dramatic context within each poem so as to capture the international differences of speech. He created a new blank verse rhythm, wedded firmly to the "sound of sense", capturing accurately the sounds of the speaking voice.

      Frost is an original poet by all literary and poetic standards. Poe, Longfellow and Whittier, Frost's predecessors, have also written regional poetry, but they certainly fall short of Frost's stature as a great provincial poet. His strength lies in writing an original verse and in developing a fresh language and voice which match his themes and art. Frost may not appear a drastic experimentalist in language and rhythm beside Pound and Eliot as innovators. But Frost's work also involved genuine experiment. He quietly laboured with words and music to achieve a new and pure effect in American poetic idiom.

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