Robert Frost por Valeria Becerril Fernández. Desactivaré los comentarios este viernes 19 de abril a las 10 am.
The poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” presents, as Valeria emphasizes, a regular and rhythmical structure. The poem is constituted as a whole clearly unified by the presence of internal unions of sound and rhythm, which contributes with the impression of equilibrium and completeness. The rhythmical pattern unites each stanza with the previous one because of the repetition of the final rhyme with the second to last line. Furthermore, this union is visible in each of the lines due to the repetition of the sounds that connect each word to the rest of the line. The repetition of these sounds, which are mostly soft and long ─ as in “woods” and “these”─ is also present in the rest of the stanza, and in throughout the poem. The language is very simple and, with the regularity of the rhythm, resembles the fluidity of oral speech. Most of the words in the poem are monosyllables, although there are also two-syllable words and just one three-syllable word, “promises”; as the first line of the poem, composed solely of monosyllables: “Whose woods these are I think I know” (1), and that, at the same time, produces alliterations with the sound [noU] and [wU], together with the repetition of the s, o, and the pronoun I. This aspect of the poem may correspond to the content of the poem, because it may allude to the representation of the scenery that is presented: a brief moment, which may be seen in the brevity of the visual and acoustic presence of a monosyllable, within a whole life, which may correspond to the rest of the sounds of the poem; a small part, within the rhythmic whole of the poem. However, it is important to emphasize that some of these monosyllabic words have long vocalic sounds, as “queer,” and this may function as an additional commentary on the content of the poem. The long range of the sound within the brevity of a syllable may be emphasizing the importance that lies within the brief moment that is described in the poem.
The presence of the internal rhymes, the brief words, and the soft sounds of the poem may remind us the cadence of a lullaby, or the movement of the snow and the sounds of the air in the woods. This musicality may create the sense of tranquility or calmness that probably alludes to the torpor or the fatigue of the poetic voice, and emphasizes the idea of a necessity of rest. Moreover, this weariness together with the rigorous control over the structure of the poem may be related to the poetic voice’s attitude towards the incontrollable or unknown of the forest (or nature); the poem may present an individual who faces a dark cold night and who manages to preserve an apparent control.
As Valeria well notices throughout her presentation, Robert Frost’s poetry stand outs for interweaving form, structure, and rhetorical and poetical devices with sense. Lawrence Thompson also talks about this in his essay ““Robert Frost’s Theory of Poetry,” where he states that “to give form in poetry is also to employ that intricate method of conveying organization, shapeliness, fitness, to the matter or substance of context or meaning of the poem […] and Frost goes further to assert that […] this formal function of distinct elements shall achieve the personal idiom of the poet’s expression without sacrificing that happy correspondence which must exist between his own experience and the experience of those who come after to read […] the poem. Thus, the poems “The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping by the Woods in a Snowy Evening” might not seem to be the exception. In these poems, Frost, equals sense and form by not favouring one over the other. In other words, in these poems, poetical and rhetorical devices such as rhyme, meter, repetition, rhythm aliteration, asonance, and metaphor not only work as an embelishment complement, but convey sense. I would only like to add to Valeria’s already careful analysis that in my opinion the trochaic tetrameter miaght also imitates the way in which a horse trots at a slow pace.
As Valeria well notices through her presentation, Robert Frost’s poetry stand outs for interweaving form, structure, and rhetorical and poetical devices with sense. Lawrence Thompson also talks about this in his essay ““Robert Frost’s Theory of Poetry,” where he states that “to give form in poetry is also to employ that intricate method of conveying organization, shapeliness, fitness, to the matter or substance of context or meaning of the poem […] and Frost goes further to assert that […] this formal function of distinct elements shall achieve the personal idiom of the poet’s expression without sacrificing that happy correspondence which must exist between his own experience and the experience of those who come after to read […] the poem. Thus, the poems “The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping by the Woods in a Snowy Evening” might not seem to be the exception. In these poems, Frost, equals sense and form by not favouring one over the other. In other words, in these poems poetical and rhetorical devices such as rhyme, meter, repetition, rhythm aliteration, asonance, and metaphor not only work as an embelishment complement, but convey sense. I would only like to add to Valeria’s already careful analysis that in my opinion the trochaic tetrameter imitates the way in which a horse trots in a slow motion.
I find interesting what Valeria mentioned about Frost’s poetry considered as pastoral. In an article titled “Pastoralism and the American Urban Ideal: Hawthorne, Whitman, and the Literary Pattern,” James L. Machor argued that the relationship between the urban and nature was a common theme in the literature of the United States and that it can be traced back to writers such as John Winthrop (331). In this article Machor also affirms that Walt Whitman’s poetry embodies an internalized one and I believe that Frost was heavily influenced by it.
The first poem, “The Road Not Taken,” is a fine example of internalization. As Valeria demonstrated, the road depicted in the poem represented a “external decision of which road should the poetic voice choose” and this “is also clearly an internal exploration” (2). The other poem, “Stopping by Woods on a snowy Evening,” also presents this kind of internalization from the poetic voice: “Whose woods these are I think I know.” In this line, the very beginning of the poem, the first image to be conveyed is that of nature and just after, the “I” of the poetic voice. The hyperbaton highlights the first section, so that the image of the woods is predominant to that of the poetic “I.” As the previous poem, the landscape becomes symbolic to the poetic voice, but it is only meaningful for him: “My little horse must think it queer/ To stop without a farmhouse near.” Although the nearby village may represent a more secure place (as they are normally built for protection from nature), he seems to be more comfortable in the middle of the woods: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep.” The poetic voice’s preference for the woods is not only shocking because of that, but also because the woods also had connotations of death and so he concludes the poem:
But I have promises to keep,
And Miles to go before I sleep
And Miles to go before I sleep
The woods, therefore, may resemble his internal desire of death. In this way, both poems seem to be closely related to the internalized poetry of writers such as Whitman so that, through this path, a relationship between the pastoral and the transcendentalism, which was also mentioned by Valeria, are closely related in Frost poetry.
Machor, James L. “Pastoralism and the American Urban Ideal: Hawthorne, Whitman, and the Literary Pattern.” American Literature 54.3 (1982): 329. America: History and Life with Full Text. Web. 13 Apr. 2013
The poem “The Road Not Taken” reminds me the poem “Ithaka” by the Alexandrian poet Constantine Cavafy due to the use of the metaphors of “road” in Frost’s, and “journey” in Cavafy’s, which both of them may imply the course of life itself. As Valeria points out in her essay in Frost’s poem the word “road” “is not only referring to just a literal road but a journey of self discovery.” In this manner, in Cavafy’s poem there could be also a reference to a “journey of self discovery” because the poetic voice emphasizes throughout the poem uniquely the actions and the “adventures” during the path toward the final destination instead of the island Ithaka itself.
Nevertheless, it is important to notice the different atmospheres that each metaphor of “road” may indicate. On the one hand, in Frost’s poem there is a sense of nostalgia and doubt about the trodden road. “Yet knowing how way leads on to way/I doubted if I should ever come back.” This is to say, the “trodden road” may portray an unsatisfactory life that is not desired anymore. On the other hand, in Cavafy’s poem from the very beginning the poetic voice invites the addressee to walk along the road to Ithaka. “As you set out for Ithaka/hope the voyage is a long one,/full of adventure, full of discovery.” In this manner, this “road” may imply a sense of joy and courage to live and manage to overcome all the obstacles.
Moreover, another important difference to consider that may modify in each poem the emphasis of the metaphor of “road” is the poetic “I” in “The Road Not Taken” and the non-existent poetic voice in “Ithaka.” Whilst the purpose of the neutral poetic voice in “Ithaka” is to challenge and encourage only the addressee “You” through imperatives;
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich (25-31).
the poetic “I” confesses throughout “The Road Not Taken” his/her own experience about his/her life. For instance, in the fourth stanza:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Thus in Frost’s poem the metaphor of “road” suggests an “internal exploration” and reflection about the own poetic voice’s life. In this manner, it is emphasized the transcendentalist movement about the own personal set of feelings and emotions that an individual experiences during life.
As Valeria points out, Robert Frost is a poet torn between the crossroad of the nineteenth-century and modernism. This we can see in the mixture found at his verse for it is both a culmination of many of that centuries´traditions and tendencies, and a combination of his contemporaries´work. As many crtitics suggest and as we can see in “The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” a new, modern idiom along with a very direct and economy of words (which makes me think of Ezra Pound, for example). Yet, I do not think we can say that Frost really dittaches from the poetic practices of the nineteenth century, because even if these two poems are not written using traditional verse forms and use rhyme differently (as Etyzel highlights). Frost, in this aspect, does not appear to be an innovator or experimental. Another one of his poems, “Fire and Ice” can be appreciated within this same vein.
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
His poem is not longer than nine lines, there is no innovation on the use of a rhyme scheme for it goes ABABCDCDC though there are iambic and trochee feet. The vocabulary relies on the usage of everyday words and syntax. Yet, it is this same directness and simplcity where the Frost-characteristic aspect lies. Much in the manner of “The Road Not Taken,” it is his direct experience with the world what had led him to be torn again between two possible directions, either fire and ice, or the first and the second road. Yet, in this poem, he does not get to a final decision on which of them he would choose, and thus, feels no remorse about his ultimate choice. The tone if the poem, therefore, focuses on the angst of the decision moment rather than on a retrospective of it. And this is what makes the poem appear to us so “fresh,” so close and direct to us, readers. It forever feels as if it is still deciding which one to choose. It is the lifelong decision of realizing death´s impending meeting with us (an “us” reinforced by the usage of the collective pronoun instead of a “me” or a “you”; it is a groupal ending the ending of the world), and our illusion of deciding by imagination our shared finale.
As Valeria have already said, the simplicity of Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” is only a façade. This apparent simplicity is given by its plain and straightforward diction. However, the ambiguity posed by the situation of the poetic voice gives the poem a quality of transcendental complexity. The situation on “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” can be interpreted as that of a traveler who has stopped by familiar woods to contemplate the wintry landscape. Another possible interpretation, given by the plain but evocative diction, is that of the meditation on death. The poetic voice tells us that this is “The darkest evening of the year,” this line could be a metaphor of as his melancholic emotional state. The isolation of the place that the poetic voice has chosen to stop by, which is “without farmhouse near,” and the instinctive response of the horse emphasize the somber quality of the landscape. In the last stanza the attributes given to the woods, “lovely, dark and deep,” can be interpreted as features of a final rest , which is not yet an option for the poetic voice signaled by the conjunction “but.” The metaphorical journey cannot be over yet because there are “promises to keep” and “miles before I sleep.”