A Comparative Analysis on Robert Frost’s Works:
Mowing, Mending Walls, Fire and Ice, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, The Road not Taken and Birches; these are some of the most loved poems from the renowned poet, Robert Frost. Over the years, Frost has been recognized as one of the brightest and finest poets from the 20th century England (Liukkonen). A lot of his works have become some of the most popular subjects for reviews and analysis as his works became some of the most read through the decades. In studies concerning classic English poetry, Frost’s works would always come significant. These works represented who the author was and how he wanted his name to be remembered. Through the years, these poems have also been quite the standards of good poetry. In this discussion, these poems shall be analyzed and explicated in-detail while carefully comparing and contrasting the themes and motifs utilized by the poet. This discussion shall also try to figure out whether or not there is indeed one single element consistent and similar among Frost’s works. This shall involved the six poems aforementioned.
Nature, specifically the presence of trees has been a consistent element in Frost’s poems. In most works, Frost was vividly recreating his vision of nature, forests and trees which takes the readers into a peculiar setting. In Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Frost sets the setting of the poem early on in the introduction where he bring the reader into the opening of a forest.
“Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow” -lines 1-4 (Frost, qtd. in Gardner 35)
In these lines, Frost takes the reader into a forest which apparently caught the speaker’s interest. The speaker was meaning to stay for a while upon knowing the the owner of the woods will be gone for quite a while. This poem is one of Frost’s simplest and easiest to understand. Plainly as it looks, it tells the story of a man who means to stay in the woods, where he finds amazement and joy. In this poem, the forest was depicted as a haven which gives a person a sense of delight and belonging, as what can be interpreted in the speaker second thoughts on whether or not to leave the woods. As what can be observed, the poet could have been close to nature himself. Such a depiction only shows a particular inclination and appreciation for nature, specifically forests and trees.
On the other hand, Birches appears to hold a deeper meaning in its depiction of a birch tree. In this poem, the poet prefers the possibility that the birch trees have been bent due to children who rode and swung from them, rather than the other possibility that it has been caused by ice storms.
“When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice storms do […]” -lines 1-5 (Frost 157)
In these lines, the concern of the speaker about these birch trees was very apparent. He would like to think that the trees were bent by children who rode them but unintentionally bent them; rather than by ice storms that can be one of mother nature’s worst disasters. Much like the previous poem, Frost spoke simply and succinctly in this work. There were almost no profound and incomprehensible words that would complicate what the author was trying to enunciate: his love and care for birch trees. However, unlike the first one, this has a more down or negative emotional personality. It seems to speak about failure and misery. Much like the birch trees, people also bend at times. They bend either because of the things that could be fun at some point but would cost them a serious deal of things afterwards; or something which may naturally occur and they will not be able to do something about it – such as aging and death. However, as was was mentioned earlier, it was still clear that such a depiction presented the author’s innate fascination and amusement about trees and nature.
But aside from these poems, The Road not Taken also presents symbols and elements related to the author’s fascination about nature, specifically forests and trees. In this poem, the speaker was retelling his story of choosing between two identical paths in the woods. Both were covered with dry leaves and branches, however, one was just less traveled.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow road […]
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day! […]
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 […]” lines, 1, 11-13, 16-19 (Frost, qtd. in Parini 17)
Compared to the two abovementioned works, this poem does not actually iterates on the poet’s fascination and liking of nature or of trees; rather, it focuses on the poet’s wish that he could have taken the road less traveled in the woods. However, it is still interesting to note that the poet used the forest again as the main setting in this work. When talking about roads, a poet could have easily took the setting of a busy cross road in the metro, but instead, he stuck to his trademark of featuring a forest setting in his poems, regardless if the message was actually about nature or not.
Apart from this, Frost’s Mowing, and Mending Wall also features the element of nature. In Mowing, this element was very obvious as the poet speaks about the machine, trimming the grass under the scorching sun (Kallich 97). As compared to the three aforementioned poems, the only elements – associated to nature – that have been mentioned on this work were the sun, flowers, and the green snake. On the other hand, the Mending Wall was not also central to the concept of nature; however, it was set in an environment with several natural elements such as a rabbit, the sun, the hill, apple trees and woods (Frost ii). Just like in Mowing, this poem was also not directed towards the ideal of nature, but the setting was obviously close to it.
If all these 5 poems were central or at least related to some elements in nature – which has already been a Robert Frost trademark, the last poem, Fire and Ice do not seem to mention and relate to any natural element. However, in some deeper interpretation, the poet’s inkling to nature can still be seen in this one as this talks about the two possible natural end of the world – either my fire or ice (Negri 44).
These manifestations on nature in Robert Frost’s poems can be seen as the author’s way of acknowledging the fact that in nature, life’s realities reflect. Like falling leaves depict failure, a blossoming flowers as a new start, and a bent tree as either aging or death (Tuten and Zubizarreta 185). And considering the poet’s inkling to nature as an ideal and as a theme, it appears that there always was a part of him that spoke as nature does it course.
Aside from the consistent theme of nature, Frost made an unfailing usage of the ideal of self-knowledge. If nature was very apparent in his works, so as the concept of self learning and realization, which was also seen associated to the ideal of nature in a lot of ways. Most of the time, Frost depicts the phenomenon of learning through natural ways, or through ways that are related to or brought forth by nature. A good example of this would be the story of the child who learns the effects of snow storms on birch trees. Frost writes,
“[…] Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystals shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow crust” -lines 5-10 (Frost 157)
In these lines, the child learned how the birches bent after a snow storm. Through successive observations, the narrator was able to tell that it is indeed possible that birches bend through this natural phenomenon, aside from children riding them. In this scene, learning and knowledge takes through a natural occurrence. The narrator was learning something by engaging himself to nature.
On the other hand, much like what was shown in Birches, the speaker in The Road Not Taken also presents a form of self learning. In this poem, the narrator analyzes the signs and elements on the two diverging paths in forest so as to understand why one was less taken as compared to the other.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow road […]
Then took the other just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanter wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.” -lines 1, 6-12 (Parini 17)
The kind of learning portrayed was very simplistic. The speaker was able to understand why the other road was the more traveled road since it has more footsteps on it and the path was grassier, hence signaling safety ahead. What is amusing in this poem is the fact that the author was encouraging and rousing the critical thinking in his readers as well. The readers were critically thinking together with the speaker.
But apart from these, another poem also exemplifies Frost’s fascination on humans’ self learning ability. In Mending Wall, just like in the first aforementioned poems, the speaker tries to figure out the ideals and the perspective of his neighbor upon suggesting that walls make good neighbors. In this poem, the characters have two opposing views on the function and significance of the fence.
“Something is there that doesn’t love a wall
That send the frozen ground swell under it […]
If I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it?’
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows” -lines 1-2, 29-31 (Frost ii)
Self learning occurred in this poem upon the narrator’s evaluation of his neighbor’s sense and reasoning. In such a place where there are no cows and other animals to fence, what good will a wall do but to keep neighbors apart from each other? This is another interesting depiction of self learning; however, this poem has a more emotional attack to it.
Mowing, much like the poems discussed earlier, portrays a similar kind of learning; and this has something to do with the significance of labor. However, the narrator realizes this ideal by contemplating on what the sound of the mower may imply. However, although the last two poems, Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening and Fire and Ice depicts a concept of realization, this was not that close to self learning – as how it has been depicted in the four poems discussed earlier. However, in a way, these two still relates to the rest since it involves the narrator’s thoughts, how it processes the ideals and elements around him and some realizations.
All these six poems hold an interestingly comprehensible form of language, maybe because of how relateable its messages are to readers. All six of Frost’s works tells stories that are true-to-life; those which people may easily come across everyday; hence, though some of his words may be considered quite profound, readers are easily engaged and related to his works because of this. Upon analyzing Frost’s works, it can also be deduced that t he author really has the tendency to associate a particular theme or symbol in a lot of his works. This implies that the author devotion and passion about these elements and motifs could possible be that strong that his works can be seen as the outlet of such advocacies. Although the poems have differ in rhythm and pattern, Frost’s identity as a poet was nevertheless apparent and evident in each piece of literature, because his trademark of being close to elements of nature and to the ideal of self-learnings has been very consistent. This kind of consistence strengthened Frost identity and uniqueness in his craft, which has probably made him one of most loved poets in his generation.
Poems are really very interesting pieces of literature. They enable poets to express their thoughts and feelings about somethings in a way which can either be cover or straight forward. As I went through these six poems of Robert Frost, I was able to realize that poems are honest pieces of literature. They reflect what the world goes through, what people go through and especially what these individual poets go through as well. Frost has already succeeded to make a name in this industry, but he never diverted from the style which brought him such a popularity – he remained close to readers’ comprehension. Not too many big and profound words. He tried to be as simple as possible so as to make as many readers as possible engaged to his works. This way, his messages were brought forth easily. It was very impressive of Frost to honestly present his passion towards nature and learning. These things are two of the most important in life. And all these poems of Frost will always remain reminders of how precious lessons on these themes in life can be.
Frost, Robert. North of Boston. BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2008.
Frost, Robert. Robert Faggen. Ed. Early Poems. London, Penguin Classics, 1998.
Gardner, Martin. Best Remembered Poems. Courier Dover Publications, 1992.
Kallich, Martin. A Book of the Sonnet: Poems and Criticisms. Ardent Media, 1973.
Liukkonen, Perti. “Robert (Lee) Frost (1874-1963)”. Pegasos. 04 August 2010. <http://kirjasto.sci.fi/rfrost.htm>.
Negri, Paul. Great Short Poems. Courier Dover Publications, 2000.
Parini, Jay. The Wadsworth Anthology of Poetry. Cengage Learning, 2005