People and Choice in Alfred Lord Tennyson's “Crossing the Bar” and Robert Frost's “the Road Not Taken”
People always want to know if they can really make a difference in their lives - People and Choice in Alfred Lord Tennyson's “Crossing the Bar” and Robert Frost's “the Road Not Taken” introduction. Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar” and Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” consider this problem thoroughly. They both portray a person at a crucial moment of his life. Frost’s poem describes the tough choice a traveler has to make about which of two presumably identical roads to pick, while Tennyson’s poem focuses on the acceptance of the speaker`s death. The choice of the right path in Frost’s poem depends only on the free will of the main character, whereas the “road” in Tennyson’s work is mapped out beforehand by faith itself.
Nevertheless, both poems exhibit the idea that no matter whether we have a choice or not, what is meant to happen is inevitable, and the harsh reality should be accepted with no regret. Structure plays a much more essential role in “Crossing the Bar” than it does in “The Road Not Taken. ” The reader is pulled into Frost’s poem by a familiar rhyme scheme – rhyming words at the end of the lines. This pattern makes the work flowing and understandable and, combined with the use of first person point of view, allows the reader to identify with the speaker.
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While Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar” uses the same point of view, its rhyme scheme unites the first and third stanzas as well as the second and fourth. The first and the third stanzas begin with a symbol of light: “sunset and evening star” and “twilight and evening bell”, and conclude with a wish: “And may there be no moaning of the bar / When I put out to sea,” “And may there be no sadness of farewell / When I embark. ” The reader should notice the absence of a period at the end of both of these stanzas.
This fact suggests that each of them is intimately linked to the one that follows. Both poems use a large number of symbols to represent the situation the main character is in. With its first line “The Road Not Taken” introduces the image of the “yellow wood,” which symbolizes fall: the time when nature gets ready to die away for the winter. Typically, fall is connected with aging, when one’s life is approaching winter: the time of death. The forest roads represent the path of life and experience.
The figurative meaning of these symbols is the decision-making process every one of us is destined to go through in life. The author’s comment at the end of the poem has often been the subject of discussions: “And that has made all the difference. ” Some suggest that it qualifies just how important is every choice we make, others find it ironic and it is up to the reader to decide which one of these interpretations to take as the correct one. “Crossing the Bar” uses a similar approach to the symbols, but the reader encounters them earlier in the poem.
The title itself introduces the nautical term “crossing,” which refers to “crossing over” into the next world. The poem paints an evening picture in the reader’s mind – the setting of the sun, the “evening star”, the “twilight,” and the “evening bell,” calling the speaker. All those images suggest the end of a day and the approaching darkness of the night. The sense of impending doom is intensified by the metaphor of the bar, used to describe the barrier between life and death.
Although the atmosphere created by the symbols is depressing and gloomy, the speakers in both poems seem to be at peace with their destiny and observe the situation from a realistic point of view. Another similarity between the poems is the sense of sadness and solitude they suggest. “The Road Not Taken” introduces “one traveler” alone in the forest, wondering about which way to continue his journey. There are two possible paths lying in front of him, both equally “worn. A tough decision is about to be made and it demands consideration: “long I stood / And looked down one as far as I could / To where it bent in the undergrowth. ”
The word “sorry” represents the regret of the speaker about not being able to take both roads; he is aware of all the opportunities that he is leaving behind once he chooses his way, yet he realizes that he is the only one who can make that decision and it will “make all the difference” in the world. Referring to solitude, “Crossing the Bar” portrays the main character on one of the two occasions one is ompletely alone: on the verge of death thus contrasting with the opposite image of birth. The speaker is ready to answer to the “one clear call,” telling him that it is time for him to cross over into the next world. Although he regrets that he won’t have a chance to say goodbye to the people who love him, the verb “embark” suggests excitement and relief about the journey he is about to take. This motive is to be found also in the last stanza of “The Road Not Taken”: 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. The “difference”, assumed to be positive, and the “sigh” of nostalgic relief points to another detail that Frost’s and Tennyson’s poems share: the calmness and acceptance of the reality. Moreover, the speakers in both works share the hope that death is not the end of existence. Frost’s main character knows that whichever road he chooses, it will inevitably lead him to another one: “knowing how way leads on to way. ” This fragment can also imply that there is something more beyond the horizon.
In “Crossing the Bar” the speaker wishes that no one will grieve for him when he departs, because although he may be carried beyond the limits of time and space as we know them, he retains the hope that he will look upon the face of his “Pilot” when he crosses the bar: For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place The flood may bear me far, I hope to see my Pilot face to face When I have crossed the bar. In this stanza the reader encounters the spiritual side of the poem. The “Pilot” that the speaker is so curious about can be his guide through death, an angel or God.
Though the poems share some topics and main ideas, each one presents a speaker in a different situation relative to choice. While Tennyson’s poem introduces a character facing the inevitable death and has no alternative but to accept his destiny, Frost’s work leaves the reader with the question “What if? ” in mind. The speaker in “The Road Not Taken” will always wonder what would have been, if he hadn’t chosen “the [road] less traveled by. ” This difference gives each poem its own spirit and makes the reader remember their messages. Crossing the Bar” and “The Road Not Taken” both develop the idea about accepting one’s destiny and hoping for the best in life and after-life. Although Tennyson’s speaker doesn’t have the power to choose unlike Frost’s main character, both poems use symbols to express similar thoughts about sadness and solitude. “The Road Not Taken” does not moralize about choice, it simply says that choice is inevitable but you never know what your choice will mean until you have lived it. “Crossing the Bar” develops this idea further by suggesting that whatever the consequences of our actions are, we shouldn’t lose our hope.
Similarly, no matter if we make our choice or fate does it for us, people are the creators of their own lives and every single decision has an impact on our destiny.
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