Robert Frost – Poetry Begins in Delight & Ends in Wisdom Essay
“Poetry begins in delight and ends in wisdom” – Robert Frost Essay Danielle Sims Robert Frost was a poet who wrote traditional poetry that opposed the free verse styles and “no rules” system of the modernist poets who wrote at the same time in the early 1900s. His poetry is deceptively simple, commonly using colloquial language which flows just as naturally as speech. Whilst Frost is a poet who seems to be simplistic in his writing styles, his rhyming schemes are surprisingly sophisticated, often using iambic pentameter or blank verse.
This, along with the use of colloquial language amounts to poetry which is intricately formed and subtly beautiful; often allowing the meaning to be overlooked. Frost is renowned for his descriptive use of nature, simplistic and timeless; to metaphorically imitate difficult aspects of life, in an era which was becoming increasingly complex. In that sense, we, as readers, can initially appreciate the understated beauty of his cleverly used language, and are rewarded with beautiful imagery.
However, when we consider the concepts which are explored in a poem by Robert Frost, we are then rewarded with knowledge, insight and, essentially; wisdom. When reading Frost’s poetry, we are delighted by the exquisite use of imagery and assonance, and then rewarded with wisdom which is conveyed through metaphors. However, readers are not the only ones who are delighted or gain wisdom; and I believe that as a poet, Robert Frost would have taken his wisdom (often harsh) and turned it into something more delightful through his poetry.
Delight can be defined as something that gives great pleasure or enjoyment and this delight can come through the use of imagery, assonance and colloquial language. A poem by Robert Frost that uses all of these conventions and could certainly be considered delightful is “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”. The title itself already paints a serene image in our mind, one which is soft and delicate. Assonance is used, allowing more depth to the already enticing imagery. “The only other sound’s the sweep/Of easy wind and downy flake”.
Here assonance and alliteration is used so that we can see and hear the quiet serenity of the wood. “To watch his woods fill up with snow”. The idea of watching a wood fill up with snow is imagery that creates a dreamy atmosphere, and is only amplified by the repetition of the last to lines “And miles to go before I sleep/And miles to go before I sleep”. This imagery is incredibly intricate, yet subtle and simple. It can be appreciated by all, and certainly grants the readers with enjoyment and pleasure; it is absolutely delightful.
Robert Frost’s poetry is certainly delightful; however it was not intended to be purely aesthetic. The true meaning of Frost’s poetry can only be uncovered once we take the time to consider the different layers of meaning. Whilst much of his poetry is elaborate and beautiful, it often alludes to concepts which are aphoristic. This aphorism is often mistaken as bleak, sad or depressing; however Frost was a realist who put things in a blunt manner: a stoic shrug. When re-reading “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”, we are able to go past the literal meaning of the poem and delve deeper.
The poem is no longer about a man riding his horse through a wood and stopping to watch it fill with snow; but is now about the man’s yearning to die at a point in his life where he is content, but not being able to fulfil that yearning because of the people in his life and the commitments he owes to them. “My little horse must think it queer/ To stop without a farmhouse near” “… gives his harness bells a shake/ To ask if there is some mistake”. In a metaphorical sense, the horse may represent a few things. Firstly, the horse may be representative of a person’s common sense.
The speaker knows that he should not be stopping by the woods, as they do not belong to him and it is “The darkest evening of the year” in winter. This means that he knows that it is dangerous, and he understands the repercussions of the decision to stay there. Secondly, the horse may represent other people in the speaker’s life: his friends and family, who do not understand his desire to be so far outside a safe area; to be so close to death. The woods are described as “Lovely, dark and deep. ” They are mysterious, but not foreboding, and he senses in the inhuman otherness a sense of a personal end.
The end of the poem writes “But I have promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep/And miles to go before I sleep”. The “promises” that the speaker must keep allude to the commitments that he owes to others in his life, and whilst he says it, there is a sense of resignation in his words. “Sleep” could be a reference to death; and is a recurring metaphor throughout much of Frost’s poetry including ‘‘After Apple Picking”. Sleep is unknown, it is mysterious; it’s like death. Wisdom is acquired knowledge; it is insight and experience.
I feel that Frost would have only made comment on this topic through “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” if he had experienced it. If he, at some point in his life would have been content to die, but had to move on anyway. At the time when Robert Frost wrote this poem (1923), he was 49 years old. Someone of that age would have experienced hardship as well as pure happiness. Perhaps, Frost wrote this at a time in his life where he was happy; a time that he wished to preserve his contentment with everything. So, maybe, through his wisdom, Frost created something absolutely delightful: this poem.
As I see it, Robert Frost’s wisdom came before his delight. His poetry certainly is delightful, yet he would have written it after acquiring wisdom; interweaving the aspects of wisdom into the delicate language and imagery of his poems. Another poem by Robert Frost that has elements of delightful imagery and descriptive language is “The Road Not Taken”. Once again, Frost’s pastoral writing style and inclination to write about difficult topics through the metaphor of nature has led him to set this poem in a “yellow wood. ” The first line of the poem sets the scenery, “Two woods diverged in a yellow wood”.
This imagery is beautiful; it is at the time of autumn and we can picture a scene of autumn leaves fluttering from the trees onto the ground. “And looked down one as far as I could, To where it bent in the undergrowth”. We can picture peering down a yellow trail, and looking as far as we possibly can, until there was only bush. Because we can picture it, we can relate to it, and appreciate the scenery. The way the poem sounds is also captivating. It is set out in iambic tetrameter, a very difficult rhyming scheme which, when spoken, sounds amazing.
The poem flows, thanks to the use of enjambment throughout. “And sorry I could not travel both/And be one traveller, long I stood” “Two woods diverged in a wood and I-/ I took the one less travelled by”. The use of colloquial language only aids the reader in appreciating it, as the words work so well together. We take delight in reading it as it flows off the tongue so naturally, and it is beautifully formed and written. In “The Road Not Taken”, the wisdom comes, as in all of Frost’s poetry, a few layers underneath the initial and literal meaning.
The two roads may be metaphors for the differing decisions we will have to make in life. This poem is often misunderstood as a poem of encouragement, an indication that choosing to take a path in life which is less common will amount to satisfaction. However, my reading of this poem indicates an opposing idea; that we, as human beings will forever be dissatisfied with the lost knowledge of what taking a different path in life may have amounted to. We are able to obtain, right from the start, a sense of discontentment with the path the speaker decided to take as the title itself focuses on the differing path.
This discontentment is continued with the second line “And sorry I could not travel both/And be one traveller, long I stood”. The speaker infers through the words “long I stood” that the decision about which path to take was a difficult one; something which took a lot of thought and time. He peers down one road to decide if he should take it, but can only see up to a certain point “And looked down one as far as I could/To where it bent in the undergrowth”. This metaphorically represents the idea that whilst we may be able to estimate the outcome of a decision, we will not know until we make it.
Whilst the two roads are initially described as different (one had been passed before and the other had not “Because it was grassy and wanted wear”), they we’re essentially the same. “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”. Neither of them was less travelled by. The speaker then comments on how he will travel the differing road on “another day! ”, all the while knowing he will never get the opportunity to “I doubted if I should ever come back”.
There is a resignation to the decision he has made; “I shall be telling this with a sigh”. We as readers suspect that this is a sigh of abdication rather than relief. The last two lines say “I took the one less travelled by/And that has made all the difference. ” Yet, as we read before, neither of the roads were less travelled by. The wisdom comes when we realise that, no matter which path we decide to take in life, or which decisions we make, it does not matter, as the outcomes are essentially the same.
This poem was written in 1916, when Robert Frost was 40 and after most of his life-altering decisions had been made. His experiences would have helped him in writing this poem, and perhaps he was attempting to convey to us that we should just make a decision rather than dwell on one. Robert Frost was a poet who loved to write about difficult concepts in a simplistic way. His writing often revolved around nature, and drew upon metaphors from this. His writing is delightful; it is beautiful and much pleasure can be derived from reading it.
It is filled with wisdom; we are able to observe how Frost has used his own experiences to teach us many different lessons. From the reader’s perspective, we can only grasp the delightfulness in an initial reading: the beauty of the imagery, enjambment, form, alliteration and assonance. After a few readings, we can understand the deeper layers of meaning which come from his Frost’s use of metaphors. Yet, I believe that from the author’s perspective, Frost would have gained wisdom, often from his own personal hardships, and then turned that pain and wisdom into something beautifully poetic: something delightful.
Either way, his use of nature, which is so timeless and beautiful, along with the use of colloquial language has allowed the delight and wisdom from his poetry remain relevant through all generations. : Bibliography: “The Road Not Taken”, N. D. , No Author, visited 29th/3rd/2012, http://www. sparknotes. com/poetry/frost/section7. rhtml “Robert Frost”, 27th/3rd/2012, No Author, visited 28th/3rd/2012, http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Robert_Frost#Early_years “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”, N. D. , No Author, visited 30th/3rd/2012, http://www. fofweb. com/Lit/default. asp