Thursday, 21 June 2012

Leaving Cert English Poetry Robert Frost Essay

Okay so this is a higher level English poetry Question I wrote on Robert Frost. Hope it is helpful; although it is not a very high standard as English was my weakest subject and I dropped down to pass before the exams.

“You don’t want to say directly what you can say indirectly,” is how Frost commented on his poetry. Do you think that this statement accurately reflects the poetry of Robert Frost?

            In my opinion, Frost’s statement about his poetry does accurately reflect his poems as they all contain both a literal and a metaphorical meaning. This can clearly be seen in al of Frost’s poems that I have studied which include, “The Tuft of Flowers”, “Mending Wall”, “The Road Not Taken”, “Out, Out- “, “Spring Pools” and “Aquatinted with the Night”. In all six of these poems a message is conveyed both directly and indirectly. Frost uses everyday, ordinary people, living normal lives as the subject in his poetry and his poems are vividly descriptive, but they go beyond the mere description, exploring important moral and philosophical issues. They may appear as simple and straightforward, but it can take many re-readings and a deeper analysis to fully understand the hidden meaning or message behind the poem.

            In “The Tuft of Flowers”, the simple ordinary story of a man looking for his neighbour to help him “turn the grass” is only a cover to the deeper meaning of fellowship, togetherness and loneliness. Frost’s poems, including “The Tuft of Flowers”, need to be interpreted beyond the surface level of the subject matter in order to fully understand and appreciate them. Everything in the poem is literal but also metaphorically represents something else in life. The “bewildered butterfly” is confused, flying “round and round”, searching for the flower that was “yesterday’s delight”. This reflects memory and the search for happiness. The butterfly gets the poet to think about the situation, “I thought of questions that have no reply.” Instead of returning to the ordinary, daily tasks needing to be done, the butterfly captures his attention and draws him to, “The Tuft of Flowers.” The butterfly unites the speaker with the mower who has been and gone, “and I must be as he had been – alone.” If the butterfly had not appeared the speaker may not have noticed the “tuft of flowers” that had been left earlier by the mower which symbolises the mowers kindness and love for the beauty of nature. The butterfly’s search for the resting flower mirrors the poet’s search for companionship. The main theme of the poem is fellowship and, in my opinion, this is reflected in the underlying message which is that you are never really alone, even though at times it may seem like you are. Someone has been in your situation before, there are absent presences, such as the mower in the poem. The butterfly acts as a unifying force, bringing the speaker to the flower which acts as a platform for a bond to be made between the neighbours.

            The poem “Mending Wall” is another one of Frost’s poems which can be read on more than one level. The wall in the poem has a metaphorical meaning as well as being a physical reality. On a literal level, the poem is about repairing a wall. On a metaphorical level the poem has a much deeper meaning. The wall represents a barrier between the speaker and his neighbour. The simple language makes it easy to understand what is being described in the poem, however when you scratch beneath the surface you see it is not just about building a wall but creating a blockage between two people. The speaker wonders if there really is any need for it, do they need a fence to keep them apart? They continue building up the wall between them as the stones fall but is it necessary or is it a barrier preventing a relationship, “what I was walling in or walling out.” It s ironic that the thing that divides and blocks them from each other is also what brings them together, “a day we meet to walk the line.” It is this effective irony used that I find most appealing about this poem. If conveys the sense of mystery, that something is being conveyed indirectly which entices you to dig deeper into the meaning behind this poem. The poem refers to their feelings and attitudes towards each other. In this poem, Frost conveys his mischievous, imaginative side and the contrast between him and his stubborn, traditional neighbour, “like an old-stone savage armed.” It shows how there can be a common ground between people who are different and portrays the importance of building relationships.
            “The Road Not Taken” describes the speaker making a decision on which route to take and his feelings about his choice afterwards. An initial reading of this poem seems to convey a straightforward message, that in life you must make you own decisions and follow your own path. However if you delve deeper into the meaning indirectly portrayed, the poem reflects the decision making process, choices in life, the consequences, and control over our paths in life. I find the poem appealing as it has a universal theme, relatable to all even though it is an intensely personal poem. Everyone at some point must make a decision. We do not always choose the right one, and should be careful as things are not always as they appear to be. In this poem, the speaker though he was taking the road less travelled but in reality they were both worn the same. “It was grassy and wanted wear; though as for that, the passing there had worn them really about the same.” The speaker imagines himself telling the story “ages and ages hence”. He expects to tell the story “with a sigh” The reader is left to consider whether this is a sigh of regret having chosen the wrong path, or of acceptance that we must make decisions without knowing what lies ahead and life must continue. It is the contradiction at the heart of the poem that, in my opinion, makes it more interesting. If both roads are basically the same, does it matter what way we choose? This is suggestive that no matter what choices we make our lives follow their own path, life is mainly controlled by fate and we are powerless to control our destiny.
            Frost directly and indirectly informs us of the harsh reality of life in his poem, “Out, Out – .” On a literal level it recalls the violent death of a young boy that is horrific, unexpected an shocking. The main theme of the poem is the fragility of life but also that life must continue even in tragic circumstances. Frost uses memorable images to evoke the beauty of nature, the threat of the saw, the horror of the accident an the indifference of the neighbours. “Snarled and rattled, snarled an rattled.” The repetition emphasises the threat of the saw and creates a mood of expectancy like it is about to attack. Onomatopoeia and personification of the saw add to the sense of fear and danger. The ending is shocking with the tragic death of the child but what adds to the unexpected surprise is the reaction of the neighbours, that “since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.” The harsh, perhaps exaggerated response is very effective and shows how life must continue on, even in the most horrific situations. The poem also indirectly tells us to cherish, admire and appreciate the world around us. The poem is set on a farm in the countryside of Vermont with a beautiful, picturesque scene from the “five mountain ranges one behind the other, under the sunset.” If the workers had taken time to look up from their work they would notice this. The beauty is overshadowed by their need to get the work done which captures the reality in the world today. We should appreciate life as it can be very easily and suddenly taken away. We are powerless to control our destiny but life must go on. Life goes on even after the dreadful, premature death of the boy.

            In my opinion the meaning behind the poem “Spring Pools” is also conveyed directly an indirectly. The literal, physical message is about the circle of life, continuity and the transience of nature. The snow falls from the sky and melts to form spring pools on the forest floor which allows flowers to grow, but the trees absorb the water up through their roots to grow their leaves which drain the pools causing the flowers to wither and die. “These pools that… will like the flowers beside them soon be gone.” The leaves grow on the trees which darkens the forest floor unlike the bright open pools which mirrored the sky and allowed flowers to blossom. This shows how nature is interconnected and is constantly changing with the passing of time from spring into summer. The tree uses the water which destroys the flowers in order for it to grow it’s leaves. The spring pools and flowers are passive and weak, powerless to control their destiny. Metaphorically the poet is comparing himself to the tree even though he has portrayed the tree negatively. He uses the beauty of nature as inspiration for his poetry. The tree uses the water to grow leaves and Frost uses the inspiration to write poems. The poet also shows how we are powerless to stop or control our destiny, just as the flowers cannot prevent dying when the tree soaks up the water but the tree must absorb the water so it will survive. There is no option or choice, we cannot control what will happen in our lives. The poem shows a sense of regret at the violence and terror on the weak by the strong threatening figures. The tree is portrayed as a fearful presence destroying the beauty of the flowers and pools. The speaker regrets how short lived the beauty of the flowers, which represents life, can be.          
            “Acquainted With the Night” is another one of Robert Frost’s poems which has different dimensions to it. The darkness is not only the actual darkness but the inner darkness and loneliness the speaker feels. It is one of the few Frost poems, the only one I have studied, that has an urban setting. It is ironic as urban cities are generally associated with community and togetherness not loneliness and isolation like the speaker in the poem feels. The speaker is a solitary, uncommunitive figure walking through the deserted city streets at night. No connection is made between the speaker and any other person, they are just referred to as “the sound of feet” and “an interrupted cry”. This is a deeply personal poem as “I” is repeated seven times. Throughout his life, Frost suffered from depression, loneliness, and isolation, he knows how they feel and they can relate to this poem. It is a gloomy poem that explores isolation and loneliness in the darkness of the night which is symbolic of the darkness in the speakers hear and soul.
            In all of his poems, Frost says things indirectly as well as directly. Frost once said that poets, “like to talk in parables and in hints and in indirections.” His own poems are an excellent example of this. All Frost’s poems which I have studied have both a literal and a metaphorical meaning. You need to interpret his poems beyond the surface level as he once stated his poems were, “written in parable so the wrong people won’t understand and so won’t be saved.” Frost uses everyday, ordinary, relatable images and scenes in his poetry making them very accessible. However, the subject matter of the poems that is described goes far beyond the description exploring various moral and philosophical ideas so suggestion is as important as what is being described. 

I'm not sure what grade this would get as my teacher never collected them but I hope it is of help :)


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