This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
READ THIS. Seriously. Robert Frost is amazing because: He writes conversationally—which means, if we read with even a hint of attentiveness, we care about what he writes. He makes us care. His conversational cadence comes from his almost universal use of iambic meter (really, if in doubt, it’s iambic, man)— which, because of its similarity to the human heartbeat, spells natural to us. Most of his poems are first-person, narrative lyrics— which means they are told from a single speaker’s point of view and represent that speaker’s outlook.
Poems on the test: Design* Accidentally on Purpose Out, Out—* After Apple-Picking Birches Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening Mending Wall *taught by Benson in class
Key lines: “I found a dimpled spider, fat and white, On a white heal-all, holding up a moth Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth—“ (1-3) (italics: three white images, all combined to produce death) “What brought the kindred spider to that height, Then steered the white moth thither in the night? What but design of darkness to appall?— If darkness govern in a thing so small.” (11-14) This poem is a sonnet—very unusual for Frost! It’s one of his most restricted and traditional structures.
That reflects the poems theme: Design could mean, as easily as benevolence, sinister malevolent forces. Frost is asking us to qualify our religious and “scientific” thoughts.
2. Accidentally on Purpose
Key lines: “The Universe is but the Thing of things, The things but balls going round in rings.” (1-2) “They mean to tell us all was rolling blind” (5) “Till Darwin came to earth upon a year To show the evolution how to steer. They mean to tell us, though, the Omnibus Had no real purpose till it got to us.” (9-12) “Grant me intention, purpose, and design That’s near enough for me to the Divine.” (19-20) “Our best guide upward further to the light. Passionate preference such as love at sight.” (23-24) This poem is didactic (pedantic/teaching…almost preachy, one would say) Heroic couplets, rhymed aabb The poem is ironic in its entire presentation, from the title (a paradox) to the opposing groups of stanzas: in the first three, the narrator sets up an idea of evolution, and then he refutes it outright in the last three. Repetition of “purpose” in both groups of stanzas emphasizes irony of evolution (according to speaker) The last stanza is important because it refutes, in a way, both arguments. Certainly it opposes the scientific superiority presented by evolution, but also the spiritual, “designed” kind: the narrator points out that humans still rely on intuition above all cognition, so in the end it doesn’t matter where we came from: we’re passionate creatures. This work can be juxtaposed to “Design” in that it is arguing for an intelligent designer but not of any spiritual meaning or as proof of superiority: he’s almost saying it doesn’t matter.
3. Out, Out—
(This poem is so sad!) Key lines: “The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard” (1) “And nothing happened: day was all but done.” (9) “…At the word, the saw,
As if to prove it knew what supper meant, Leaped out at the boy’s hand, or seemed to leap— He must have given the hand. …” (14-17) “He saw all spoiled. ‘Don’t let him cut my hand off— The doctor, when he comes. Don’t let him, sister!’ So. But the hand was gone already.” (25-27) “Little—less—nothing! And that ended it. No more to build on there. And they, since they Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.” (32-34) Mrs. Benson says this poem is about the plight of workers, that they never have time to recognize tragedy, and they’re always working, and the working world is so sad. I think it’s about people who never take the time to realize something terrible has happened, and never give themselves or other people the chance to save it. That boy could have stayed alive, if “Call it a day…they might have said” (10). But they didn’t, and after he died, they just went back to work. The sudden caesura (hard stop within a line) of “So. But…” shows the unexpected speed with which loss can hit. On that level, it’s about humans not being able to comprehend the completeness of sudden death, and so not trying. The “dark of ether” is also the darkness that surrounds the boy in mystery, because no one really understands what happens. “they/Were not the one dead”—how can they? There is so much bitterness in that line. It is utterly a tragic poem.
4. After Apple-Picking
Key lines: “My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree— Toward heaven still,” (1-2) “But I am done with apple-picking now.” (6) “I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight”(9) “And I could tell What form my dreaming was about to take. Magnified apples appear and disappear,” (16-18) “…I am overtired Of the great harvest I myself desired. There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch, Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall. For all That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble, Went surely to the cider-apple heap As of no worth.” (28-36) “The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his Long sleep, as I describe its coming on, Or just some human sleep.” (40-42) This poem could be analyzed further than that ladder stretches toward heaven. (TOWARD, not TO, heaven: the speaker is recognizing the unreachability of such a place, despite his reaching) It provides, with its unnamable rhyme scheme and varied meter, a perfect image of humanity. It accepts, empathizes with, and celebrates imperfection, and appreciates strangeness and beauty. And it longs to sleep. The entire poem is a description, as the narrator says, of the “coming on” of well-earned sleep. Doesn’t it make you drowsy? Every literary device in it, essentially, suggests sleep or the desire thereof.
Key lines: “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” (1-4) “But I was going to say when Truth broke in With all her matter of fact about the ice storm,” (21-22) (How much more delightfully conversational can you get??) “He always kept his poise To the top branches, climbing carefully With the same pains you use to fill a cup Up to the brim, and even above the brim.” (35-38) “So I was once myself a swinger of birches. And so I dream of going back to be.” (41-42) …and then the last ten lines are so; they’re all important. This poem annoys me for some reason, to think about, but once I read it again I like it. It’s very conversational, though still roughly iambic, and is about (beyond its face description of boys and birches and ice storms) dreaming of a better, sweeter reality—it’s about optimism. The important thing to realize, though, is that for all the narrator’s return to dreams and hopes, he always recognizes that they are not true; he talks of ice storms and fate. But he still enjoys these fantasies.
That’s the point: imagining a boy swinging on birches (metaphor for playfulness in life!) is much better than accepting always the sad truth of cracking ice (metaphor for painful reality…). Let’s all indulge in a little birch-swinging!
6. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Key lines: It’s not that long a poem, y’all. Just read it. The speaker’s isolation and self-questioning is ever-present in the poem, from the inversion in the first line to place woods before speaker, to the personification of the horse (the presenters in second period said this was the speaker’s anxiety and personality being projected onto the horse). The image of the woods themselves could represent any number of things, from suicide (as so many people seem to enjoy suggesting) to loneliness to self-doubt to peace to introspection—etc. The end of the poem may give some hint to interpretation: it is only when the speaker returns his thoughts to himself (“I have promises to keep”) that he manages to leave the woods (we assume) and go home (again, we assume). So the woods are some sort of distracting, perhaps sinister idea, and the speaker’s focus on himself saves him from whatever they may hold in store. At least until his next sleigh-ride…
7. Mending Wall
Key lines: Okay, look, there are two really important lines: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” (1 and 36) and “Good fences make good neighbors” (27 and 46). The worst thing you can do is take the latter out of context and say this poem is about fences being good. You can analyze the poem to claim that, but that is not the theme of the poem. Period. It is not an explicit theme at all. If anything, the former line is the explicit (it’s really half-implicit, with the vague “something”) theme here. The entire poem is told by the speaker, who is saying “Why do they make good neighbors” and “There where it is we do not need the wall” and “I’d ask to know/What I was walling in or walling out,/And to whom I was like to give offence” (32-34). It’s his poem, so it’s his bias we have to go with: walls aren’t that great, man! The two characters in the poem spend the entire event “mending” this wall that keeps their properties separated, and while, yes, they are
spending (hey, rhymes with mending!) time together, they’re on opposite sides of the wall. And this is a once-per-year dealio. These people aren’t that close. The speaker is implying, hey, maybe if they just let this stupid pointless wall that’s only there for show (and to hide rabbits that cruel hunters are just going to dig out anyway) actually succumb to nature and disappear—maybe they’d be less isolated. Maybe they’d be friends. They’d actually be “good neighbors.” Hey, maybe not, man. You can just keep putting those round stones (“so nearly balls”) on top of each other if you want. They’re just going to fall off again, but whatever. …Wasted effort, anyone? That’s my rant. Good luck on the test. Websites to help: All of Frost’s poetry (by book): http://www.bestoffrost.com/poems-collection/ Literary devices explained: http://www.frostfriends.org/figurative.html (it has a short table of devices, with examples from Frost poems) (including synechdoche!) More literary devices: http://highered.mcgrawhill.com/sites/0072405228/student_view0/fiction_glossary.html By the way, a way to remember synec/met: Synechdoche is a part representing the whole. The NECK is a part of ME! Eg. (from Yeats): The linnet’s wings = the linnets Metonymy: Some other image representing something similar Eg. (on the website) “to keep the life from spilling” He means blood, but it’s basically the same thing (and makes the image a much more powerfully universal thought)
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.