Saturday, December 4, 2010

Differentiate Frost's attitude towards Nature from that of the English romantic poets.

Nature is a dominant subject in the poetry of Frost, but he is not a Nature-poet in the tradition of Wordsworth or Thomas Hardy. He is a nature poet of a different kind. His best poetry is concerned with the drama of man in Nature, whereas Wordsworth is generally best when emotionally displaying the natural world. Frost himself said in 1952: "I guess I'm not a Nature poet.
I have only written two poems without a human being in them." In the epitaph that Frost proposed for himself, he said that he had "a lover's quarrel with the world". This lover's quarrel is Frost's poetic subject and throughout his poetry there are evidences of this view of man’s existence in the natural world. His attitude towards Nature is one of armed and amicable truce and mutual respect. He recognises, and insists upon, the boundaries which exist between individual man and the forces of Nature.
Frost is a great lover of nature and the region that lies to the north of Boston forms the background to his poetry. It is the hills and dales, rivers and forests, trees, flowers and plants, animals, birds and insects, season and seasonal changes, of this particular region, which have been described in one poem after another, and his descriptions are characterised by accuracy and minuteness. As Isidor Schneider says, "the descriptive power of Mr. Frost is to me the most wonderful thing ia his poetry. A snowfall, a spring thaw, a bending tree, a valley mist, a brook, these are brought not to, but into, the experience of the reader." The method is simple and can be analysed. What he describes is never a spectacle only, but an entire adventure. In Our Singing Strength we follow him disputing with birds a bit or roadway; in A Hillside Thaw we almost see him on his knees trying to feel with his hands the process of snow turning into water. Numerous poems of Frost, written at different periods of his life, are devoted to the description of the various objects of nature, and his descriptions always reveal minuteness of observation and fidelity of description. Thus in the Birches we get a concrete and faithful description of the 'habit' of birches and how they react to a storm:
When I see birches bend to left and right,
Across the lines of straighter, darker trees,
I like to think some boys been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain……… They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises.
Frost's love of nature is more comprehensive, many sided and all-inclusive than that of Wordsworth. Wordsworth loved to paint only the spring-time beauty of nature, or what Coleridge called, "Nature in the grove", but Frost has an equally keen eye for the sensuous and the beautiful in nature, as well as for the harsher and the unpleasant.
Frost can appreciate that, "Nature's first green is gold", and he can enjoy the beauty of nature's green and gold, but it would be a mistake to suppose that Frost is a mere painter of pleasant landscapes. Rather, the bleak, the barren, and the sinister is more characteristic of his nature-painting. Even when revelling in the sensuous charms of nature, Frost is not long unaware of the sinister and the ugly that may lie hidden beneath the surface. Spring Pools, for example, begins innocently enough with a description of the pools and flowers which one sees in the woodlands in early spring. Then suddenly the tone becomes grave:
The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods
Let them think twice before they use their powers.
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
These flowery watery and these watery flowers
From snow that melted only yesterday.
Treacherous forces are for ever breaking through the pleasant surface of the landscape in this manner. Frost on his nature rambles, has the air of someone picking his way through no man's land during an uneasy truce. The weather is bracing, his spirits are high; but he must tread lightly for fear of hidden dangers, and there is always the chance that he may stumble upon a bullet-pierced helmet or something worse. At the most unexpected times, he gives glimpses of horror. In Two Tramps in Mud Time he interrupts his genial chat about the April weather to advise:
Be glad of water, but don't forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth
These vistas opening upon fearful realities do not in the least negate the beauty. Frost also sees in nature; rather, it is they which give his song birds, wild flowers, brooks and trees their poignant appeal. The charm of many of the nature-lyrics results from the vividness with which sweet, delicate things stand out against the somber background. "You cannot have the one without the other love of natural beauty and horror at the remoteness and indifference of the physical world, are not opposite but different aspects of the same view."
Frost was a great lover of birds, insects and animals. Specially keen and sympathetic was his interest in birds, and he observed their ways and habits, minutely and painstakingly. Birds appear and re-appear in a large number of his poems. A Minor Bird, Never Again Would Bird's Song Be the Same, A Blue Ribbon at Amesbury, Looking for a Sunset Bird in Winter, The Oven-Bird, etc., are all devoted to affectionate and sympathetic study of the ways and habits of birds. The Oven-Bird calls for a special consideration, as it brings out the best in Frost's bird-poems. The poem describes the habits of a kind of thrush which builds a nest resembling an oven, and which in its song expresses its knowledge of the changing seasons, and knows, "what to make of a diminished thing".
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of diminished thing.
Often when dealing with the lower creatures of nature, Frost's eye takes on a merry-twinkle as does that of the grown-ups when they see their children at play. For example, the society of ants in the Departmental has been described elaborately and in detail, and the effects is amusing and funny. In Design he describes a spider and a moth on a flower:
"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"
Frost constantly notes the doings, ways and habits, of these humble partners in nature's teaming family, his observation is sympathetic and loving, their ways are likened to human ways, they are interpreted in human terms, and the effect is extremely humorous and delightful. At other times, he brings out the pathos of their existence, the suffering which they have to undergo at the hands of man and nature.
Wordsworth stressed the harmony that exists between the soul of man and the soul of nature; Frost constantly harps on the difference of separateness of man and nature. Frost is a great poet of boundaries and there are boundaries which separate man from nature. There may be certain moments when man is 'favoured', and 'nature' takes a sympathetic interest in him, but such moments are rare. Thus in Two Look at Two a doe and a buck look at the lovers, and take some interest in them. But that is all; then they run away. There is still the man-made fence which separates them and which cannot be crossed. The barriers are always there; man can never be sure that nature returns his love. There are resemblances, but the resemblances are superficial. The differences and contrasts are basic and fundamental.
Man is not idealistically integrated with nature and so Frost shows man as lonely in the midst of nature, as in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening; Wordsworth's man is not completely alone, as in Daffodils. Brower explains the loneliness of a Frostian character in the midst of Nature. He writes, "Frost's speaker, by being so surely fixed in the physical world, the neutralized nature of the late nineteenth and twentieth century, is much more surely alone."
Man needs nature, but shows himself best against nature. Frost presents man's struggle against nature and his heroic spirit in West Running Brook. In Birches the persona wishes the trees to be bent one by one by man. However, Frost is aware of the limited capacity of man for changing the world and therefore shows man's partial control of nature, as in Birches or Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.
Frost shows his humanistic concern when he shows man in the midst of nature. The significance of human effort is revealed in Birches and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.
In Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening the traveller is charmed by nature but his spirit impels him to get along to do his duty. Frost indicates that nature requires man’s awareness and shows the earning of a livelihood in several of his poems, viz., Mowing and After Apple-Picking. Frost shows man in nature. Thus Montgomery remarks: “His best poetry is concerned with the drama of man in nature…”
Despite his indebtedness to Romanticism, Frost must be seen as essentially anti-Romantic. By insisting of the gulf separating man and Nature, he directly opposes the Romantic attempt touring the two together. In The Most of It a man wants "counter-love, original response" from Nature. But all that he hears is a splash and all that he sees is a buck swimming across the water. As a critic says, Frost does not formulate a theory of Nature or of man’s relationship with Nature. However, it seems that Frost believes that man should live in harmony with Nature and not go against Nature or natural processes.

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