Saturday, December 4, 2010

A poem, says Robert Frost begins in delight and ends in wisdom. Discuss this statement with reference to Frost's poetry and elucidate it with at least one poem.

Frost's statement that a poem begins with delight and ends in meaning has often been misinterpreted to signify a view that a work intriguingly leads the reader to a thematic conclusion or that the majority of the poem is enjoyable and the last few lines filled with the moral. But Frost himself had a different interpretations: It [a poem] begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down. It runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of lifenot necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on but in a momentary stay against confusion.

Frost is here speaking not so much of the horizontal lines of the poem—that is the movement from start to finish—but of the vertical lines the deepening meanings which one finds inherent in the words and descriptions of the surface. Frost seems to intimate that there is no other way to write a specific poem than the way in which it has been written. This is because the wisdom it contains is eternally true, and thus it is inevitable, it should be stated in such a way. Nonetheless, the poet does not present the wisdom in a rigidly abstract form which makes the poem appear as if it were thought out in advance like an abstract philosophical problem. Rather it flows naturally and, in a sense, recreates the spontaneity of the poet's own movement toward a discovery of the wisdom contained in the subject. The end result is a momentary stay against confusion; the poet has not clarified all the principles of the universe or of life, but has cast some light on the meaning of the experience or experiences recreated in the specific work.
Frost emphasizes the natural, spontaneous quality of the writing. But poet and reader must share the excitement surprise of discovering a truth which, because it is faithful to life, they have a sense of having known all along. It is the discovery and awareness of recognition which is most important. He wrote, "It must be a revelation, or a series of revelations, as much for the poet as for the reader."
Poems like Stopping by Woods, Gathering Leaves, Acquainted With the Night, Being Versed in Country Things, etc., all from his later volumes, express the poet's personal responses to particular situations, and are also statements of his ripe inferences, regarding the nature of the human predicament. They come direct from the poet’s heart, and so go direct to the heart of the reader. They express the surprise of the poet and so come as a surprise to the readers. They reveal, clarity and illuminate. Frost once said that the greatest aim of a poet should be to communicate the thrill of sincerity', and the poet's pure lyrics do convey this thrill.
The poet observes the world around him. The common scenes and sights of nature, fields, farms, and roadside dwellings, the flora and fauna of New England, the Yankees at their rural occupations and pastimes, mowing, apple-picking, gum gathering, birch-swinging, wall mending, etc. all claim the poet's attention. All these and a hundred other commonplace things are observed minutely, and rendered precisely. Observation leads to emotion and emotion to thought. As Frost himself tells us, "emotion has found its thought and the thought has found the word.” His lyrics begin in delight in the beauty of the world around, and they end in wisdom. His lyrics express his sensuous joy in the beauties of nature, or his sense of pathos and tragedy of human life, resulting from his observation of the rural scene. This sets him thinking, and the lyric ends with an expression of his, "rich and ripe philosophy". Thus in Birches he observes the 'habit' of Birches, thinks over what he observes, and concludes,
....Earth is the right place for love:
I do not know where it is likely to go better.
In the Oven-bird, the singing of the bird fills him with delight, he ponders over and derives the philosophical conclusion:
The question he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.
In Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, express the conflict in the poet's mind between his love of the scene and his urgently felt need of keeping his promises and doing his duty. Mowing is a humble rural occupation, but it sets the poet thinking and he comments: the Fact is the sweetest dream that labour knows. Almost all the nature—lyrics of Frost reach out to a metaphysical conclusion.
Fact and fancy are the two polarities of Frosts lyrics. At places he escapes in a world of ideal existence, but very soon he is back again to hard reality. His flights from the world of reality are only momentary; ultimately he comes back to earth and accepts his duties and responsibilities. The wood may be 'lovely and dark' but they fail to hold him for long, because he remembers that he has promises to keep, and miles to go before he sleeps, and in Mowing the scythe whispers to him, "The fact is the sweetest dream that labour knows." Birches illustrates this exquisite blending of fact and fancy most eloquently, for in this lyric the climb, "toward heaven", ultimately results in a move "earthward". The withdrawal is momentary and it makes him see life more clearly and face it more courageously. For him "Earth is the right place for love", and so he longs to return to it. Frost's devotion to fact shines brightly throughout his lyric. But his is never a mere transcript of actuality, a kind of dogged reporting. When he is most faithful to things, he is most lyrical. The Grindstone is a familiar portrait, a still-life painting of the tool-sharpening instrument common to every farmyard. Yet a whimsical fantasy is woven round it and this is seen even in the opening lines:
Having a wheel and four legs of its own
Has never availed the cumbersome grindstone
To get in everywhere that I can see.
"As the poem gathers speed, it accumulates wit and inventiveness. The grindstone turns in an acceleration of energy, and after achieving its highest momentum, it suddenly slows down-slow-down, as it were, from fantasy to philosophy."
The poem Birches certainly begins in delight. The poet sees birches bending to right and left across the lines of, "darker, straighter trees", he imagines that some boy has been swinging them. But soon the truth dawns upon him, and he realises that swinging cannot bend them down permanently. It is the icestorm alone which can bend birches down to stay. After rain and storm the birches are covered with ice. The poet has observed the phenomenon minutely, and his description is vivid and picturesque. When the wind blows, the birches swing up and down and the ice on them shines, and turns many-coloured, as the rays of the sun are refracted in passing through ice. As the sun grows warmer, the ice is shaken down. It fells on earth covered with snow. It seems as if the central dome of heaven has cracked and the earth is covered with heaps of broken glass. It is with the burden of ice that the birches are bowed so low for so long that, "they never right themselves."
This is the true reason, the hard fact, for the permanent bending of birches. But from this truth, the poet again returns to his fancy that the birches have been thus bowed down permanently by, "some boy's swinging them". He imagines that some boy, who lives too far from the town to learn baseball, devises a game for himself, a game which he can play alone, summer or winter. He takes to birch-swinging as a pleasant sport. He climbs the birches over and over again, so much so that not a single tree remains unconquered and unbent. He has painstakingly acquired such skill that even when he reaches the top, he is able to maintain perfect balance, and then he comes to the ground with a swift movement:
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
The poet is in a reminiscent mood. With a wistful longing he remembers the time when he himself was a swinger of birches. He dreams that he would take to birch swinging once again, sometime in the future, when he is, "weary of considerations". Then by birch-swinging he would get away from earth awhile, "and then, come back to it and begin over". The poet would never like to leave this earth permanently after a momentary climb to heaven, he would like to return to it, for,
Earth is the right place for love
do not know where it is likely to go better.
He would like to climb up toward heaven by mounting the birches, but then he would also like that they should set him down on earth after a moment. Birch-swinging, "is good both going and coming back".
The fine lyric brings out several aspects of Frost's art. Fact and fancy are the two polarities of Frost's art and both mingle in this fine lyric. His passion for fact is seen in his minuteness of observation and his love of the earth. His imagination or fancy is seen in his imagery, and in his vivid and picturesque descriptions. Says Untermeyer, "Fact and fancy play together throughout the poem". The crystal ice becomes heaps of broken glass: You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen. The arched trees are transformed into girls on hands and knees, "that throw their hair before them over their heads to dry in the sun". The country boy, "whose only play was what he found himself, riding and subduing his father's birches becomes the mature poet who announces:
....Earth's the right place for love: I don't know where it's likely to go better.
"Thus wisdom and whimsy join to make a poem that delights the mind and endears itself to the heart. The popularity of Birches lies in its combination of picture and human appeal. It is all the more appealing because of the shrewd turns and the "rare twinkle". In other words, the poem is an expression of Frost's, "rich and ripe philosophy".

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aliya seen said...

The statement of purpose proofreading is momentary and it makes him see life more clearly and face it more courageously.

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