While a picture is worth a thousand words, no painting or photograph can quite achieve the pictures that Robert Frost (1874—1963) paints with his words on the canvases of our mind. Using simple metaphors and a casual conversational style, he brings to us the sights and sounds of his native New England area. But beneath the beautiful imagery lie words much deeper, more profound. Poetry, that describes a simple moment frozen in time (a few leaves clinging to an otherwise bare tree in the poem A Boundless Moment) while at other times, expresses a whole gamut of human emotions and experiences (in poems like Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening and The Road Not Taken). Bringing something profound to a seemingly simple moment, giving the reader a chance to see nature in a new light and to see the beauty in the emotions it evokes — this is what makes Frost’s poetry special to me. The ability to see the extraordinary even in the ordinary.
Despite the idyllic, laid back and detached atmosphere that his poems create at times, there is also a modern and real-world context to his work, apparent in poems like Mending Wall, perhaps most famous for the line that has become an aphorism on international relations — Good fences make good neighbors, a line often quoted with the assumption that the poet supported this thought. In reality, as the poem shows, he questions it. He asks — Why do they make good neighbors? An interesting paradox, as walls create a sense of security, but they exist because of an absence of it, to begin with.
Biased that I am, its difficult for me to pick just one poem to showcase the magic of his words. Here is one titled Reluctance, that remains one of my favorites. A poem that talks about resignation, acceptance and our unwillingness for it. Makes you think.. Why do we strive to aim higher than our past experience indicates we are capable of? Is it the drive to do better, or are we in a way, deluded about our own capabilities? Or is it simply a reluctance to give up?
Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.
The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.
And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch-hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question ‘Whither?’
Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?
The words of the last verse say it the best — yielding simply because it is the reasonable and practical thing to do, is cheating oneself. The unwillingness to given in to things just as they are, the belief in ourselves that doesn’t let us just bow down and accept, but instead makes us fight against the odds, isn’t that really what the human spirit is all about?