Robert Frost’s Departure from and Return to Nature
Through the analysis of some of Robert Frost’s poems, this paper tries to reveal Frost’s unique concept of nature, which differs greatly from that of Wordsworth’s and Emerson’s. His attitude toward nature is between love and horror, departure and return.
The contradiction between the desire to widen the life circle and the decision to live wisely in the real world is reflected in most of Frost’s poetry. Then the thesis concentrates on the study of the causes of Frost’s unique attitude toward nature from three aspects: social transformation, cultural permeating as well as personal traits. Keywords: concept of nature; love; horror; departure; return Robert Frost’s Departure from and Return to Nature Introduction Robert Frost was one of the greatest poets in America in the 20th century.
Long before his death at eighty-nine, Frost attained an enviable position as unofficial Poet Laureate for the nation, receiving the Pulitzer Prize four times and was the only poet ever invited to read one of his poems (The Gift Outright) at the Presidential Inauguration?.
As for his poetry,Frost employed the plain speech of rural New Englanders and preferred the short, traditional forms of lyric and narrative to describe the simple, nice scenery of rural New England. Just as most of Frost’s poetry set New England s the background, he was often regarded by some critics as a regional poet. But as a matter of fact, New England in Frost’s poetry is far more than a small rural region, but a microcosm of the whole country. Also the natural scenery in New England described in the poetry is also far more than just the picturesque view, but endowed with many metaphorical meanings. It may be the symbol of another world as opposed to the real society, or may represent the myth unknown to the human being, etc.
By describing the relationship between the New Englanders and nature there, Frost contemplates on the issues concerning the modern society such as the relationship between man and the real world; the relationship between man and nature as well as the relationship between man and man. Frost reveals the contradictions in the real society, and the confusion, helplessness as well as loneliness of people. We can safely conclude that if one understands Frost’s attitude toward nature rightly, then he can grasp the meaning of most of Frost’s poetry perfectly.
As most of Frost’s poetry set the rural New England as the background, describing the natural scenery, emphasizing the beauty and simplicity of the country life, he is widely recognized as a pastoral poet. Critics usually focus their attention on his attitude toward nature, and compare him with the English romantic poet William Wordsworth and the representative of the American Transcendentalism Emerson on their concepts of nature. In this thesis, the writer will try to make clear Frost’s unique concept of nature, and point out the differences of Frost’s concept of nature from that of William Wordsworth’s and Emerson’s.
Frost’s attitude toward nature is between love and horror, departure and return. The contradiction between the desire to widen the life circle and the decision to live wisely in the real world is reflected in most of Frost’s poems, while Wordsworth and Emerson show deep love for nature, emphasizing the nature’s role in consoling and protecting the soul of human being. Furthermore this essay mainly concentrates on probing the causes of Frost’s concept of nature from social, cultural and personal aspects.
In this way the readers can have a clearer idea of the significance of the natural scenery in Frost’s poetry, and by extension understand better Frost’s attitude toward the whole universe. I Frost’s Concept of Nature Frost has so often written about the rural landscape and wildlife that one can hardly avoid thinking of him as a nature poet. As the beautiful natural scenery frequently shows up in Frost’s poetry, most people take Frost’s poetry as they take Wordsworth’s. Yet nature in Frost’s eyes is a little bit more complex, as there is an apparent bleakness in his landscape in spite of the bright side of it.
Most of Frost’s poetry is very simple both in language and style, but it does not mean that the meanings of the poetry are skin-deep. If his poetry is analyzed in depth, one will find that his poetry are not the simple description of nature and the rural life, but contain rich meaning in terms of the relationship between man and nature, between man and the real world, between man and man. New England in Frost’s poetry is far more than a small rural region, but a microcosm of the whole country. The natural scenery in New England described in the poetry is also far more than just the picturesque view, but endowed with rich metaphorical meaning.
His view of nature is quite complex. To sum up, he has a love-hate attitude toward nature. His complicated feeling toward nature is reflected in most of his poems. He loves nature. Also he is afraid of nature. Though he wants to escape from the real world to an imaginative wonderland free of secular desires and worry, he wants to live wisely in the real world. There is the contradictory feeling underneath the simple language. In one of Frost’s most widely anthologized poems “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, readers can sense his complicated feeling easily. Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow. My little horse must think it queer To stop without a farm house near Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest evening of the year. He gives his harness bells a shake To ask if there is some mistake The only other sound’s the sweep Of easy wind and downy flake. The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep. ? It is extraordinarily cold in the woods as it has a heavy snow, and the wind is cold and freezing.
But the speaker feels the wind as easy, and the flake as downy: “ easy wind and downy flake”, from which we can conclude that Frost feels a strong love for nature, despite the bad weather condition. Also as Frost refers to the woods, he uses the adjectives “lovely”, “deep”. The woods is very tranquil at that dark winter evening, so that it is like a quiet wonderland that attracts the human being, and bears with it rich myth for man to explore. But at the same time Frost expresses his horror of nature, as he writes that “Between the woods and frozen lake/ The darkest evening of the year”, “The woods are (lovely), dark and (deep)” .
Though dark gives the woods quietness, but at the same time arouses the horror of the poet. Usually “dark” is used to indicate something frightening, because when it is dark, one cannot see what is there, and nothing is more frightening than the unknown, than imagine what might be there. Thus the dark in the woods may symbolizes that man is alienated from nature. The remoteness of nature reveals the tragedy of man’s isolation and his weakness in the face of vast, impersonal forces. Nature is beautiful, pure and simple, and this beauty and tranquility make it a wonderland that attracts human beings to stay and to enjoy.
But as for the unknown aspect, nature is too deep and vast for man to know, the great unrivaled force makes people horrified. The two opposite sides of nature are analogous to those in the real society: the physical needs: food, shelter, interpersonal relationship in the real world drag people in, but on the other hand, the hardships, chaos and cruelty make it a hell which compels people to escape. The speaker in the poem, on the one hand, wants to stay in that beautiful wonderland so as to have a good rest without the bother of the duties in the real world; on the other hand, he is horrified by the unknown and uthlessness in the natural world and meanwhile summoned in consciousness by the responsibilities left unfulfilled in the real world. In the end he is pulled back to reality. The three lines “But I have promises to keep. / And miles to go before I sleep, / And miles to go before I sleep. ” indicate the disappointment on leaving the woods. Man can never find a home in nature, nor can he live outside of it. Encounters with nature are not always contemplative or symbolic. Frost sometimes just shows nature as it is without adding any metaphorical meanings.
In the poem “Storm Fear”, Frost describes nature as a powerful, destructive force that causes fear in a storm night. When the wind works against us in the dark, And pelts with snow The lower chamber window on the east, And whispers with a sort of stifled bark, The beast, ‘Come out! Come out! ’— It costs no inward struggle not to go, Ah, no! I count our strength, Two and a child, Those of us not asleep subdued to mark How the cold creeps as the fire dies at length, — How drifts are piled, Dooryard and road ungraded, Till even the comforting barn grows far away, And my heart owns a doubt
Whether ‘tis in us to arise with day And save ourselves unaided.? In the above poem the speaker encountering nature is not just fearing what it may represent, nor reading storm for its significance; rather he expresses genuine fear of the annihilation prompted by actual circumstances—a nature unleashing dangerous and untamed forces that have the power to destroy him and that, consequently, dramatize his helplessness and render him subdued and fearful. Nature in this poem is quite hostile to the human beings, which compels them even into the fortresses they have built against it. The wind whispers, barks, and creeps.
The ‘pelting’ snow adds to the visual image of the destructive nature that even doors and windows cannot shut out. As the fire dies out, the cold advances inside. The strength of the house as physical protection against the cold, and home as spiritual protection—two and a child, love and family—seem increasingly inadequate. The fear of the powerful nature is the one that antedates buildings and institutions. We are in the grip of a primitive, elemental fear—back in a world in which fire gave temporary security against the cold and the dark and frightened away the beasts—until it went out.?
From this we can clearly know that Frost is afraid of nature, especially its destructive power. In the presence of the powerful nature, man is like the ants with little strength to compete with. However, the best state of life is also displayed in one of Frost’s best poems “Birches”. I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree, And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more, But dipped its top and set me down again. That would be good both going and coming back.? It seems that the speaker enjoys a good time in climbing a birch tree as if in heaven.
But the last line” That would be good both going and coming back. ” reveals the speaker’s best desire. Surely the ideal state of living lies not in going but in going and coming back. Then why does Frost consider going and coming back the best? The real society is not orderly, and the hardships people undergo make them want to escape to another world free of secular desire and worries. The natural world just meets the needs of human being with its purity, innocence and beauty, which could console the tired body and disturbed soul of human being.
So man needs to live in the imaginative wonderland located in nature. On the other hand, man needs to live wisely in the real world as it is the best place to live, where there are physical needs and advanced technology which could improve the material life of people. What’s more, people have to undertake all the responsibilities in the real society, while the natural world could never provide the material things indispensable for human being, and nature could be very dangerous as it is inhuman and remote, also with measureless, unconquerable force.
So the ideal state of life should be living in the harmony of reality and imagination. As most of Frost’s poems give large space to the description of natural scenery, many critics compare him with William Wordsworth on their concepts of nature. William Wordsworth is a leader of the Romantic Movement in England (1798-1832). As all the romantic poets at that time had a deep interest in nature, not as a centre of beautiful scene but as an informing and spiritual influence on life. Wordsworth also focused his attention on nature.?
As in most of his poems he showed deep love for nature. And the theme of Wordsworth’s poetry is the spirit immanent in nature and man. He constantly emphasizes the union of mind and external reality and expresses this union most often through suggesting a blending of thought and landscape and portraying the subtle affinities between the natural scene and the moral sentiments. In Wordsworth’s opinion, nature is the embodiment of the Divine Spirit—God and Universe are identical, that is, God is everything and everything is God.
For example, in one of his famous poems “I wandered lonely as a cloud”, Wordsworth describes the daffodils he came across in a valley. … Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the milky way, … Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. … A poet could not but be gay, In such a jocund company: I gazed—and gazed—but little thought What wealth the show to me had brought: For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.? The first two stanzas show Wordsworth’s love for the beautiful daffodils: ‘fluttering’, ‘dancing’. In the dull society, men had nothing to rely on, and therefore they resort to the natural world to seek belief. By being near to the natural world, men can have the genuine happiness and comfort, and also have their spiritual world filled fully. The last two stanzas then reflect the harmony and union of man and nature. The beautiful scenery present gives people the happiness, and leads to the dance with it. And then my heart with pleasure fills, / And dances with the daffodils. ”. By these two sentences he sang of the harmony between nature and man. Because nature consoles human soul, it fills the empty spiritual world of human being, and enhances human spirit. Wordsworth’s view of nature is primarily on the bright side, emphasizing the union of nature and man in the spiritual world. But Frost sees bleakness in nature which is quite foreign to Wordsworth as described above, and also never endowed nature with spirit. Besides the comparison with Wordsworth, Frost is often put together with Emerson.
Ralph Waldo Emerson is the first and greatest American Transcendentalist and revolutionary Romanticist. Transcendentalism is a break from Puritanism, and it revolts against the puritanical thought of nature: regarding nature as inferior to human being. Transcendentalism places emphasis on Spirit or the Oversoul that is contained in everything on earth, and takes as it as the most important thing in universe. According to Emerson, Universe is made up of two things: Nature and Soul. As for nature, it means everything that is “Not Me”, such as mountains, rivers, birds and flowers, even human body.
Emerson thinks that everyone can commune with God if he wills, so man is divine. By being near to nature, man can be closer to God and comprehend the will of God from what can be seen in nature. In his essay “Nature”, Emerson expresses his constant, deeply felt love for the natural scenery and shows us nature as the symbol of spirit serves man as the source of language and beauty and self-knowledge. In the essay Emerson writes, “Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes.
I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part of parcel of God. ” ? In this part he earnestly shows the great beauty of nature and the role of it in consoling and protecting human soul. By being in the beautiful nature, the egotism vanishes and man gets closer to God. So nature in Emerson’s writings is the manifestation of God, and contains the signs of God’s will. If man gets near to nature, he could commune with God and know the will of God.
The Oversoul is present in everything. It exists in human being as man is created by God and only one step inferior to God; it exists also in nature as nature is the manifestation of God and contains the will of God. This aspect is quite similar to the English Romanticism, but bears the color of oriental religion. But nature in Emerson’s writing is not just the objective natural world, nature is not independent from the human soul. Its beauty is comprehended by the human soul, as the soul is unified, active and divine, so is the nature.
So Emerson’s concept of nature, to a large extent, is dependent on the high emphasis on the human spirit or the Oversoul, which is surely different from Frost’s. Frost is using nature to see the nature of human being, while Emerson uses the spirit of human to see the beauty of nature. What’s more, the theme that man could be closer to God by being near to nature in Emerson’s essay is not expressed in Frost’s poetry at all. In Frost’s poetry nature is by no means that high, it is glamorous, changeable, yet indifferent and hostile sometimes.
The relationship between man and nature is love and horror, rather than harmony or enlightenment as reflected in Emerson’s essays. II Social Reason for Frost’s Concept of Nature Frost’s concept of nature does not come from nothing, but come into form with the influence of various factors. Among those factors, social reason is surely the most important one. Development in New England at that time exerts great impact on the formation of Frost’s concept of nature. Before the 1850s, America was essentially a rural? agrarian and isolated republic, whose idealistic, confident and self-reliant inhabitants for the most part believed in God.
American literature at that time was mainly influenced by the European Romanticists. Writers wrote of the mysteries of life, of love, of birth and death. But after the Civil War, industry had a rapid development and the United States was transformed into an industrial and urban nation, which witnessed dramatic changes both in social and political areas. Large numbers of rural people immigrated to the cities, so that the simple, tranquil rural life was disappearing. Monopoly was intensified, therefore the nation became a land of contrasting wealth and poverty.
Because of the cruel exploitation of the bourgeoisie, the workers’ movement was becoming more and more fierce. The great advances achieved in science and technology further the distance between man and natural world. On the surface, there were elegance, security and comfort, but underneath there were all disappointment and anguish. All these made people begin to question the assumptions shared by the transcendentalists—natural goodness, the optimistic view of nature and man, benevolent God. At the same time people began to be tired of the sentimental feelings of the Romanticism after the Civil War.
American literature now began to produce works that reveal the irreconcilable contradictions between the labor and the bourgeoisie, the corruption of the politics as well as the confusion, and loneliness of the people after stripping off all the concealments. The natural scenery of rural New England was used by Robert Frost to contemplate on the situation of the whole world and the psychology of the people. Nature in Frost’s poetry was far more than pure picturesque scene, it had been endowed with various profound metaphorical meanings. Firstly it may be the symbol of a wonderland as opposed to the real society.
The bustling real society compelled people to work continuously with little rest, to fulfill the demanded responsibilities without complaint. The hardships people underwent made them want to escape, while the beautiful nature was like an attractive wonderland, a preserved virgin land where people could rest quietly and comfortably without worrying about all the duties in the real world. In one of Frost’s best known poems “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, he expressed the desire to escape. Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though; He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow. My little horse must think it queer To stop without a farm house near Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest evening of the year. He gives his harness bells a shake To ask if there is some mistake The only other sound’s the sweep Of easy wind and downy flake. The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep. In this poem, the speaker goes out to enjoy the beauty of nature on a freezing winter night. It is very strange for a person to appreciate natural scenery on a winter night.
Yet the purposeful selection of night indicates the awkwardness of modern people. It implies that the stress and burden in the society is so heavy as to leave no time for human to approach nature. Though it is freezing and dark, the speaker is totally attracted by the beautiful woods covered with snow. The nature is so beautiful, quiet, innocent and tame. It is like a wonderland or a paradise where people can rest to his heart content without worrying about anything. In the poem, there is a sharp contrast of white and dark, illusion and consciousness, love and horror.
From another aspect, in the capitalist society everything had been possessed by human being including the natural world. Farmland, woods and forests had been owned by someone. In the poem, the speaker chooses the darkest evening as the proper time to appreciate the woods. Then why does he choose the darkest evening as the proper time to appreciate the woods? It is not only because of the numerous responsibilities encumbered in the real world, but also because only in this way could he not be seen by the owner of it. So moved is the traveler by the sight of woods filled up with snow that he stops.
Conscious of the owner whose house is in the village, safely and sensibly away from snowy woods, the speaker seems to need to assure himself that the owner will not see him stopping there. For one thing, he would presumably prefer that the owner not see him trespassing; for another, sensitive as he is to the mentality of the horse, he would probably feel foolish if he were seen by the owner. In such society, man could no longer freely enjoy the beauty of nature, but has to appreciate it stealthily. This situation, in turn, makes Frost show more love for nature and want to stay there in order to have the great enjoyment.
Furthermore, in an industrial society, with the advanced science and technology, people were at loss. Everything in the society was out of their control, and they were treated as standardized commodities. But in the natural world, people could get satisfaction by handling the plants or farmlands. In the poem “birches”, Frost shows us this role of nature. Some boy too far from town to learn baseball, Whose only play was what he found himself, Summer or winter, and could play alone. One by one he subdued his father’s trees By riding them down over and over again Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left For him to conquer. The boy in the poem could find no other things to play in his residential area, which is just like the situation of the modern people who could find nothing to control, to manipulate. So he had to resort to nature for help. There are things in the natural world that can satisfy the soul of human being by giving man the sense of achievement to offset his disturbed feeling stirred by the chaotic society. Therefore Frost deeply loves nature and admires its vastness and great strength. But for frost, nature is indifferent? ruthless and ignorant of the existence of humankind.
In the boundless natural world, human may be confronted with great danger. The invincible force of nature is more than anything hostile to the human being, it may become extraordinarily cruel and make people unaided and perplexed. It is like a boundless? mysterious island with beautiful scenery. But the weak human stands alone with horror because of the smouldering? unrivaled force around him. Frost shows his horror toward nature in some of his poems. ”Storm Fear” is a case in point. When the wind works against us in the dark, And pelts with snow The lower chamber window on the east, And whispers with a sort of stifled bark,
The beast, ‘Come out! Come out! ’— … How the cold creeps as the fire dies at length, — How drifts are piled, Dooryard and road ungraded, Till even the comforting barn grows far away, And my heart owns a doubt Whether ‘tis in us to arise with day And save ourselves unaided. Nature in this poem is described as a beast that is quite hostile to human being. People show his helplessness in facing the invincible destructive force, especially when living in a place that is far away from the towns. Human could not just live in the remote natural world far from civilized cities where the safe equipments could be provided.
So the real society is not quite that bad, there are many facilities in the civilized cities that can protect human, and improve their material life. Frost’s horror toward nature made him want to depart from the natural world and wisely live in the real society. What’s more, people could never just live in fantasy, but had to face bravely the imperfect real world in order to break out of the psychological “trap”. III Cultural Influence on Frost’s Concept of Nature Frost’s concept of nature is not only the result of the influence of society at that time, but also the outcome of the influence of culture in the 20th century America.
American literature originated in about 1607, when the first colony was set up in Jamestown, Virginia, 13years later following the establishment of the second English colony in Plymouth, New England. The immigrants at that time were all puritans, who escaped from England to the new continent in the hope of finding a refuge from the religious persecution in their motherland. This immigration played an important role in the establishment and development of the new colony as well as the formation of the new idealism and literature in the new continent. Puritanism takes as its ancestor the Calvinism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Calvinists believe in creeds: “heredity depravity” of human beings, the original sin of human beings, the absolute sovereignty of God, and limited salvation by God. Puritans believe in almost the same creeds as that of Calvinists except that they believe they could be saved by God through the Covenant of Grace by hard work and pious pray. It is this belief that makes them so persistent in developing the new country. Puritans firmly believe that all sorts of entertainment are evil; man should devote himself to hard work in order to be saved by God from his original sin, and make the soul exist eternally in heaven.
Therefore they take nature as evil and inferior as nature is beautiful, which could provide man with pleasure. Frost, as a native New Englander, is much influenced by the traditional culture. To puritans all sorts of entertainment are evil, so it is also evil if people are indulged in the beauty of the natural world. What’s more, nature is ephemeral and will wither at proper time. But human, on the contrary, though the body may decay when passing away, the soul would be eternal. So nature is inferior and man could not be too close to nature so as to maintain man’s superiority.
To some extent, Frost’s poetry reflects this puritan thought. In his poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, the speaker is attracted by the beauty of the natural world and even wants to rest there. But as the responsibilities summon him in consciousness, he surrenders to the call and leaves the natural world as the poem states: “But I have promises to keep. / And miles to go before I sleep, / And miles to go before I sleep. ” The sentences indicate that in the poet’s mind the duty of human assigned by God is still very important, and the entertainment in the beautiful nature is improper or even evil.
Puritanical thought explains why Frost always wants to leave nature once he steps into it. Transcendentalism may be another factor that contributes Frost’s particular concept of nature. Transcendentalism is a “remarkable outburst of Romanticism on Puritan ground”. It is fundamentally a religious movement, and one that has its root in the old New England Puritan consciousness. But it is a religious movement imbued with Romantic attitudes and emphases, and it expresses itself often in poems about natural phenomenon as in essays about God-in-nature.? It places emphasis on Spirit or the Oversoul that is contained in everything on arth, and takes it as the most important thing in universe. According to Emerson, Universe consists of two aspects: Nature and Soul. As for nature, it means everything that is “Not Me”, such as mountains, rivers, birds, flowers and even human body. Emerson believes that everyone can commune with God if he wills, so man is divine. Nature in Transcendentalism has been put in a high status: it is the manifestation of God, which man could sense by being close to it, and communicate spiritually with it. Frost is greatly influenced by this idea, and reflects his transcendental thought in his poetry.
In his best known poems “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, Frost used the vocabulary characteristic of mystical experience, an encounter with the Absolute in which man is in great happiness and afraid that his own sense of selfhood might be threatened with annihilation. The line “The woods are lovely, dark and deep,” does reflect the contradictory feeling simultaneously. Although Frost appears to be indulged in the state of enjoying heaven on earth, the transcendental moment when his intuition dominants his consciousness, he never regards nature as pure good or completely bad, but takes it as something neutral.
In fact, Frost’s concept of nature is the result of combination of the traditional puritan thought and modern transcendentalism. IV Personal Reason for Frost’s Concept of Nature Robert Frost has an ambivalent attitude towards nature. He loves it and at the same time is afraid of it. This complicated feeling toward nature is also influenced by his personal life experiences and his personality. In 1895 Frost married his high school sweetheart, Elinor. Their first born, a boy, died in 1900, which caused a great tension between the young couple.
In order to ease the tension, Frost and his wife moved to a farmland in Derry, New Hampshire bought by his grandfather. They did not leave there till September, 1909.? This ten years’ life on the farm played a great role in the literary life of Frost. He reveled in the simple joy of farming and being in touch with the earth. By being totally involved in the simple rural life of the New Englanders, Frost freely enjoyed the beautiful scenery there, and keenly listened to the musical, rhythmical dialect there. However, what Frost saw on the other side of the quiet life disturbed him.
During the time he spent farming in Derry, New Hampshire, working in the fields might have brought him some of the most peaceful moments of his life. The simple, quiet life in the countryside gave him the happiness and comfort. Yet, when Frost turned away from his chores, he found that his world was crumbling around him. The village life was both hermetic and thrifty. He had to supplement the inadequate income of his farming by several periods of school teaching and other odd jobs. What’s more, his family members were down with illness, his child died and consequently, his marriage was on the edge of collapse.
As reflection of his personal life, he saw nature as beautiful and full of hope, yet random and chaotic. Frost’s personality also exerts influence on his view of nature. Frost is actually a very sensitive person, which can be seen from one of his poems “Nothing Gold Can Stay”. Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay. 011 In this poem, Frost pays great attention to the change of color of the spring leaves, and from which he extends to other issues concerning human being.
Leaves will fall as spring ends. “Eden sank to grief” reminds us that among other “grieves” caused by a loss of Eden is the major grief of death and loss which no one can escape. Human being will pass away at proper time like the spring leaves. So the life of man must change too, as the color of leaves do. Man should not just confine himself to one space. Frost, while living in the rural New England, enjoying the beauty of nature and the simple, quiet life in the countryside, still keeps close ties with cities. Countryside is too far away from the modern life.
It seems as if people in the rural areas are forsaken by society. The urban life makes him feel the quick pace of modern life as well as the elaborate division of work in the factories, so he tried to keep a balance between the two ways of living. As the most conspicuous trait of Frost is “neutral”, so whenever he drops into a dilemma, he will perform his perfect skill of reconciling the contradictions. Frost’s principle in dealing with matters could be summed up as follows: absolute surrender or independence in the real world all has its own deficiencies.
Complete belonging to a group, no matter what kind of group it is, one has to sacrifice something, either his hobbies or his freedom, sometimes even his precious life. To Frost, the real world is neither too chaotic nor perfectly orderly, but somewhere between. One has to treat the world objectively, bearing in mind that it includes both hope and desperation, comedy and tragedy, joy and agony. Likewise nature is beautiful as well as hostile. The imaginative world is attractive, but the real world also has its good aspect and people have many responsibilities to fulfill.
So man should not linger on the imaginative natural world, but should live wisely in the real world with imagination. Conclusion Frost’s attitude toward nature is between love and horror, departure and return. The contradiction between the desire to widen the life circle and the decision to live wisely in the real world is reflected in most of his poems. This paper puts forward three reasons for his love for nature. Firstly, the society at that time was quite different from the past. Industry got a rapid development, which demanded large labor forces. People therefore were under much stress due to continuous work.
People began to be tired of the life in the real world, and resort to the beautiful, pure nature for relief. Secondly, Frost was influenced by the new thought-Transcendentalism. Transcendentalism puts nature at a high place, takes it as the manifestation of God. By being close to nature, man could communicate with God spiritually and sense the will of God. Thirdly, Frost had lived on the farmland in Derry, New Hampshire for ten years. This period of time was the most peaceful moment in Frost’s life and by farming there, Frost experienced great happiness and comfort.
This paper also probes into three causes of his fear of nature. Firstly, in Frost’s eyes, natural world is not at all that nice. It is like the real society, also has the dark side. Nature is inhuman, ruthless as well as indifferent. It does not care about human well-being. It may become extraordinarily cruel and make the people unaided and perplexed. It is like a boundless? mysterious island with beautiful scenery. But the weak human stands alone and with horror because of the smoldering, unrivaled forces around him.
Secondly, the puritan thought more or less influenced Frost, as he is a native New Englander. For puritans, any sort of entertainment is evil, so it is also evil if people are indulged in the beauty of the natural world. What’s more, nature is ephemeral and will wither at proper time. But human is on the contrary, though the body may decay when passing away, the soul would be eternal. So nature is inferior. Thirdly, during Frost’s life on the farm, he underwent many tragedies. His family members came down with illness, his child died and consequently, his marriage was on the edge of collapse.
As reflective of his personal life, he viewed nature as quite bleak. And his most conspicuous trait is “neutral”, so he views nature both lovely and horrible. Frost’s ambivalent attitude towards nature can be viewed as a wise way of living for the modern people. Man is not satisfied with the linear life in the real society. Man should hold a poetic lifestyle by living between nature and the real world. By detailed analysis of Frost’s unique concept of nature, this paper distinguishes the concepts of nature of Frost, Wordsworth and Emerson.
Wordsworth’s view of nature is primarily on the bright side, emphasizing the union of nature and man in the spiritual world. Nature in Emerson’s writing is the manifestation of God, and contains the signs of God’s will. If man got near to nature, he could commune with God and know the will of God. By analyzing the concept of nature of Frost and distinguishing it from that of Wordsworth’s and Emerson’s, the writer aims to enable readers grasp the implication of Frost’s poetry more clearly, and understands the role of nature in Frost’s poetry better. (Approximately 6,448 words) Notes: ? Annette T. Rubinstein. “American Literature Root and Flower” (?????? ). ?? :??? , 1998, p608, p609 ?? ?? , ??. ??????????. ?? :????????? , 2003, p166, p165 ? 011 Judith Oster:“Robert Frost: The Reader and the Poet”. Georgia University Press, 1991, p137, p224 ? Ibid, p137 ?? ??? , ???. ??????????. ?? :????????? , 2002, p69, p72 ? Cleanth Brooks. “American Literature The Makers and the Making” Vol. 2. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973, p691 ? Ibid, p676 Bibliography 1. Annette T. Rubinstein. “American Literature Root and Flower” (?????? ). ?? : ??? , 1998 2. Cleanth Brooks. American Literature The Makers and the Making” Vol. 2. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973 3. James M. Coxed. “Robert Frost A Collection of Critical Essays”. Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1962 4. Judith Oster. “Robert Frost The Reader and the Poet”. Georgia University Press, 1991 5. Robert Faggen. “The Cambridge Companion to Robert Frost”. Cambridge University Press, 1994 6. ???. ????????. ?? :????? , 2002 7. ???. ????????????. ?? :????????? , 1999 8. ???. ????????????. ?? :????????? , 2000 9. ?? , ??. ??????????. ?? :????????? , 2003 10. ??? , ???. ??????????. ?? :????????? , 2002
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