How Was Robert Frost’s Life Reflected In His Poetry?

Introduction:

Poetry is the best way for a writer to express his profound feelings and emotions and share them with the audience. Poetry is not simply a well-formulated piece of writing with attractive language, but also a message with a deep meaning. In order to understand this meaning, it is important to analyze each word and each line, to perceive the mood of the writer and know about his personal life and challenges. In many cases exactly personal life is reflected through the lines of poems, one of the perfect examples in literature is the poetry by the famous poet Robert Frost.   Robert Frost is one of the most influential and prolific poets in American history for his elegant and pastoral poems that have well outlived his 88 years. Frost was born in post-gold rush San Francisco in 1874, on March 26 to a penniless: alcoholic father and nervous depression afflicted mother. Following the death of his father, Frost and his family moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts with his grandparents at age 11, where he continued to grow up and attend school. Frost, being as bright the man we now know him to be, was accepted into Dartmouth, but dropped out after a few months then attended Harvard only to do the same. During this time Frost had a wife and an active stream of newborns, that later amounted to 6 children, he raised on a farm that his grandfather had gifted him. It is this slow paced, farm life, which he calls upon for inspiration seen in many of his works. This presents itself in the rural scenery that happens to be the subject matter for many of his publications. Another way it presents itself is in the principles and teachings his writing conveys that are derivative of rural, slow paced, farm life.

Rural influence

Robert Frost was under the great impact of his everyday emotions and even minor events of his life. The things, which could seem meaningful and banal to most individuals, were of great importance for Frost. For example watching the stones of the wall or the ice on the branches of a birch tree could make the poet penetrate into a different world of metaphysical expressions. His pastoral themes have brought a great portion of popularity to Frost. Such famous poems as “Mending Wall” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” are the greatest examples of his ability to find the inspiration in nature and are the reflections of his times, spent as a poultry farmer in New Hampshire. When he was a small boy, he was used more to urban life and only later, when he moved to New England, he obtained the experience of rural environment, which fascinated him. Upon publication of his Collected Poems in 1930 Frost wrote about his interest in pastoral world, making it one of the important subjects of his poetry: “Poetry is more often of the country than the city…Poetry is very, very rural – rustic. It might be taken as a symbol of man, taking its rise from individuality and seclusion – written first for the person that writes and then going out into its social appeal and use” (Frost, 2013, p. 22). At the same time it is important to underline that the poet did not express only the beauty of the pastoral settings, as it was traditionally done by other poets, rather he focused upon the conflicts of the natural world, namely the contradictions between the rural and urban lifestyles or the struggles, which were present in rural life. Certainly his poetry was a reflection of his own life and experiences. He was not happy in his life and he often suffered from anxiety and depression. During the whole period of his life he was tortured by the doubts regarding his poetry and its worthiness, which could be seen from his obsessed idea to obtain a Nobel Prize. In addition he suffered from hard emotional losses in his life, which were brought by the death of his father, mother, his sister and even four out of his six children and his wife, whom he loved so much. All these events and emotions, caused by them, had their profound impact upon his literary work. 

The poems by Frost were often characterized by enriching of the style via using the traditional meters against the natural speech rhythms. Frost did not use the artificial poetic diction with employment of the accent of New Englander. Yvor Winters in his writing The Function of Criticism wrote that Frost “endeavor to make his style approximate as closely as possible the style of conversation” (Jarrell, 1999, p 199). In reality the aim of the poet was not to imitate the idioms of the New England farmer, rather he wanted to create such literature, which would have the vocal gestures for enhancing the meaning. One of the examples is “The Death of the Hired Man”, which is made up primarily of the conversation between Mary and Warren, who is her farmer-husband. In this poem Frost seemed to take the prosaic patterns of the speech of the couple and make them with a portion of lyrics. This poem is considered to be the best example of Frost’s natural speech of New England, which is absolutely different from the speech, used in newspapers or by scientists. New England dialect was one of the integral parts of the regionalism of Frost. The poet stated that New England was one of the two best states in the Union, the second was Vermont. Reviewing North of Boston in the New Republic, Amy Lowell wrote, “Not only is his work New England in subject, it is so in technique…. Mr. Frost has reproduced both people and scenery with a vividness which is extraordinary.” (Jarrell, 1999, p. 215).

Frost’s realism

It was already mentioned that Frost’s personal life had a great influence upon the poet’s lyrical expression. He had to face death quite often during his life and he had financial troubles, he was lucky to experience a great love and attraction. So many losses and deep emotions, related to them, made the poet be constantly in the state of stress and correspondingly change his overall attitude to life. “His change in his outlook on life is reflected in his poetry with his writing of nature, its beauties, and life’s precious moments. “They could not afford the return trip” and had to stay in New England due to a lack of funds (Reisman, 2013, p. 77). When Frost’s father died, his family had to face financial hardships, thus his childhood years could hardly be associated with happy moments or usual carelessness of children. Later these financial problems were mentioned in his poems. Then he was passionately in love with Elinor Miriam White and was waiting to marry her. He was really happy to build a family with her, but his happiness could not be long, as she also died. This loss of a beloved person led the poet to the severe depression and was reflected in his poetry, devoted to fragileness of human life. Later he even changed his style as a poet. Robert Frost could not distance from the social problems as well. His society had to manage the post civil war atmosphere, the Great Depression and struggle for survival. In order to escape from the depressing reality Frost’s family took the decision to move to San Francisco in 1873. “Robert Frost’s family choice to move from his beloved New England to San Francisco due to the nature of the society, greatly damaged Robert Frost’s childhood, with the removal of his favorite area of the world. “Frost’s conservative overtones, which ran contrary to the general political feeling during the Great Depression decreased some of his popularity, and changed his outlook about the disasters happening around him” (Reisman, 2013, p.81). It was difficult to find an individual in the USA, who would not be impacted by the Great Depression. A lot of private lives were destroyed and the whole society was transformed during that historical period. The poems of Robert Frost reflected the life of farmers during the times of the Great Depression, the poet aimed to show how the whole world or “ecosystem” of farmer was completely destroyed. Such personal hardships and social life challenges were the major contributors of the formation of the Frost’s realism as a poet.

“The Road Less Traveled”

Robert Frost’s integration of the themes of man’s interaction with the nature and search for the powerful philosophical meanings and messages are perfectly reflected in his famous poem “The Road Not Taken”. This poem is the reflection of a significant philosophical theme of an individual, who is to make an important choice between the societal norms and generally accepted choices and the choice, which is much less explored. The central theme of the poem is related to each single individual in this world, as everybody is to make this choice, which would become either the reflection of the generally accepted opinion and position or be his individual alternative. The use of the “road” in this poem is not literal and rather metaphorical. “Road” is used by the poet in order to show the choice of an individual. “However, by using the literal application of roads, Frost shows that deciding which road to take will determine the outcome of one’s journey, much like a decision will determine the outcome of one’s goals and aspirations. Frost chooses to the take the road that “was grassy and wanted wear.” (Frost, 2013, p. 10). Certainly the less traveled road could be more intrigued and more difficult, there could be more unexpected turns and obstacles there, there is no much information about this road, as only few men had tried to follow it. This “less traveled road” is actually the choice of the poet himself, his way to reveal his own individuality and personal endeavor –“I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference” (Frost, 2013, p. 13). Frost was not able to adhere to conformity of his society and he personally made the choice of the less traveled road. He underlined the fact that any traveler could not choose two roads at a time, he was forced to choose only one of them. The poet assumed that individuals were not able to take two decisions at a time, regarding any concrete goal in their life. All people are to weight their decisions before taking them and make their final choice, facing the consequences of this choice later.

Conclusion

Overall, Robert Frost is one of the outstanding poets, whose works continue to be meaningful and influential in the modern world as well. Frost’s poetry was impacted by his social and personal sufferings and challenges to a great extent. His ability to connect the universal themes to his personal life experiences attracted readers worldwide and made his poetry timeless.

References

A comparison of Robert Frost’s life and his writings. (2016, June 23). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/a-comparison-of-robert-frosts-life-and-his-writings/

Brown, J. L. (1997). Robert frost: A biography. World Literature Today, 71(2), 396. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.tacomacc.idm.oclc.org/docview/209403155?accountid=36202

Frost, R., F., & K, D. (n.d.). Robert Frost: Poems Study Guide. Retrieved from https://www.gradesaver.com/the-poetry-of-robert-frost

Frost, Robert. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/robert-frost

Frost, Robert. (2017, April 28). Retrieved from https://www.biography.com/people/robert-frost-20796091

Frost, Robert. (2013). The Poetry Foundation Web.

Jarrell, Randall. (1999). “Fifty Years of American Poetry.” No Other Book: Selected Essays. New York: HarperCollins

Reisman, Rosemary. (2013). Nature Poets Ipswich, MA: Salem Press, 2012. Gale Virtual Reference Library

What Inspired The Road Not Taken | The Road Not Taken. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.bestoffrost.com/what-inspired-the-road-not-taken/

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[Accessed: May 27, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 27, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 27, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 27, 2020]