Symbolism in the Poems of Robert Frost
Nature has inspired countless poets from primitive times to the present. They have used it as a metaphor for virtually all human emotions-his stormy brow, her sky blue eyes, as wild as a summer storm. Very few, however, have so masterfully crafted their verse to fully express the range of nature’s power and influence, or suited the tone of a poem to encompass both human nature and ‘true’ nature. This is true in the poetic works of Robert Frost. The aspects of nature that are continually demonstrated in the poems of Frost symbolize both the physical world and its changes, and the nature of humans.
It can easily be argued that Frost ...view middle of the document...
He would speak plainly of an emotion or a thought, and not use symbolism to represent the prolific possibilities that could lie within a simple subject such as the bee. All of Frost’s poems can be said to contain symbolism and more often that not it seems to be Frost’s goal to instill in the reader their own idea of what the symbolism may be. While there are multitudes of ways to use symbolism, there is also a multitude of possibilities within each and every poem, if not every line of his poems.
Frost once said, ‘Poetry permits the one possible way to say one thing and mean another.’ (Frost and Nature, www.frostfriends.org) Frost’s greatest power lies within his mastery of association. This begins with observation and ends with a connection. ‘The figure (of a poem) is the same as for love, it begins in delight and ends in wisdom. A poem is a thought-felt thing,’ Frost said. (Frost and Nature, www.frostfriends.org)
Robert Frost seems to use nature as a background. He usually begins a poem with an observation of something in nature and then directs the poem towards a connection to some human situation or concern. He has been quoted to say, ‘I am not a nature poet. There is almost always a person in my poems.’ (Frost and Nature, www.frostfriends.org) Frost believed that poetry should introduce ideas, but not takes sides. Therefore, he never answered important questions directly. Instead, he often introduces questions by his use of symbolism.
This poet’s use of nature is probably the single most controversial element of his works. The majority of his poems use nature imagery. His grasp and comprehension and awareness of nature can be well recognized by his writings. However, Frost is not simply trying to convey to us how nature ‘works’ in his poems. His poems are about human psychology. His rural scenes and landscapes, farmers, and the surrounding environment are used to elucidate a psychological struggle with everyday experiences met with bravery, determination, and purpose in the context of Frost’s life and personal doctrine. His attitude is honest and accepting. However, Frost was neither a transcendentalist nor a pantheist.
Robert Frost viewed nature as an alien force capable of obliterating man, but he also felt that man’s struggle with nature was a heroic battle. As narrated in his poem, ‘Our Hold on the Planet,’
There is much in nature against us. But we forget:
Take nature altogether since time began,
Including human nature, in peace and war,
And it must be a little more in favor of man,
Say a fraction of one percent at the very least,
Or our number living wouldn’t be steadily more,
Our hold on the planet wouldn’t have so increased.
Nature is distinct and autonomous from man. Frost loved natural beauty, but nevertheless he recognized the harsh facts of the outside world. He saw nature and human nature as different aspects of reality which could still be embraced in...