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The Real Robert Frost


Blog Posted:2/21/2014 11:39:00 AM

There are events in life one never forgets. For me, one of those was                        going to Robert Frost’s farm in Derry, NH to hear him recite poetry.                              It was just 3 years before he died and I was just eleven years old.                    Everything is a blur now except for one thing. After he recited                            “Mending Wall” he asked if there were questions and being                                           a 6th grader I asked what the poem meant and he responded,                             “Exactly what it says son, exactly what it says”. Years later, after                         reading much about Frost, I found that one of his pet peeves were                          those that constantly dissected his poems in attempts to find deeper                meanings. Frost was, one of those poets who took life and wrote                            about events and things that affect all of us, but we take for granted.                         He wrote about them in an easy to understand way so that each of us                      could derive our own feelings. So, analysis like the one below and the                     pages of analysis on “Mending Wall” etc. used to aggravate him. He                         much preferred that each reader derive their own meaning just as we                           all do from our individual muses.

Neither Out Far Nor In Deep


The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull.

The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be---
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?

 

                                                                                                                                                     First of all, of course, the poem is simply there, in indifferent                          unchanging actuality; but our thought about it, what we are                                    made to make of it, is there too, made to be there. When we                                 choose between land and sea, the human and the inhuman,                                      the finite and the infinite, the sea has to be the infinite that floods                                 in over us endlessly, the hypnotic monotony of the universe that is                 incommensurable with us—everything into which we look neither                             very far nor very deep, but look, look just the same. And yet Frost                       doesn't say so—it is the geometry of this very geometrical poem,                                its inescapable structure, that says so. There is the deepest tact                                and restraint in the symbolism; it is like Housman's

Stars, I have seen them fall,
But when they drop and die
No star is lost at all
From all the star-sown sky.

The toil of all that be
Helps not the primal fault:
It rains into the sea
And still the sea is saltuote>

But Frost's poem is flatter, greyer, and at once tenderer and                                    more terrible, without even the consolations of rhetoric and                             exaggeration- there is no "primal fault" in Frost's poem, but                                     only the faint Biblical memories of "any watch they keep." What                                 we do know we don't care about; what we do care about we don't know:                     we can't look out very far, or in very deep; and when did that ever                         bother us? It would be hard to find anything more unpleasant to say                       about people than that last stanza; but Frost doesn't say it unpleasantly                    —he says it with flat ease, takes everything with something harder                           than contempt, more passive than acceptance. And isn't there                           something heroic about the whole business, too-something touching                        about our absurdity? If the fool persisted in his folly he would become                            a wise man, Blake said, and we have persisted. The tone of the last                   lines—or, rather, their careful suspension between several tones,                                as a piece of iron can be held in the air between powerful enough                  magnets—allows for this too. This recognition of the essential limitations                      of man, without denial or protest or rhetoric or palliation, is very rare                        and very valuable, and rather usual in Frost's best poetry. One is                       reminded of Empson's thoughtful and truthful comment on                                    Gray's "Elegy": "Many people, without being communists, have been                   irritated by the complacence in the massive calm of the poem … And                          yet what is said is one of the permanent truths; it is only in degree that                     any improvement of society would prevent wastage of human powers;                       the waste even in a fortunate life, the isolation even of a life rich in                          intimacy, cannot but be felt deeply, and is the central feeling of tragedy."

from Poetry and the Age (Knopf, 1953). Copyright © 1953 by Randall Jarrell

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  1. Date: 2/23/2014 7:17:00 PM
    Oh NO fix this please so I don't miss anything!

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    cornish Avatar craig cornish Date: 2/23/2014 8:19:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Damn, I tried Debbie---it's a little more there but screwed up!
  1. Date: 2/22/2014 8:01:00 AM
    I did enjoy this blog, Craig, even with the formatting errors. I like the fact that Frost did not want his poetry analyzed and picked apart for deeper meaning...it gives, and allows the reader to interpret the poems in their own way, to let the poem speak to each of us, which is relative to all. Enjoyed. love and hugs, Catie :)

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  1. Date: 2/21/2014 6:45:00 PM
    Craig, something about your text running off the page. I just did a little test and I noticed that my hand fits neatly across other blogs here at Soup, but when I come to yours, the text goes beyond the reach of my palm. That suggests to me that somehow your blogs are overextending the natural width of a typcial blog and I don't think the ads have anything to do with it. Is your member area not giving you the right size box to work in? What if you just typed them out with fewer words across each line? Let me know . It could help.

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  1. Date: 2/21/2014 6:41:00 PM
    Craig, I just loved that poem. That is the kind of poem that I love to read when I find it here on Soup, and I have met poets who write this way consistently. What a shame they will not ever gain the stature of Mr. Frost. For some reason, all that seemed to have ended in the last century. I don't even know what it takes any more for a poet to get a reputation like Frost had! Anyway, much enjoyed.

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  1. Date: 2/21/2014 3:50:00 PM
    Very interesting, Craig.

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  1. Date: 2/21/2014 2:40:00 PM
    This insightful blog is in reference to one of my all time favorite poets, and somehow makes me think that Robert Frost had a deeper recognition of the world, because he could take it in as a whole, without the ruffles and ribbons, the frills or folly. It reminds me of a video I just watched about Cell phones. Where people were paying so much attention, so busy taking pictures with their cell phones of what was happening in front of them, they were missing the moment.

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  1. Date: 2/21/2014 1:13:00 PM
    Sorry about the format--the stupid ad cuts off the text to the right.

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