Characterize Frost as a poet of Nature.
Point out the characteristics of Frost’s poetry which mark him as a poet of Nature.
Answer: From a study of the characteristics of his poetry we can form an idea about Frost as a poet of Nature. Though he differs in his attitude towards Nature from most of the Nature poets like Wordsworth, Coleridge, or Shelley and Keats, he shows abundance of evidence for us to regard him as a poet of Nature.
Frost is found to be a poet of Nature of the local and the regional like Wordsworth. The region of Nature that features most in his poems is the north of Boston. The hills, dales, rivers and forests, flowers and trees and plants, birds, beasts and even insects are accurately and succinctly described in his poems. In regard to this aspect of his poems Schneider says, “… the descriptive power of Mr. Frost is to me the most wonderful thing in his poetry. A snowfall, a spring thaw, a bending tree, a valley mist a brook, these are brought not to, but into, the experience of the reader.” His method of description is simple, what he describes is never a spectacle only. But an entire adventure. “A Hillside Thaw” gives a picture of the poet as if he were on his knees trying to feel with his hands the process of snow turning into water. In the “Birches” the poet gives a minute description of the birch trees to depict vividly their habit and how they react to a storm.
Frost has some similarity and some dissimilarity with Wordsworth as a Nature poet. The latter looked upon the pleasant and beneficial aspects of Nature, but the former (Frost) has a keen eye for the sensuous and the beautiful things in Nature as well as for the harsher and the cruel and the unpleasant. “A Boundless Moment” gives us one of those fresh glimpses of beauty which are wonderful in Frost’s poetry.
“Oh, that is the Paradise-in-bloom, I said,
And truly it was fair enough for flowers.”
But Frost also paints the bleak, the barren and the sinister in a more characteristic way. John F. Lynen says, “Even in Frost’s most cheerful nature sketches there is always a bitter sweet quality, admittedly he can and does enjoy nature. His flowers and trees and animals are all described with affection, yet none of the nature poems is free from the hints of possible danger, under the placid surface there is always the unseen presence of something hostile”.
The evil aspects of Nature, it’s horrible and sinister aspects are equally forcefully portrayed. “Spring Pools”, for example, begins innocently enough with a description of the pools and flowers which one sees in the wood lands in early ‘spring. Then suddenly the tone changes.
“The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods,
Let them think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away.”
It is important to observe the way the poem turns out. It is unusual with poems that look upon Nature as a benign entity. Spring is traditionally a season of birth, innocence and joy, but in this poem spring ushers in darkness. Treacherous forces are forever breaking through the pleasant surface of the landscape. “Frost on his nature rambles has the air of someone picking his way through no man’s land during an uneasy truce. The weather is bracing and his spirits are high, but he must tread lightly for fear of hidden dangers, and there is always the chance that he may stumble upon a bullet-pierced helmet or something worse. At the most unexpected times, it gives us glimpses of horror.
In the pantheistic poets of Nature, personality is ascribed to her But Frost does not do so. Montgomery’s remarks are quite relevant here. He says, “It is no spirit of nature which sends Frost rain or wind; he never sees in the natural world the pervading spirit which Wordsworth saw. It may be that a mountain “had the slant as of a book held up before his eyes”, but the mountain is not a personality as it is for Wordsworth.” Frost’s outlook on Nature was that it was the place where there were manifestations of some sinister, hostile power, as well as something pleasant.
Frost treats Nature as both a menace and a comfort. Nature is the mother and home of man, but it is at the same time utterly indifferent and even hostile to him. This duality is already apparent in Frost’s earliest book of poems “A Boy’s Will”. In “The Vantage point” the poet, when tired of trees, seeks again mankind, and when he has had too much of man, he turns to Nature, to smell the earth and look into the crater of the ant. In “Hardwood Groves”, the poet meditates on the fall of the leaf. Only as the leaves fall, decay, and enrich the soil, can the spring flowers be born.
The poet has a great fascination for the bright beaches, expanding trees, dark woods, shrunken brooks and the disappearing snow. In “Evening in a Sugar Orchard”, the woods are heavy with snow. But they are not regarded as a depressing reminder of cold death. On the contrary, the poet draws comfort from the stars — Leo, Orion and the Pleiades.
Sometimes, indeed, Frost speaks directly to objects of Nature, as Wordsworth does in his poems. But what is high seriousness in the poems of Wordsworth is fancy or humor in Frost’s. Frost speaks at length to his orchard which he is leaving for the winter. The orchard must watch out for the rabbits and deer and grouse; they may eat it. If the sun gets too hot before the proper season, the orchard will bear no fruit next summer. But the final word is:
“Keep cold, young orchard.
Good bye and keep cold.”
Or sometimes it seems Nature is, to Frost, something with which man had an amicable and armed truce and mutual respect. He recognizes, and insists upon, the boundaries which exist between individual man and the forces of Nature. In the poem “Two Look at Two” the man and the woman feel that there is an affinity between themselves and the buck and doe that stare back at them. After the deer has fled, the human pair still stand there as if earth in one un-looked for favor had made them certain that earth returned their love.
Briefly speaking, Frost exhibits an ambivalent attitude to Nature, an attitude of love, and of fear, love for its beauty, and fear for its sinister design. He shows love for all objects of Nature, its flora and fauna, its birds and beasts, and draws realistic picture of Nature. It is a picture of beauty and joy. But the other side of his picture of Nature is equally prominent — Nature’s fearful aspects that are evident in her activities that do not seem benign, but are hostile to man.