Do you think Frost was a modern poet? Give reasons for your answer.
Answer: In spite of the Pastoral element predominant in Frost’s poems, he is still a modern poet because his poetry has been endowed with the awareness of the problems of man living in the modern world dominated by Science and Technology.
Critics have a difference of opinion over considering him a modern poet. Frost is a pastoral poet – poet of pastures and plains, mountains and rivers, woods and gardens, groves and bowers, fruits and flowers, and seeds and birds. They do not treat such characteristically modern subjects as ‘the boredom implicit in sensuality’, ‘the consciousness of neuroses’ and ‘the feeling of damnation’. Cleanth Brooks says:
Frost’s best poetry exhibits the structure of symbolic metaphysical poetry. Much more clearly than does of many a modern poet.
In fact, Frost’s poetry portrays the disintegration of values in modern life and the disillusionment of the modern man in symbolical and metaphysical terms as much as the poetry of great, modern poets does, because most of his poems deal with persons suffering from loneliness and frustration, regrets and disillusionment which are known as modern disease. In “An old Man’s Winter Night”, the old man is lonely, completely alienated from the society, likeness, the tiredness of the farmer due to over work in “Apple-Picking” and as a result of it his yielding to sleep:
For I have too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of great harvest I myself desired
In his nature poems, Frost has also commented on the misery of the modern man which due to his going away from nature.
His metaphysical treatment of the subject in some of his poems is also an evidence of his modernity. In “Mending Walls”, Frost juxtaposes the two opposite aspects of the theme of the poem and then leaves it to the reader to draw his own conclusion. The conservative farmer says:
Good fences make good neighbour
and the modern radical farmer says:
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
According to J.F.Lynen the use of the pastoral technique by Frost in his poems, does not mean that the poet seeks an escape from the harsh realities of modern life. He argues that it provides him with a point of view.
Frost uses pastoral technique only to evaluate and comment on the modern lifestyle. His pastoralism thus registers a protest against the disintegration of values in the modern society and here he is one with great poets of the modern age like T.S.Eliot, Yeats and Hopkins.
Another poetic technique adopted by Frost which makes him a modern poet is symbolism. “The Road Not Taken” symbolizes the universal problem of making a choice of invisible barriers built up in the minds of the people which alienate them from one another mentally and emotionally thought they live together or as neighbors in the society. Similarly the Birch trees in “Birches” symbolize man’s desire to seek escape from the harsh suffering man to undergo in this world.
Unlike Romantics he has taken notice of both the bright and dark aspects of nature as we see in his poem “Two Tramps in Mud Time”. Beneath the apparently beautiful calm there is lurking turmoil and storms:
Be glad of water, but don’t forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath.
In fact the world of nature in Frost’s poetry is not a world of dream. It is much more harsh, horrible and hostile than the modern urban world. Hence his experience of the pastoral technique to comment on the human issue of modern world his realistic treatment of Nature, his employment of symbolic and metaphysical techniques and the projection of the awareness of human problems of the modern society in his poetry justly entitle him to be looked up to as modern poet.