Critical Decisions In Crucial Times Essay, Research Paper
Critical Decisions In Crucial Times
Poetry perceives the irrational mysteries and subtle truths, through rational words. Although it is not true to assume that poetry always emanates its messages from the arcane land of mysteries, but it is pretty safe to conjecture that poetry is one of the means, most often utilized, to virtually ground the invisible and get into the inscrutable.
When I started prepping up for this assignment, I read several poems by different poets. But hardly anything talked to my heart. At last, I recalled I had read ?The Vanishing Red? by Robert L. Frost years back in High School and had liked it quite a bit. To put it in a nutshell, after spending long hours in the library reading Frost?s poems — which was not an easy task, since Frost has been such a prolific poet -? I decided to write about ?The Road Not Taken.?
Robert Lee Frost, The poet whose poem I?ll shortly comment upon, was born on March 26, 1874, in San Francisco, California. After his father?s death in 1885, he moved to New England and settled in rural Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Young Frost experimented with poetry in his early years at High School. He did so, as well, in Dartmouth College and Harvard University, which he attended for a brief time. Later, from 1885 to 1912 , as Harold Bloom, a literary critic and a professor of humanities at the University of Yale writes, Frost took up poultry farming, teaching, and writing poetry ?often at night at the kitchen table? (13). Only after moving to England in 1912, Frost kicked off his literary career after publishing ?A Boy?s Will,? who got a positive review by Ezra pound, the influential modernist writer of the time (Potter 16).
In 1916, Frost publishes his new book ?Mountain Interval,? a set of poems starting with ?The Road Not Taken.? Bloom writes in his book that the title ?Mountain Interval? suggests the poems denote, ? pauses in rural landscape to contemplate the isolation, between settlements, activities and memories, as well as between the self and the natural world ? (30). Therefore, before reading the poem one can expect subtle images and connections between the self and the nature.
Now that we have a rudimentary knowledge of the background, and the purveying general mood at the time and the place this particular poem was written, we?ll try to give an objective, personal assessment of the poem. We start here with the title of the poem:
The Road Not Taken
First, a cursory look at the title tells us that whatever we?re about to read is given to us in retrospect, because of the verb tense ?taken.? Second, we can safely deduce that ?Not? involves a choice that the poet has made. Third, the word ?Road? indicates that there has been some kind of a journey involved. So we proceed with our reading:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Here Frost ?the speaker in the poem — introduces his primary metaphor the ?two roads.? He tells us he is at a point in life, where he has to make a decision between the ?two roads.? The time is not very propitious of course, for we know that the speaker is in the ?yellow woods.? Yellow, taken as a figurative language underlines sallow, acerbic lemon-like state.
The speaker?s regret at his human limitations is quite conspicuous, which reflects in line that reads ?? sorry I could not travel both [roads] and be one traveler.?
Yet, the choice is not easy, since we know that ?long [he] stood? before coming to a decision and examined the path ?as far as [he] could.? The feeling we get here is that the speaker is a mature type, who, to the best of his ability thinks through and examines stuff thoroughly, before making any critical move.
However, despite his human intellect and prudent character, the speaker is not able to discern the whole caliber of the journey ahead, because he can?t see farther than where ?[the road] it bent in the undergrowth.? James L. Potter, a Ph.D from ahrvard who teaches at the Trinity College contends that in a way the dearth of information is directly proportional to the speaker?s environment. The message here is that we are strongly affected by the company we keep or better the environment we?re in (Potter 82). So we carry on with our reading:
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
It seems remarkably interesting the Speaker?s word choice ?other [road]? rather than using something like the first road or/and the second road. Indeed, when referring to the ?other [road]? the speaker unequivocally tells us that it was ?as just and fair.? Can we say that the speaker is being ambivalent, or, rather, no matter which road he?d choose, he?d always be thinking about ?the other? one?
The speaker also seems to be little undecided. In fact, ?having perhaps the better claim? leaves the reader hung in the air. Was he wary of the determining factors behind his choice? And if he was, why did he use ?perhaps? instead of saying it DID have the better claim. Anyhow, the speaker seems to convey the idea that his choice was based more on energy, youth and glamour, for he writes ?it was grassy and wanted to wear.?
Bloom casts a little light by asserting that the notion that a road is less traveled than another is a fiction, a story the speaker ?shall be telling? us for ?ages and ages hence? (33). I personally think the idea of a ?fiction? is ingenious, but little short of my capability to perceive, without outside help. So we proceed:
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
After ponderous thinking, the speaker makes a decision and tries to persuade himself that he will eventually satisfy his desire to ?travel both paths.? However, he simultaneously admits that such hope is unrealistic. It seems like the speaker is aware of the fact that life is very short. The underpinning message is that once we get to a turning point in our life and make that pivotal decision; then, we can hardly ?turn back,? and this should be repeated to us ?for ages and ages to come,? in order to make sure that we understand. The speaker than, goes on to gracefully conclude his poem:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The tone clearly shifts in this stanza, for it begins with a new sentence indicating a stronger break from the previous ideas. Moreover, the poet makes use of repetition to lambaste the reader with the main theme again.
Second we notice in this stanza the disappearance of the word ?yellow? before the ?wood.? It seems like, now the speaker has arrived at the conclusion of his journey and is at peace with himself. Consequently, he feels not compelled to remind us the wood?s initial ?yellow? appearance, where everything seemed hard and convoluted. It?s ironic that what he suggests here clearly contradict what he had previously claimed.
Indeed, the notion that the two roads were ?as just and fair? and that ?the passing there had worn them the same? two clear-cut notions of parity, the verisimilitude of the two roads is interestingly changed into one road being ?less traveled by.? I guess, the speaker astutely points out, or we can say he follows the example of those of us, who looking back in perspective see our own, subjective vision of reality as opposed to the objective assessment of reality.
To conclude here, I would say poetry has a powerful ability to penetrate into our innermost self. It has the power to suggest and imply by reaching out towards a vision and probing down into emotion.
Similarly, I not only chose to write about this poem because I knew about the great American de facto poet laureate (potter 3), but because I can relate to Frost?s main theme, that of ?diverging roads.? His vision of life is very consonant with my real life experience and everything in the poem flows in confluence with what I think, with a slight nuance. In my case, after ten years of involuntary exile from school for which I paid an exorbitant price, I did manage to ?go back? to the other road and recuperate the squandered time.
Bloom, Harold. Bloom?s Major Poets: Robert Frost.
New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1999.
Potter, James L. Robert Frost Handbook. New Jersey: U of
Pennsylvania P, 1975.
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