Type: Descriptive Essays
Sample donated: Jorge James
Last updated: July 25, 2019
James M. Cox once said “Though his career fully spans the modern period and though it is impossible to speak of him as anything other than a modern poet, it is difficult to place him in the main tradition of modern poetry,” (Poetry Foundation, n.d).
Robert Frost was a 19th century New England poet who spent his career through modernism but he kept some old-fashioned aspects when it comes to his writings (ibid.). Robert Frost was distinctive from the conventions of traditional or modern poetic movement as he did not classify himself together with his fellow poets; as a result, his originality becomes his uniqueness (ibid.
). In his works, Robert Frost bridged across two movements: the pre-modern and moderng1 . “Design”, a 14-line sonnet written by Frost in 1922 (Study.com, n.
d), conforms to the classical conventions of poetry and simultaneously differs from the usual traditional form. In the poem, the speaker engenders the seemingly horrifying workings of nature. In an Italian sonnet, the octet usually poses a problem which then is answered by the sestet; contrastingly there is a reversal in this poem. The octet is posed as a descriptive stanza of nature with the impassive tone with some wittiness.
The octet, instead of questioning, rather, the speaker discovers nature with a series of contradictory images. His over-interpretation causes his distress, therefore, the sestet is phrased of a series of idiosyncratic rhetorical questions, which leads to a realization to the audience that the speaker expects no response; nonetheless, he reveals his emotional thoughts. The reversal shows a tendency that the speaker has an underlying fear to face his problems openly, thus his reticence causes the reversed sonnet, which is disclosed on the couplet at the end.
Furthermore, “Design”, at a glance, is a Petrarchan sonnet but strangely at the end, it is wrapped up with a rhyming couplet, a classic Shakespearean element appears. Ordinarily, the heroic couplets are punch lines, uniquely here, it brings a puzzling irony. This way the speaker is able to express his concluding thoughts.
Ultimately, Frost finalizes the poem with a couplet that denotes ambivalence; either the evil design or the absence of it. Furthermore, “Design” is composed of eight lines consisting of perfect iambic pentameter: lines 1, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13. The iambicg2 pentameter in the sonnet follows the strict meter of a sonnet, which is uncommon for a poem that is written in the twentieth century. This once again reaffirms that Frost’s “Design” conform to and deviate from the conventional.
Frost’s narrative poem “Mending Wall” incorporates aspects of modernism but deviates from it as well. Looking closely only at the structure, this poem is a one stanza consisting of forty-five lines, which contradicts to his traditional poems such as “Design” or “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” that are highly structured with stanzas. This may astound readers but serves the purpose of a smooth-flowing conversational speech of the poem that creates a dialog between the speaker and his neighbor. This may also be emphasized by maintaining the use of traditional elements such as iambic pentameter for which he was renowned. The pentameter asserted intended to echo the stepwise which displays a methodical poem. This causes the poem to appear like a common story with a chronological order.
This looseness characterizes the speaker’s internal conflict and presents his thoughts without logic. Moreover, the use of American colloquial speech enhances the informality and is not esoteric, allowing emotional connection. The lengthy poem adds to the dramatic and incompatible narrative as it visualizes the image of a rock wall, which again relates back to the “Mending Wall” that is positioning the speaker in the neighbourhood with the tradition to build a barrier between neighbours. However, the single stanza illustrates that there should be no boundary between humans; this raises the reader’s awareness that there should openness to different people in the community.
Moreover, “Mending Wall” was first published in 1914 and the use of the word “wall”, which can be found many times throughout the poem, was rising over time since the 1850s and reached its peak in around 1910s and stays constant since then. This also adds to the contemporariness of the poem. However, “Mending Wall” deviates from contemporary as well. This is portrayed from the message of the poem regarding property rights in adhering to John Locke:”Man being born, as has been proved, with a title to perfect freedom, and an uncontrolled enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of the law of nature, equally with any other man, or number of men in the world, hath by nature a power, not only to preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty and estate, against the injuries and attempts of other men.” (Section 87 of Two Treatises of Government, 1689) In conclusion, the works produced by Frost are products from two distinct literature movements. “Design” and “Mending Wall” are examples of how Frost kept traditional component though was a modernist and still involved modern aspect to show a transition between the pre-modern and modern. The unconventional use of sonnet in “Design” helps to reveal the speaker’s internal conflict. The extended length of the poem “Mending Wall” gives flexibility and is verbose thus giving friendly touches between the poet, the speaker, and the reader.