In this essay I will look at two Robert Frost poems in detail. I will study them to see if they are “deceptively simple” or not and I will then decide to what extent I agree or disagree with the statement.
Firstly, I will discuss “Mending Wall”. There are many aspects of “Mending Wall” that make it seem like a relatively simple poem. One of these aspects is the poem’s structure. The poem is written in one continuous verse. When first looking at the poem one might think that it has a continuous verse formation because it is the most simplistic verse structure that can be used. When looking closer at the reason for this form we find that it is deeply connected with the content of the poem. “Mending Wall” is about human barriers that cannot be broken. This is echoed in the structure, as it too is unbroken. The form also connects with the fact that the two farmers in the poem are rebuilding a wall. The continuous verse is like a wall as well. The barrier featured in the poem is a stone wall, which would have had an uneven top, this is also reflected in the structure as it has an even edge on the right side.
“Mending Wall” does not contain rhyme. This makes the poem seem basic, as it seems, that no thought has been taken over the rhyming pattern of the poem. The opposite of this is actually true. The cause for there being no rhyme pattern is that this fits in with the poems ideas. The poem talks of breaking traditions and this is reflected in the way that, having a rhyme structure, would be traditional, whereas, not having a rhyming structure would be breaking tradition. Also, if a rhyme structure was in place there would be a sense of harmony between the lines of the poem and this poem is talking about how humans put up barriers and are not in harmony with each other. “Mending Wall” uses many poetic techniques. These techniques are used subtly, and are not stressed, as this helps to create the effect that the poem is simple. One of these techniques is word order and arrangement. Frost uses hyphens between words to create a new word that flows better in the poem. For example,
At first sight this phrase seems quite ordinary and simple but when you analyse it you can see that a complicated sentence is rearticulated in to one flowing idiom. Frost also uses unusual word orders to make certain lines stand out.
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”
This is the first line of the poem and it stands out immediately, as it is in an unusual order, and it makes the reader think about its meaning. This is a simple way to make the reader think about a specific line without using a technique that could be perceived as more complicated. The poem also uses personification.
“My apple trees will never get across,
And eat the cones under his pines”
This use of personification helps the reader to understand the writer’s point. It makes it clear that the writer feels that it is pointless to build a wall between apple and pinecone trees. Throughout the poem Frost repeats particular phrases to impress them on the reader’s mind.
“wall between us”
Good fences make good neighbours”
Both of these phrases are repeated to make the point that nothing will ever change and that some people can never break with tradition. Similes are used to create a similar effect.
“In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed”
This leaves an imprint of this image in the reader’s memory.
The second poem I am going to discuss is called “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”. Structure is very important to this poem. The poem has four verses with four lines in each verse. This reflects the order that controls the writer’s life. For example, he wants to stop to watch the snow fall but he cannot as he has responsibilities that have to be taken care of. This verse structure seems quite straightforward, but, when analysed it is easy to see that it is more complicated than is first thought. The rhyme structure also seems simple when the poem is first read but, once again, when it is examined we find that all the verses are intertwined through rhyme.
“Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
“My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year”
The rhyme structure in this poem is rather complicated and is full of deeper meaning. In each verse, except the last, lines one, two and four all rhyme. Line three, however, does not rhyme with the other lines and is carried on into the next verse as its’ main rhyme for lines one, two and four. This gives the poem an overall feeling of inevitability; the writer wishes he could stop and stare but he will have to move on and carry out his responsibilities. This is an ironic structure as it suggests the writer is in control when really he is not. Also, there is a prison like quality to the structure as it is solid and this represents the writer’s incapability to break with routine. All of the lines in the last verse rhyme. This rounds off the poem whilst continuing the feel of inevitability. This also has the effect of making a final point that sticks in the reader’s mind.
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
This reiterates the point that the writer feels entranced by the woods and although he is weary of keeping, “promises” he has far to go before he can rest. This is a summary of the rest of the poem and by repeating the line, “And miles to go before I sleep”, it gives a powerful image of a weary traveller who cannot rest that sticks in the reader’s thoughts. This is a simple technique but it is used very effectively to make a final statement. The poem does not use any complicated language. This reinforces the simplicity of the point being made in the poem. Although there are no complicated words in this poem Frost does use unusual word order in places.
“Whose woods these are I think I know”
This line stuns the reader as they have to think about what it means before they can understand it. This unusual word order also helps the fluency of the line. It gets the reader to start thinking at the very beginning of the poem and entices them to read on to find out why the writer has made this comment. When one is reading this line aloud it sounds drawn out, this creates a feeling of weariness and a longing for something. This poem uses a lot of “s” sounds. This generates a soft feeling of sleepiness and backs up the point made in the poem that the writer has, “miles to go before I sleep”. Although this poem seems to be about a man who is travelling, it actually has a deeper meaning. The poem is actually about a man who wants to take a “time-out” from the world and leave his responsibilities behind.
In conclusion, I would say that I agree with the statement partially. Robert Frost’s poems are simple as he purposely wrote them that way. For example, Frost did not often use techniques like similes, as he did not want to overcrowd the point that the poem was trying to make. By not using many similes, when he did use one it was very powerful and added greatly to the poem. If he had used lots of similes they would have been far less powerful. He also used many methods that seemed simple when they were first read, but were actually complicated when re-read like the new word, “frozen-ground-swell”. However, I disagree with the part of the statement that said, “poems about everyday rural life and activities”.
I disagree with this because although on the surface Frost’s poems seem to be about, “everyday rural life and activities”, underneath they are really about more complicated issues such as human barriers and wanting a break from responsibilities. This is another way that Frost’s poems are deceptively simple. If taken at face value the poems seem to be about rural life, but if one reads between the lines, you can see that really they are much more complex.