Robert Lee Frost was an excellent, awarded American poet. This four time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry was born in San Francisco in 1874. He wrote his first poem for a high school magazine, and although his career did not start at that same moment, he heard a calling, and since, hasn’t enjoyed in any job except writing poetry. He is worldwide known for his portrayal of provincial life and avoiding of traditional verse forms. Another thing he is known for is the usage of imagery in his poetry. Both examples and analysis of the usage of imagery in Frost’s six poems are going to be provided in this essay, including; “The Road not Taken”, “Desert Places”, “After Apple Picking”, “Fire and Ice”, “Acquainted with the Night” and “An Old Man’s Winter Night”.
When speaking of imagery and imagination, not only do they play important parts in poems, but in our mental lives too. Imagery is used to flicker all your senses, and often not intended to be only visual, on contrary, a person can respond to poets writing with any of his five senses. In order to flicker our senses, imagery needs different figures of speech such as personification or metaphor, as we shall see in the following analysis. In the poems I have chosen to elaborate on, Frost mainly used imagery of nature, hoping to provoke the exact emotion in every individual reader he was feeling while writing it.
In the poem “The Road not Taken”, as in most of his works, Frost used natural landscape to stimulate a certain feeling in every reader. The very beginning of the poem places us in front of two paths; “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” (The Road not Taken, Poetry Foundation), and introduces us with the imagery of nature. At that time, we are not anymore just sitting in our room, reading the poem; we are standing side to side with the author, figuring which path to take. The way in which he uses imagery in this poem, gives us an instant feeling that this decision that he has to make will be the defining moment of his future. We empathize with him being torn between two paths; “And sorry I could not travel both” (The Road not Taken, Poetry Foundation), that stand as a metaphor for his future and two different possible outcomes of his life. Then he chooses one path “..as just as fair” (The Road not Taken, Poetry Foundation), stating that it wasn’t as traveled as it wanted to be. The way in which he used imagery in this poem makes us think weather this is a poem about feeling remorse for taking the wrong path or is it a poem that talks about a brave man choosing the unexplored path with a desire to make his own way in this world.
Regarding the second poem, even the title of the poem “Desert Places” evokes a certain image and feeling in our minds. With imagery such as layers of snow, empty spaces, woods and night sets us; the readers, in a gloomy, depressive atmosphere. With images such as; “Snow falling and night falling fast” or “The loneliness incudes me unawares” (Desert Places, Internal Organization Poets), he depicts his desperation. As if those images are not enough for us to imagine what he “holds” inside his head, he uses a very vivid image “All animals are smothered in their lairs; I am to absent-spirited to count.” (Desert Places, Internal Organization Poets), showing us that he is so “dead” and lonely inside that he is unable to feel or even express his own thoughts. Coming to the end of the poem the imagery gets stronger and stronger “They cannot scare me with their empty spaces”, “I have it in me so much nearer home, to scare myself with my own desert places.” (Desert Places, Internal Organization Poets). Through the last lines of this poem, he expresses the deepest and one of the most scaring inner states that a person could find himself in; depression.
Another very famous poem by Robert Frost is called “Acquainted with the Night”. After just one glance at the poem, most of the readers would notice that a lot of lines are starting with an “I”. With that, the poet emphasizes the isolation that is interwoven with his depression. Along with the usage of “I” repeatedly, he also uses other images such as hearing the cry; “When far away an interrupted cry came over houses from another street” (Acquainted with the Night, Poetry foundation), but says that the cry has nothing to do with him because he has no one to call his own. Another imagery that he provided us is the eye contact and night, he has a severe case of depression and so has isolated himself from the society and he became unable to feel anything, he became incapable of forming any kind of interaction, including the basic eye contact. The only thing he is familiar with is the night; “I have been one acquainted with the night” (Acquainted with the Night, Poetry foundation).
The poem “Fire and Ice” is a short poem in which there are two main imageries present, as said in the title of the poem itself; fire and ice. They represent the possible ways in which the world will end. The fire is used to represent emotions such as passion and lust; “From what I’ve tasted of desire” (Fire and Ice, Poetry Foundation), while ice represents resentment and hatred; “I think I know enough of hate” (Fire and Ice, Poetry Foundation). At first thought, fire is the more probable way in which the world will end, but after considering emotions that ice represents, we could easily say that both ways are possible, with them being equally catastrophic. Frost decided to play on the emotional card, rather than using rigorously scientific view regarding this issue. Another point of view is seeing the world as a metaphor for a relationship. He is giving us imagery where too passionate and “thirsty” emotions can devour a relationship just as easily as a carelessness, alienation and hate. Although we are given these two completely different images of fire and ice, they have one thing in common, and that is the outcome they will bring to the world; its eradication.
The thing I noticed about Robert Frost’s poems are the titles of his poems filled with imagery. Even the titles make us imagine a certain picture and impression of what to expect in the each poem. The next poem’s title is “An Old Man’s Winter Night”. After reading the poem, main images that pop up in our minds are darkness, eyes, and empty rooms, crack of branches and broken moon, winter and heavy breathing. Looking at these images and thinking of combining them in one puts us in a dark atmosphere filled with sadness. Imagining that a man could be living in these kind of conditions makes us both scared and sorrowful, but the fact that the old man lost his memory makes the imagery even stronger and terrifying; “What kept him from remembering what it was, that brought him to that creaking room was age” (An Old Man’s Winter Night, Organization Poets). Not only is he isolated from the society, he is also isolated from himself; in his mind, hence, he is isolated from possibly the only happiness he could have had from his memories. With this imagery, Frost managed to evoke a feeling of horror and creepiness in every reader who “devours” with his eyes Frost’s poems. To imagine being in a position of the old man, alone, not being certain of what you are afraid of in the cellar or in the dark night, gives you an unpleasant feeling creeping in your body.
The last poem is called “After Apple-Picking”. This short story written in 1914 metaphorically speaks about death and changing of the seasons. Although it is not specified which season is to come next, we can guess that the winter is slowly approaching; “And held against the world of hoary grass”(After Apple-Picking, Poetry Foundation). The narrator knows that death is coming soon, but he doesn’t know whether the death will be “defeated” by the next season, or will everything stay suffocated under the thick layers of snow for all eternity. The crucial motives of the poem are apples, and the way in which he depicted the scenery gives us various possibilities on what do apples actually represent. One of the possibilities is that Frost wanted to give us imagery where although it seems as if we are in a field, picking apples, we could just as easily be in the dying man’s dream, being a part of his hallucination. If seen in that light it could seem that the narrator has made peace and is ready to fall in the eternal sleep.
After imagining the pictures Frost gave us in his poem, it is evident that he had a vivid imagination and special skills that he somehow managed to transfer on us. With imagery of nature, not only did he have an intention to set the atmosphere, but also to encourage us to dig deeper, to look under the surface. Although he might have used imagery such as snow, night and woods, all coming from everyday life in nature, he referred to people and their inner states and how does it feel to live in the world they are living in. Imagery is used to draw people into a sensory experience, and in essence that’s exactly the “job” of images; to show us meaning. It seems impossible to think that a poet can in only few lines, of which his poem consists, make us imagine a certain picture from his poem and relate it with our already existing memories, and by doing so, he makes us emotionally attached to his work.