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Could somebody give me an analysis of Robert Frost's poem, "A Soldier"?Here is the...

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oopdershnoop | eNoter

Posted January 16, 2013 at 2:23 AM via web

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Could somebody give me an analysis of Robert Frost's poem, "A Soldier"?

Here is the poem:

He is that fallen lance that lies as hurled,
That lies unlifted now, come dew, come rust,
But still lies pointed as it plowed the dust.
If we who sight along it round the world,
See nothing worthy to have been its mark,
It is because like men we look too near,
Forgetting that as fitted to the sphere,
Our missiles always make too short an arc.
They fall, they rip the grass, they intersect
The curve of earth, and striking, break their own;
They make us cringe for metal-point on stone.
But this we know, the obstacle that checked
And tripped the body, shot the spirit on
Further than target ever showed or shone.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted January 16, 2013 at 12:43 PM (Answer #1)

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[Answers on eNotes are limited by available space.]

Poetry analysis includes, among other things, structure and rhyme scheme; meter, which is feet and rhythm; theme, which requires knowing the meaning; and techniques like personification, metaphor, simile, allusions, symbols, and imagery. We'll touch on a sampling of these.

"A Soldier" is composed around an extended metaphor that is introduced in the first line: "He is that fallen lance ...." The soldier is compared to a fallen lance, a weapon, that lies on the ground. This metaphor is carried on throughout as Frost denounces the forces of war ("See nothing worthy to have been its mark,") while also praising the fallen soldier who is the symbol of all soldiers. The metaphor ends when Frost switches to a second metaphor in which the spirit is "shot" beyond the reaches of the world, limited as the world is by its curvature: "they intersect / The curve of earth,...."

The meaning is revealed in these extended metaphors and the theme emerges. Frost is protesting the limited vision that led men to war (for Frost, it was exclusively men who waged war because it was exclusively men who governed), and he is praising the universal soldier who falls but whose spirit is lifted to spiritual heights. Theme: Man's vision is limited and earth-bound, while the spirit of the fallen outshines the imagined goodness of any warrior's target.

... like men we look too near,
[...]
Our missiles always make too short an arc.
They fall, they rip the grass, they intersect
The curve of earth,...
[...]
... the obstacle that checked
And tripped the body, shot the spirit on
Further than target ever showed or shone.

The poem is structured as an English sonnet: three quatrains (four lines each) followed by a couplet (two lines that rhyme: in Frost's pronunciation of English, "on" and "shone" would have rhymed though they do not now in American English). The metrical scheme, the meter, is iambic pentameter: five feet in a da DA' rhythm:

He is' / that fal' / -len lance' / that lies' / as hurled', 
That lies' / un -lif' / -ted now', / come dew', / come rust',  

The rhyme scheme is abba cddc effe ff. The couplet concatenates (links through rhyme) the couplet back to the third quatrain with the ff rhymes. This rhyme linking technique (called concatenation) also links the ideas of the third quatrain with the ideas of the couplet: The breaking and loss of war is linked in antithesis to the glory of a released and shinning spirit.

... they intersect
The curve of earth, and striking, break their own;
[...]
... shot the spirit on
Further than target ever showed or shone.

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