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Robert Frost's poem "Fireflies in the Garden" is a brief but eminently clear commentary on the limits of symbolism. Frost uses fireflies as symbols which "emulate...real stars...(in) the upper skies". He notes that "though they were never equal stars in size, and they were never really stars at heart", they do at times actually "achieve...a very star-like start". The only problem is, unlike the real thing, fireflies "can't sustain the part".
Through this metaphor, Frost is saying that although symbols are quite effective at times, almost duplicating that which they stand for, their impact is limited, because they attain closeness to their subject for only a fleeting moment. Symbols cannot sustain their effectiveness for any length of time; their lustre quickly pales in the face of the real thing.
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