illustrated portrait of American poet Robert Frost

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Discuss the poem "Fireflies in the Garden" by Robert Frost.

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The poem Fireflies in the Garden, by Robert Frost is an allegory to several things including the admiration of effort, the drawbacks of imitation, and the appreciation of differences.

The setting of the poem is a garden during dusk, and when the twilight begins to let things shine in their own light. Two things are shining: In the sky, there are the stars coming out, and in the garden there are the little fireflies.

The poem goes:

Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can't sustain the part.

Basically, Frost is admiring the fireflies for trying to shine like the stars since we (as people) should always shoot for the stars and imitate the good and intelligent behaviors of peers.

Yet, he also warns us not to try to become replicas of something else, just like the fireflies can only shine so much and last so long. They could never become stars, but yet, they can shine like one in their own time, and at their own pace.

It is a very simple poem, but the simplicity is what provokes in the reader the most appreciation for the central message of the story, which is to simply shine, and continue shining for as long as you are able to shine.

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It can be interpreted in multiple ways. On the surface, it’s just about how fireflies resemble stars: from a distance, stars appear to be no more than tiny pulses of light. Going deeper, the poem personifies the fireflies and seems to suggest that the fireflies are both audacious in their attempt to imitate the stars and they also are to be praised for attempting to dream of being something that is beyond their capacity; to be much larger, bursting with energy and sending out light to the rest of the universe well beyond their deaths.  And relative to the lifespan of fireflies, stars are immortal, some ‘living’ (more personification or anthropomorphism) over a billion years. So, the fireflies are also attempting immortality. Analogously, this poem is about the meaning and significance of striving for a dream in spite of the limits of mortality; in spite of the fact that the dream may be impossible. It would be worth the fireflies’ time to attempt such an imitation, if even for only a very short while. There is also the possibility that this poem is another analogy for the poetic/creative process itself; attempts to imitate things or dream bigger than we are in spite of our limitations and in spite of the fact that imitation, by nature of being an imitation, never gets to be the thing we strive for. A poem can symbolize something but a poem never actually is that something. This is like saying notes on a page symbolize the Moonlight Sonata but the notes never really are the Sonata. The real Sonata is the audible notes, the actual vibrations of tones.


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