What is the function of nature in Robert Frost's poetry?

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  • In Frost's poetry there is a strong connection between rural New England landscapes and the rural voices of his personas.
  • To frost, the living part of the poem is the language: an organic arrangement that is not unlike the natural world.
  • Frost uses a realistic technique in his poems: art mirrors reality.  As such, Frost synthesizes the human and the natural through language, imagination, and metaphor.
  • In "On Frost's Realistic Technique," Amy Lowell says that Frost's poetry is photographic, that it captures characters and landscapes, freezes them, burns them into memory--again bound by what he has seen.  Amy Lowell uses natural imagery herself to describe Frost:

[Frost's] imagination is bounded by what he has seens, he is confined within the limits of experience (or at least what might have been his experience) and bent all one way like the windblown trees of New England hillsides.

  • Robert Frost himself says, in "On the Figure a Poem Makes," that there is a wildness in the sound of poetry.

"If it is a wild tune, it is pure; to be wild with nothing to be wild about...Theme alone cannot steady us down.  Just as the first mystery was how a poem could have a tune is such a straightness as meter, so the second mystery is how a poem can have wildness and at the same time a subject that shall be fulfilled."

  • Finally, Enotes has this say (in reference to "Birches"):

...Frost makes it clear that one must remain within the natural world itself and that complete escape into the world of the imagination is impossible and not even desirable. It is this tension within the poem that makes each world both appealing and painful—the real world might be a place of pain, but it is also the place for love; the imaginary world is innocent, but it is also solitary and, by extension, loveless.

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Most of Robert Frost's poetry contains images and metaphors from nature, but even Frost once said of himself that he is not a "nature poet."  He says in almost all of his poems there is "a man."

It seems Frost likes to use nature as the avenue to compare human struggles with a force that is constant.  He is not, in fact, from the "romantic" period in American Lit, which explored nature as a avenue to the discovery of beauty.

Instead, Frost wrote in the 20th century - "Modern Lit" - his use of nature is his attempt to take something familiar and traditional, but to use it as a point of comparison for complex human emotions - to show the way man meets with real challenges but can take a baisic and natural approach to choices and answers.

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