Robert Frost Questions and Answers

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In the poem For Once Then Something by Robert Frost, what religious imagery is in the poem and how does it function?   What is the tone of the speaker and what is the mood of the poem towards the end? Analyze diction/ connotation to support your answers.   "Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs Always wrong to the light, so never seeing Deeper down in the well than where the water Gives me back in a shining surface picture My myself in the summer heaven, godlike Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs. Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,  I discerned, as I though, beyond the picture, Through the picture, a something white, uncertain, Something more of the depths-and then I lost it. Water came to rebuke the too clear water. One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom, Blurred it, blotted it out.  What was that whiteness? Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then something."

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Robert Frost, better known for Mending Wall and The Road Not Taken, wrote this poem in response to criticism about the lack of depth in his work. From a religious perspective, people are always looking for the truth, whatever that may hold and Frost suggests that sometimes we look too deep and that the truth is right in front of us. Perhaps that's all there is; "cloud puffs" which dissipate. He is "godlike" and therefore superior in his position to see what others do not.The "others" that he refers to are his critics.

Whilst Frost apparently never sees "deeper down" because his poetry is superficial (say his critics) with no real meaning - giving only a "surface picture" perhaps his position gives him a better outlook. However, a person should take care not to look "beyond the picture" , into the "depths" as the vision is likely to be washed away - rebuked by "the too-clear water." 

"A ripple" may form when the "whatever it was" is searched for but that same searching could result in "it" becoming "blurred" or "blotted (it) out." From a religious point of view, sometimes when we find what we think we were looking for, it turns out to just be "a pebble of quartz". It doesn't necessarily give us the peace of mind we thought it would.

In other words, the "truth" is "then something" which we will probably spend eternity looking for. Each person's "truth" is not necessarily someone elses. That's why it's hard to define "What was that whiteness?" 


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