Why was Robert Frost established as a nature poet?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While some have tried to compare Robert Frost to the Romantics such as William Wordsworth, a major difference between Frost's treatment of nature and that of the Romantics emerges.  Unlike the poems of the Romantics who extolled nature, for Frost the image of the spirit immanent in man and nature does not merge to reveal a truth.  Instead, for Frost, the voice of man always speaks.  Nature, then, for Frost is a metaphor for the speaker, or it is a symbol of the strictly human spirit that rises about physical nature.  For instance, in Frost's poem, "The Woodpile," the woodpile itself is insignificant. Its purpose is to assist in a revelation of human truths.

....I thought that only

Someone who lived in turning to fresh tasks

Could so forget his handiwork on which

He spent himself, the labor of his ax,

And leave it there from from a useful fireplace

To warm the frozen swamp as best it could

The man who has cut the firewood can forget its practical use and value because Man is concerned with "fresh tasks" of creativity, acts which go beyond the practical level.  Here the woodpile is a metaphor for the useful as opposed to the acts of creativity that are transcendent.

Amy Lowell, the imagist poet, describes Robert Frost as a poet who captures landscapes and characters.  She states that he uses nature simply because it is what he sees.  Says Lowell,

...He is confined by the limit of experience....and bent all one way like the limbs of windblown trees of New England hillsides.

But, for Frost, always the speaker emerges from this landscape.  In his "Stopping by a Woods on a Snowy Evening," Frost's narrator comes forth to utter the last lines,

But I have promises to keep

And miles to go before i sleep

And miles to go before I sleep

Again in the poem, "The Road Not Taken," the speaker comes forth at the end,

I shall be telling this with a sigh

....Two rads diverged in a wood, and I--

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.