Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 831
The title of Frost’s earliest collection of poems was A Boy’s Will (1913), and his poems are included in school readers and considered appropriate reading for children. When You Come Too was published, Frost was a great-grandfather, yet he was not a writer of children’s verse nor as grandfatherly and benign as he looked.
Although Frost did write many lovely descriptions of nature (“A Hillside Thaw”), some humorous verses (“The Rose Family”), and even a few romantic sonnets (“Never Again Would Birds’ Song Be the Same”), he also wrote of “boughten friendships,” despair, and death. The same man who wrote, in “The Pasture,” “I’m going out to fetch the little calf/ That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young/ It totters when she licks it with her tongue” also wrote, in “Desert Places,” “They cannot scare me with their empty spaces/ Between stars—on stars where no human race is./ I have it in me so much nearer home/ To scare myself with my own desert places.” This reality is represented in You Come Too, which includes some dark and disturbing poems. “Departmental” describes death in the ant world; “Death of the Hired Man,” the last hours of an old farmworker; and “Fire and Ice,” the destruction of the world. “Good Hours” and “Acquainted with the Night” communicate loneliness and alienation.
Many other poems in the collection present to readers ideas that seem to ask—as Cox suggests in the foreword—to be invited in while one gets to know them. In “Birches,” the reader is prompted to contemplate the tension between the pleasures of earthly life and longings for Heaven. In “The Tuft of Flowers,” the reader must puzzle out the meaning of Frost’s concluding couplet: “‘Men work together,’ I told him from the heart,/ ‘Whether they work together or apart.’ ” In “Two Tramps in Mud Time” is another work idea: “My object in living is to unite/ My avocation and my vocation/ As my two eyes make one in sight.”
A common misconception about Frost is that he was primarily a “nature poet”; he was fond of saying that all but three of his poems had human beings in them. In You Come Too, nature—whether in the woods or on the farm—almost always reveals a general truth or teaches a human lesson. “A Drumlin Woodchuck” suggests that, like the woodchuck, people are vulnerable and need to look to their defenses. In “A Minor Bird,” wishing that the bird would fly away makes the poet realize that “there is something wrong/ In wanting to silence any song.” The forces of nature that tumble the New England stone walls in “Mending Wall” suggest that barriers between people are unnatural and unnecessary.
Frost is often quoted as having said that writing poems without rhyme was like playing tennis without a net, the implication being that he was a traditionalist or formalist who had little use for experimentation or innovation. The poems in You Come Too, however, suggest otherwise. Four of the selections are written in blank verse (regular rhythm but no rhyme). In “The Telephone” and “After Apple-Picking,” Frost experiments with varying line lengths. The long first line of the latter poem—“My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree”—especially followed by the shorter “Toward heaven still,” sticks out from the poem like the ladder through the tree. “After Apple-Picking” also experiments with sprung rhythms and sound effects, as does “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” in which the sound of the snow is whispered in the lines “The only other sound’s the sweep/ of easy wind and downy flake.”
One of Frost’s most significant innovations was his theory of “sentence sounds.” In a letter to John Bartlett, Frost wrote: “A sentence is a sound in itself on which other sounds called words may be strung. . . . They are gathered by the ear from the vernacular and brought into books.” These sentence sounds—the sounds of New England voices—ring in several of the poems in You Come Too. “Some say the world will end in fire” (from “Fire and Ice”) sounds like the voice of an old folk philosopher musing in the general store. The best source of sentence sounds in the collection is “Death of the Hired Man,” in which Mary, a sympathetic farm wife, says of the hired man: “He don’t know why he isn’t quite as good/ As anybody. Worthless though he is,/ He won’t be made ashamed to please his brother.” The lines contain the colloquialisms and natural rhythms of New England speech yet preserve the iambic pentameter of the poem.
The young reader does not have to be conscious of these elements of prosody in order to appreciate and enjoy the poems in You Come Too. The genius of Frost’s poems is that they appeal to children and young adults quite as much as they do to poets and scholars.
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