Prof. Allsion DeBoer
12 March 2014
A Longing For the Days Gone By
The simple yet extraordinary emotion of nostalgia has been ingrained in mankind since inception. Every single individual has experienced this intense emotion at one point their life, sometimes even regularly. A feeling of sentimental longing for the past, sometimes referred to as 'looking back on the good old days' are typical of being in a state of nostalgia. Robert Frost demonstrates the natural emotion of nostalgia in his poems “Birches” and “The Road Not Taken”. Although both poems convey the feelings of wistful yearning for the days gone by, each poem addresses different kinds of nostalgia: the longing for a carefree, adventurous childhood of the past and the nostalgic reflection of life choices. Both poems make use of differing poetic structures—in addition to various poetic tools—to create the manifestation of nostalgia within their poems.
Robert Frost's “Birches” is written in blank verse and in mostly consistent iambic pentameter. The dependable rhythm of this poem can be likened to the reliability and purity of a child. This poem is not broken into stanzas, rather it is compact with his message and vivid images. This may be due to the fact that—in addition to Frost's desire for this poem to be read conversationally—the compact nature of this poem is attempting to explain the speaker's thoughts and observations in as little space as possible. “The Road Not Taken” is a poetic quintain consisting of four stanzas with five lines in each stanza. Each quintain's rhyme is a dependable ABAAB scheme. The rhyme scheme is comparable to the petrarchan sonnet and the rhyming couplets appear to provoke a sense of focused reflection. The rhythm of this poem is slightly more challenging. It is written in an iambic tetrameter, which means that there are four feet of stressed and unstressed syllables in each line. Frost however, varies the metrical arrangement in order to subliminally emphasize a certain ideas. The variation can also be likened to taking the road not taken, that is straying from the safe, conventional structure of other poetry by Frost.
Robert Frost's “Birches” relies heavily on imagery, symbols and metaphors to assist in the travel of ideas “...from poet to reader” (Lerych and DeBoer). At the beginning of the poem, the speaker is observing the birch trees in a forest. He describes the trees being bent “...left to right / Across lines of straighter darker trees” (1-2). He continues on, hoping that some young boy has discovered the trees he had encountered in the past and bent them in a temporary fashion due to climbing them. Alas, the trees are permanently bent, and only bitter ice storms can cause such ruin. The speaker describes the irrevocable damage of the handicapped trees as frozen over and held down after a winter rain. The trunks are described as enamel, “...cracked and crazes” (9), as if the trunks...