Isolation and Nature in the Works of Robert Frost
During the height of Robert Frost’s popularity, he was a well-loved poet who’s natural- and simple-seeming verse drew people - academics, artists, ordinary people both male and female - together into lecture halls and at poetry readings across the country.1 An eloquent, witty, and, above all else, honest public speaker, Frost’s readings imbued his poetry with a charismatic resonance beyond that of the words on paper, and it is of little surprise that people gathered to listen. Yet it remains somewhat ironic that his poetry would possess this power to bring individuals together - poetry that, for the most part, contains a prevailing theme of alienation, of a sense of separation from society, of isolation and aloneness in an uncaring world. Running parallel with this is a second theme concerned with the interaction between the human and the non-human: occasionally the ‘non’ may serve as a comfort for the dispossessed - but more often, the interaction between the two is destructive and disastrous. An analysis of a sample of his works - in this case his second book, North of Boston, as well as a few of his later poems - reveals these recurring themes, and the different interpretations Frost brings to them.
It is this variety of interpretations that is fascinating: though his firmly held “. . . belief that everybody was a separate individuality and that collective enterprises could do nothing but weaken the self”2 clearly led to this feeling of loneliness or separation that permeates his works, he does so without falling into a sense of needless pessimism, taking great care to bring out the themes’ multiple aspects under varied contexts. These contexts are: poems which are (aside for the narrative voice) bereft of direct human presence; poems where the human presence is subdued, or alone (often in a natural setting); poems where the individual is isolated, yet in a human setting; and finally, poems where, despite a strong human presence and even dialogue, the individual remains apart. It is often in this separation that the subject turns to the non-human for solace - and that the relations between the human and the non-human are explored.
Appropriately enough, both these elements - one’s interaction with both the human and the non-human - are contained within the opening poem of North of Boston, The Pasture. We have the narrator heading out ‘. . . to clean the pasture spring’, that is, to participate with nature. There is a clear fondness for the outside extolled within the verse, as shown by the attention to the young calf, and by the desire to remain and ‘watch the water clear’3 - a desire quite contrary to the narratorr’s insistence that ‘I shan’t be gone long.’. What is curious, though, is the request that ends each stanza: ‘ - You come too.’. What needs to be determined is wether this is a genuine request for human accompaniment, or, like the somewhat...