Modern Poetry and Robert Frost

Modernism, which gradually emerged in Europe and the United States in the early years of the 20th century, expressed a sense of modern life through art opposed to the older aristocratic role of poetry in Europe. Modern life seemed radically different from traditional 19th Century life: more scientific, technological and available for people. Robert Frost is a clear example of someone who writes poetry for the mass audience, poetry in where that audience could find its own environment and concerns reflected in it:

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.


My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.


He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.


The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.


robert_frostOn “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, Frost connects the awareness of the problems of a man living in the modern world which is dominated by science and technology, a man who has no time to focus on the nature surrounding him. This poem deals with a person suffering from loneliness, regret and disillusionment that are known as modern diseases. “Stopping by Woods” seems to be addressed to “ordinary” readers since its vocabulary is very direct with no difficult diction and it displays a colloquial tone with lots of American words and expressions such as “queer”, “downy flake”, “The woods are lovely”.

Another feature of Modernism is distinguished by structure; it directs our attention not to the poem’s theme or content but to its form. In the poem, Frost describes a natural world offering perfect quiet and solitude, which exists side by side with the world of people and social obligations. The author does not explain that with words but he uses imagery to “show” us. He stops by woods on this “darkest evening of the year” to watch them “fill up with snow”. But the speaker knows he has “promises to keep”, and miles he still has to travel. Social responsibility proves stronger than the attraction of the woods, which are “lovely” ­­as well as “dark and deep“.

12201Frost tried to reflect people’s real life in some of his poems. As Ezra Pound said: “Frost has been honestly fond of the New England people […] I know more of farm life than I did before […] That means I know more of “Life”.” (Pearson)[1] A contrast between nature and man-made creations is also present in his works and, in this poem we may find the comparison between the “miles” he still has to cover, as human socially imposed duties, and the “sleep” he will have after, that could be probably related to death.

Frost was aware that people in America were not probably as illiterate as Europeans and he, as many others, responded bringing poetry to a more general public. He wrote about concerns that people around him had and that connected his style of writing with the common audiences.


[1] From:  Michael Pearson, Imagined Places: journeys into literary America (Syracuse University Press, 1991) page 37.

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Publicado el 19 noviembre, 2013 en Literatura y etiquetado en , , , . Guarda el enlace permanente. Deja un comentario.

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