Man and the Natural World in Frost’s Poems
Many poems are devoted to the analysis of the human feelings and emotions. There is a large variety of methods and techniques that allows poets to convey the shades and tones of such a complex and multidimensional concept as human psyche. Frost’s works are characterized by the deep understanding of human feelings and precise rendering of even slightest shifts in emotions. In poems “Acquainted with the Night” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” Frost explores the relations between a person and the surrounding world as a way of reflecting the speaker’s psychological state and attitude to life.
Both poems have the first person narrators who closely interact with the environment. In “Acquainted with the Night,” the speaker describes an own walk through a night city. The night is dark, but there are some lights that shine in the streets and the moon with the stars in the sky. This contrast between darkness and light is a very important symbol that not only allows the readers to better visualize the location but also helps to understand what is happening in the soul of the speaker. The darkness is a metaphor for the depression that tortures the speaker. The person moves from the city to its borders and says, “I have outwalked the furthest city light”. This movement from light to darkness is paralleled with the gradual fall of the speaker into even deeper depression. This person realizes that no one is waiting for him/her in the city as the cry he/she hears is not supposed to “call [him/her] back or say good-bye”. The feeling of isolation is getting much more painful for the speaker than it was at the beginning of the poem.
In this poem, Frost tries to show the mood of the person by analyzing the interaction with different elements of the world that surrounds him/her. The speaker saw the policeman but “dropped [his/her] eyes, unwilling to explain”. It means that the protagonist of this poem is almost sure that people would not be able to understand his/her feelings, and, thus, there is no sense in explaining them what emotions torture him/her. However, while the speaker moves further to the borders of the city and gradually leaves the urban areas, he/she turns eyes to the moon that Frost calls “one luminary clock against the sky”. This element of the natural world, in contrast to those in the urban setting, does not seem to push the speaker away and increase his/her isolation. The moon is both literally and metaphorically higher than people and symbolizes eternity and impartiality. It “proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right”. The moon is an important metaphor in the poem as it shows that the light can be not only artificial as that the speaker saw in the city from windows or lanterns, but also a natural one that does nothing to contribute to the development of the speaker’s depression.
This idea about the relative “friendliness” of nature is also explored in the poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” The latter is quite similar to “Acquainted with the Night” in terms of the method used by the poet to let the audience understand the feelings of the speaker. In this poem, the protagonist also faces the surrounding world, and his/her reaction allows to demonstrate what is happening in his/her mind. In contrast to “Acquainted with the Night,” this poem is located in a rural setting. The speaker is returning home riding a horse, but he/she stops near the “woods and frozen lake”. They are so tempting that he/she is drawn to them. The protagonist thinks that “the woods are lovely, dark and deep” but realizes that he/she has “promises to keep” and goes on riding.
Although there are many differences between these two poems, in both texts, the speakers feel tiredness and probably even depression. However, it is obvious that the protagonist in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is much less frustrated in terms of the psychological state. Nevertheless, dark woods and frozen lake that are likely to symbolize death, and accompanying calmness as well as tranquility attract the speaker’s attention. He/she has a busy life in the village and cannot help admiring the magic stillness of the snowy landscape. The stops by the wood is a moment of weakness when this person tries to cease moving in a frantic pace of life. Not only does the speaker admires the woods because of their beauty but also sees them as a remedy to the psychological problems. He/she is hypnotized by their elegance and even coldness but does not go there. The horse does not understand why they stopped there, “He gives his harness bells a shake / To ask if there is some mistake”. Here, a horse is a symbol of animal instincts that always try to divert the living creature from death. This reminder works well for the speaker, and he/she recalls many duties and obligations that need to be done. Therefore, the surrounding world helps the protagonist of the poem to make important choices. This aspect makes the two analyzed poems similar although in “Acquainted with the Night,” the world appears to be less supportive. The fact that the speaker in “Acquainted with the Night” sees no one who could understand or help him/her make the decision to go further away from the city. It is, in fact, the opposite decision to the one the speaker in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” makes, but the way they come to these decisions is quite similar.
However, in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the poet also introduces the theme of divine power that makes these concepts more complex. This poem also explores the theme of isolation although it is done in a slightly different way comparing to “Acquainted with the Night.” In the latter, the speaker is in a city full of people, but they are either indifferent to his/her problems or incapable of understanding whereas, in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the protagonist is actually the only human in the poem. Probably, this feeling of isolation and tiredness allure him/her to the snowy woods where he/she could forget about everything. Nevertheless, another difference between these poems is the fact that an animal (the horse) seems to appear more sympathetic and helpful than a person (the policeman) who is mentioned in “Acquainted with the Night.” This aspect is crucial for understanding Frost’s approach to dealing with the surrounding world in his works. In his poems, the nature often better understands people than other people.
To conclude, “Acquainted with the Night” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” explore the same theme of human interaction with the surrounding world, either urban or rural. Robert Frost uses this theme to show the emotional state of the speaker and analyze his/her feelings. The ways the protagonists interact with the objects, people, elements of landscape around tell much about their inner worlds. Moreover, these poems contain a variety of symbols and metaphors that help the poet to communicate his message to the audience.