English Literature » Notes » Frost’s Treatment of Nature

Frost’s Treatment of Nature

Robert Frost depicts the bright and the dark aspects, the benevolent and the hostile forces of Nature in his poems on realistic terms.

Critics have a difference of opinion over his designation of a poet of Nature. Alvarez says that:

Frost is not a Nature poet.

One point of view on which almost all the critics agree is Frost’s minute observation and accurate description of the different aspects of nature in his poems. Schneider says:

The descriptive power of Mr. Frost is to me the most wonderful thing in his poetry. A snowfall, a spring thaw, a bending tree, a valley mist, a brook, these are brought into the experience of the reader.

For illustration, these lines from “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” may be quoted:

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,

These lines depict not only the beauty and the mystery of the snow filled woods which hold the poet almost spell-bound but also describe the helplessness of the poet who has no time because of his social commitments. Thus the beauty of Nature and obligations of human life are treated by Frost as two aspects of poet’s one whole experience in these lines.

Frost is primarily a realist who abstruse the things around him and in nature as they are and describes them as such. That is why nature changes its character from poem to poem in his poetry.

In “Two Tramps in Mud Time”, if on the one hand, he shows New England poised between cold and warmth, winter and spring, on the other hand, he does not miss to show the turmoil and storm brewing under the apparently beautiful calm of nature. Therefore, he interrupts his genial description of the April weather to warm:

Be glad of water, but don’t forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal firth after the sun is set
And snow on the water its crystal teeth.

Frost pastoral element is dominant in Frost’s poetry. That is why he is considered as a poet of pastures and plains, mountains and rivers, woods and gardens, groves and bowers, fruits and flowers, seeds and birds as he was a farmer. Hence, nature was his constant companion. But what is noticeable in his poetry is that even in the poems such as “Pastures”, “Birches”, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, “West Running Brook”, “After Apple Picking”, “An Old Man’s Winter Night” and “Mending Wall” it is the human factor which is predominant and nature is an integral part of the themes of the poems. For worries and disappointments in life make life miserable but the pet still clings to it because he loves the earth.

Frost unlike Wordsworth is not a nature mystic. He does not see any affinity between nature and man nor does he find any spirit or power pervading it. Nor does he find any healing power in it which can cure the ills of society and man. For him nature is alien to man.

Frost’s attitude to nature reflects the spirit of the present age whose attitude to nature, like all other things, is scientific and realistic. That is why he has not formulated any philosophy about nature. Nor do his poems display the rare exalted moments which are displayed in the poems of the romantic age, particularly in those if Wordsworth. Frost’s poems describe simply his daily and common experience.

The imagery of Frost’s poems is also drawn upon the objects of nature.

“Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning” (Birches)

“And life is too much like a pathless wood” (Birches)

“The world of hoary grass” (After Apple Picking)

“A leaping tongue of bloom” (The Tuft of Flower)

“His long scythe whispering to the ground” (The Tuft of Flower)

These are some of the images which have locked his poem with beauty and sense. Though Frost is philosophic and not didactic yet his poems usually convey the wisdom of his experience which may be termed as a moral.
Thus, the panorama of nature presented in Frost’s poems not only offers a feast of beauty to the view of the reader but also provides him awareness of life. His sarcastic qualities find full expression in the description of the scenes of nature. In the light of these views Frost may safely be considered as a poet who gave and entirely new concept of nature and is one of the great poets of nature.