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The Poetry of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost

Introduction

It is not by an accident that such literary genre as poetry requires the possession of strong metaphoric and imaginative skills, on the part of its practitioners – by exposing readers to metaphorically expressed messages, contained in their poems; poets enable them to derive a strong aesthetic pleasure out of deciphering the semantic meaning of these messages. The analysis of methods, utilized by Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost to endow their poems with strongly defined metaphorical sounding, substantiates the validity of this suggestion. In this paper, we will aim at exploring such poetic elements as theme, imagery, and metaphors that are being present in Dickinson’s poem “As if some Arctic Flower” and in Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, as we believe that such an analysis would provide even greater legitimacy to the earlier articulated thesis.

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“As if some Arctic Flower” by Emily Dickinson

In her poem “As if some Arctic Flower”, Dickinson presents us with the story of an Arctic flower traveling down to Southern lands, while finding itself being exposed to the sight of overwhelming natural beauty, quite unknown to high latitudes. Given our awareness of the highly secluded existential mode, Dickinson practiced throughout her life; there can be little doubt as to the fact that the overall theme of this poem, corresponds to Dickinson’s subconscious vision of herself.

Apparently, even though the poetess did not like venturing out of her house, she never ceased fantasizing about how she would feel after having left familiar surroundings – thus, the image of an Arctic flower in this Dickinson poem is nothing but an extrapolation of her existential anxieties. Therefore, it will not be an exaggeration, on our part; to suggest that “As if some Arctic Flower” is one big metaphor, concerning Dickinson’s life, as a whole. Moreover, reading this poem provides us with insight onto the fact that, despite “As if some Arctic Flower” size, poetess had managed to instill this poem with at least four lines of its own highly metaphorical significance:

  1. “To continents of summer” – It goes without saying, of course, that there is no definition for the “continent of summer” in existence. Yet, while reading this line, we are being fully aware of what the author had in mind while referring to such continents.
  2. “To firmaments of sun” – The term “firmament” can be generally interpreted as “sky”. However, it put emphasis on the sky’s overwhelming vastness. When this word gets to be combined with the word “sun”, an entirely new metaphoric unit is being created, which simultaneously implies both: vastness and brightness above one’s head.
  3. “To strange, bright crowds of flowers” – The fact that Dickinson refers to the fields of flowers as “crowds”, stresses out the author’s strongly defined emotional affiliation with the natural environment, which in its turn, increases the poem’s overall aesthetic value.
  4. “And birds of foreign tongue!” – As we all know, birds cannot talk intelligibly. Yet, it is not only that within the poem’s context they can, but that the way they talk is being perceived by wandering flowers as particularly exotic. Thus, Dickinson’s reference to “foreign-tongued” birds intensifies readers’ perception of Southern lands as such that are being associated with extraordinary beauty.

From what had been said earlier, we can conclude that in “As if some Arctic Flower”, metaphorical and thematic motifs are being fused into one inseparable compound. Moreover, the imagery, utilized in this poem, provides us with a better understanding of Dickinson’s aesthetic inclinations as such that had never ceased to affect the semantic properties of her poetry. In the next part of this paper, we will analyze Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” as such that provides us with the insight on particularities of Frost’s utilization of metaphorical devices and also on what accounts for his poetry’s distinctiveness, as a whole.

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is rightfully considered as one of Frost’s best poetical pieces, due to the fact that the poem’s intense philosophical sounding has been accomplished by the author resorting to “subtle” metaphorical techniques, in order to increase the poem’s emotional soundness.

It does not take an acclaimed literary critic to define the poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” as being narrative in its essence. The author tells us about him stopping at the edge of the forest, during the time of winter dusks, to watch “woods fill up with snow”. This metaphor produces a strong philosophical effect – by referring to woods as something that can be “filled up”, the author implies the objectiveness of surrounding reality. While being exposed to the elements, the narrator gets to realize the full scope of nature’s grandeur, which causes him to stop his horse in the middle of nowhere, in order to savor his emotional experience for longer.

“My little horse must think it queer,
To stop without a farmhouse near”

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After having contemplated on the subject of how winter’s emanations relate to the emotional side of his being, narrator proceeds with a trip:

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

Thus, we can say that, just as it is the case with Dickinson’s poetry, Frost’s poetic style is being marked by author’s acute sense of “metaphorical appropriateness”. Such essential components of this Frost’s poem as imagery and metaphors are meant to emphasize the intensity of narrator’s emotional feelings, while he was in the process of writing a poetical piece.

At the same time, the reading of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” provides us with a better understanding as to how Frost’s metaphorical style differs from that of Dickinson – unlike Dickinson’s metaphorical constructs, which usually consist of two words, Frost’s metaphorical constructs appear to be much more complex. In “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, Frost uses rhymed sentences that have a potential of creating a strong metaphorical effect, if properly combined. For example, despite the fact that the passage:

“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”

only contains four lines, the reading of it allows us to find ourselves in the middle of snowy New England’s countryside, as invisible witnesses to author trying to come to terms with his destiny. The sound of “sweep of easy wind and downy flake” implies almost absolute silence; yet, it is exactly because Frost refers to such silence in terms of a “sound” that creates a strong metaphorical effect.

The imagery, found in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, relates to idealistic properties of Frost’s character. It is quite obvious that the images of dark woods, frozen lake and cloudy winter evening can hardly be referred to as being particularly spectacular. While reading Frost’s poem, our imagination depicts the scenery of black and white plains and forest, under the grey sky:

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“Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year”.

However, it appears that author is being clearly inspired by what he sees, which corresponds to his supreme sense of aesthetic finesse. Apparently, he belongs to the type of people whose artistic taste gets to be easily insulted by emanations of mediocrity, associated with bright colors and intellectual shallowness.

Conclusion

Despite the fact that “As if some Arctic Flower” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” clearly differ in how rhyming techniques have been used by the authors, poems’ emotional vividness primarily accounts for the fact that Dickinson and Frost were able to “condense” the meaning of themes presented in these poems. In its turn, this came about as the result of both authors’ supreme ability to convey semantic messages to readers by resorting to utilization of different metaphoric techniques. Despite the fact that metaphors, contained in “As if some Arctic Flower” cannot be referred to as being overly complex, their sheer number creates a desired perceptional effect. In Frost’s poem, on the other hand, only one metaphor can be easily indentified. However, because of its structural complexity, it provides “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” with a strong metaphorical sounding, throughout its entirety, despite poem’s narrative style.

Bibliography:

Barker, Wendy. Lunacy of Light: Emily Dickinson and the Experience of Metaphor. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991.

Bloom, Harold. Robert Frost. Broomall, PA: Chelsea House Publishers, 1999.

Dickinson, Emily “As if some Arctic Flower”. 2002. Poetry Archive.

Frost, Robert “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”. (1923) 2007. Ketzle.Com.

Haley, Michael. The Semeiosis of Poetic Metaphor. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.

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Strachan, John & Richard, Terry. Poetry. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 11). The Poetry of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/the-poetry-of-emily-dickinson-and-robert-frost/

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"The Poetry of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost." StudyCorgi, 11 Nov. 2021, studycorgi.com/the-poetry-of-emily-dickinson-and-robert-frost/.

1. StudyCorgi. "The Poetry of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost." November 11, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-poetry-of-emily-dickinson-and-robert-frost/.


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StudyCorgi. "The Poetry of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost." November 11, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-poetry-of-emily-dickinson-and-robert-frost/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "The Poetry of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost." November 11, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-poetry-of-emily-dickinson-and-robert-frost/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'The Poetry of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost'. 11 November.

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