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The poet Robert Frost was one of the most important figures in the history of English literature. He was a poet who become famous in the 20th century when there was no chance of it as America was going through some major changes. He was the poet who was read, discussed and criticised at a wider level. His readings were not bound to his own people but to every person living in faraway countries. Critics applauded Robert Lee Frost poetry due to its salient features as well as characteristics. One of the most famous among them was his description of rural images. Both classic as well as modern groups of poets admired his poetry and regarded his poems as the best simple and realistic poems ever written in the history of English literature just because of the use of colloquial style.
Robert Frost wrote poetry differently from other writers which was the main reason behind his success in a very short time period. Needless to mention that he first gained fame in England because his poems were initially published there. Subsequently, he was introduced to America and soon after that he became famous in the country where he was born. Due to his remarkable contribution to poetry, he was rightly honoured with four Pulitzer Prizes.
Here are some characteristics and salient features of Robert Frost’s poetry:
- Realistic Picture of Rural images
- Simplicity, Lucidity and Clarity
- Presents Unbiased Philosophy of Life
- Shallow Thoughts
- His Poetry is Dramatic
- Never Goes in Dreams
Realistic Picture of Rural images
There is no denying the fact that we read Robert Frost because of his clear and realistic picture of rural images. He paints such types of scenes which we can visualise without seeing when we read his poetry. He is also known as an outdoor poet just because of his clear description of images. We read poetry and see rural pictures through his imagination. His images spark off the senses. Although he does not draw visual images yet we cannot underestimate his power to let his readers watch the world through words.
He never exaggerates things. His poetry is always realistic in nature. If he ever illustrates any problem in any of his poems then it is the problem of every common man. He motivates and targets the common people through his poetry. It seems that his targeted audience was somebody who can barely read. In short, he does poetry for laymen. He remains realistic; therefore, there is no chance of ambiguity in the poetry of Robert Frost. Thus, reality and the portrayal of realistic rural images are major characteristics or salient features of Robert Frost poetry. Once he said:
“I am not a regionalist, I am a realist. I write about realms of democracy and realms of the spirit.“Robert Frost
Simplicity, Lucidity and Clarity
Critics always first judge the clarity in the poetry of a poet. Poetry has no limits and the choice of words always depends on the poet; however, simple language is what helps the readers to understand the poem completely and also helps them to understand the motive of the poet. Some poets use far-fetched metaphors and similes which increase ambiguity but Robert Frost denies all that and uses language that even a layman can understand. He does not only portray rural life but writes poetry for the people who can read it without any obstruction.
Besides, there is clarity in the poetry of Robert Frost. No doubt he uses metaphors but it makes his poetry engaging. He uses comprehensible symbols. Hence, simplicity and clarity are the two significant characteristics or salient features of Robert Frost poetry.
It should be remembered that although his poetry is simple and lucid yet it never meant that he demonstrates triviality. He remains serious and also talks about serious issues. For example in his poem “The Silken Tent” he explains a relationship between a man and his life partner. He tells the importance of a woman in a man’s life. Thus, critics should not misjudge his poetry as triviality.
Apart from triviality, another major allegation against Robert Frost is that his poetry has no depth. He remains on the surface and apparent meanings are more important in his poems instead of symbolic meanings. We can never defend him in this regard and we don’t need to. In fact, he does not feel that he should go deep while writing poetry. He is a poet who likes simplicity and every poet has his own style and taste. In this way, he becomes unique. Robert Frost’s simplicity makes his poetry distinctive from other poets of his era. Perhaps, he does not like to write in-depth about everything. He likes writing in this style and is the best at writing simple and clear poems without artificial makeup. Hence we should add “lack of artificiality” to the list of characteristics or salient features of Robert Frost poetry.
Presents Unbiased Philosophy of Life
Robert Frost is of the view that everyone should accept his circumstances. Unlike Thomas Hardy, he does not portray pessimism nor does he present too much optimism. His rules are very simple. He believes that life is a mixture of good and bad. He feels that not everything is good nor does he ignore the harsh realities of life. His poetry is based on a mixture of the philosophy of good and bad in life. He is practical and is of the opinion that problems can be solved with effort and escapism is not an option. Hence, the presentation of balanced philosophy and unbiased opinions are additional characteristics of Robert Frost poetry.
Never Goes in Dreams
If we compare him with John Keats then we realise how much he is different from the romantic poets. John Keats likes to escape from reality and finds it more or less impossible to stay and face the real world. In fact, every romantic poet does so but bare reading of Robert Frost’s poetry transpires that he never leaves the real world. No evidence can be found in his poetry that he has ever left reality and found pleasure in dreams.
Hence, it is also another one of the most important characteristics or salient features of Robert Frost poetry that he presents balanced philosophy. He likes to stay in reality even after a strong belief that the world is not perfect.
It is pertinent to mention that he does not write anything on religious issues. He does not force his readers to believe in any religion, instead, his poetry is scientific, rational and simultaneously practical.
Robert Frost always tries to tell a story through his poems. His poetry creates an emotional link between his readers and the audience through behaviour. Frost’s poems are based on plots. In writing dramatic poems, he is different from conventional poets because unlike them his poetry is not narrative. Randal Jarrell expresses his opinion about Robert Frost and his poetry:-
“Frost’s virtues are extraordinary. No other living poet has written so well about the actions of ordinary men; his wonderful dramatic monologues or dramatic scenes came out of knowledge of people that few poets have had, and they are written in a verse that uses, sometimes with absolute mystery, the rhythms of actual speech.”Randal Jarrell
Many poets write dramatic poetry. It cannot be said that no one can surpass Frost in writing dramatic poetry. There are poets who can write better dramatic poems; however, blending dramatic effects with a philosophy of life, based on reality, make the poems of Robert Frost extraordinary. I am of the view that it is one of the major characteristics or salient features of Robert Frost poetry.
Poems Containing These Characteristics
Major poems of Robert Frost that contain the aforementioned characteristics are:
- Write a note on salient features and characteristics of Robert Frost poetry.
- What do you think are the five best characteristics or salient features of Robert Frost poetry?