"Nature's first green is gold" ......................Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost
Frost's poem contains the perfect image of Vermont's spring landscape. The hardwoods lose their leaves in autumn and stay bare through the winter. In spring, the first green to appear is really gold as the buds break open. The willows and maples have this temporary gold hue. In only a few days, the leaves mature to green.

 

The Poetics of Robert Frost - Examples

Figurative Language

Metaphor The Silken Tent Putting in the Seed Devotion  To Earthward  All Revelation
Simile Mending Wall   Stars Going for Water  Birches  Hyla Brook
Symbol The Road Not Taken
Rose Pogonias
Stopping by Woods The Pasture & Directive Come In 
Personifi- cation My November Guest Mowing Range-Finding Tree at my Window  Storm Fear
Apostrophe   Take Some- thing like a Star Tree at my Window Mending Wall    
Synecdoche Stopping by Woods The Gift Outright  I Will Sing You One-O  Kitty Hawk  Fire and Ice
Metonymy  Out, Out        
Allegory or Parable
After Apple- Picking
The Grindstone The Lockless Door  Birches  Design
Paradox Nothing Gold Can Stay  The Gift Outright  Ghost House  Fire and Ice The Tuft of Flowers
Hyperbole A Star in a Stoneboat  Etherealizing After Apple-Picking Stopping by Woods The Milky Way is a Cowpath
Under Statement  Fire and Ice  Mowing  Hyla Brook My November Guest Brown's Descent
Irony  Birches Range-Finding The Road Not Taken  Ghost House  Stars

Figurative Language
 
Figurative language uses "figures of speech" - a way of saying something other than the literal meaning of the words. For example, "All the world's a stage" Frost often referred to them simply as "figures." Frost said, "Every poem I write is figurative in two senses. It will have figures in it, of course; but it's also a figure in itself - a figure for something, and it's made so that you can get more than one figure out of it." Cook Voices p235
 
Metaphor A figure of speech in which a comparison is made between two things essentially unalike. To Frost, metaphor is really what poetry is all about. He is notably a poet of metaphors more than anything else. This is so important, we should hear directly from the poet. Frost said," Poetry begins in trivial metaphors, pretty metaphors, 'grace metaphors,' and goes on to the profoundest thinking that we have. Poetry provides the one permissible way of saying one thing and meaning another. People say, 'Why don't you say what you mean?' We never do that, do we, being all of us too much poets. We like to talk in parables and in hints and in indirections - whether from diffidence or from some other instinct". ... Excerpt from an essay entitled "Education by Poetry" by Robert Frost.
 
Examples:
The Silken Tent. A woman is admired for her strength and beauty, like a silken tent. Note the strength of the silk and cedar.
Putting in the Seed. The planting of seed in the garden, in springtime is like making love.
Devotion. The passive but ever-changing shore and the persistent energetic ocean are like a devoted couple.
To Earthward. The stages of love are like stepping stones to death.
All Revelation. A view of a geode crystal is like the mind probing the universe. (Go back to Table)
 
Simile A figure of speech in which a comparison is expressed by the specific use of a word or phrase such as: like, as, than, seems or Frost's favorite "as if,"
 
Examples:
Mending Wall: like an old-stone savage armed
Stars: like some snow-white/ Minerva's snow-white marble eyes
Going for Water: We ran as if to meet the moon ---- we paused / like gnomes
Birches: Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Hyla Brook: Like ghost of sleigh bells (Table)
 
Symbol A thing (could be an object, person, situation or action) which stands for something else more abstract. For example our flag is the symbol of our country. The use of symbols in Frost's poetry is less obvious. Frost was not known as a Symbolist. Actually, the Symbolists were a late 19th century movement reacting against realism. Frost rebelled against this movement and preferred to use metaphors. There are certain signature images that become symbols when we look at Frost's complete work. Flowers, stars, dark woods and spring (the water kind) are consistent symbols in Frost's poetry and should be noted here. As with many other poetic devices, Frost had his own way of keeping the rule and breaking the rule. Cook Dimensions p197
 

Frost said, "If my poetry has to have a name, I'd prefer to call it Emblemism," not "Symbolism," which is all too likely to clog up and kill a poem." Burnshaw p283
 
Examples:
The Road Not Taken: the forked road represents choices in life. The road in this poem is a text book example of a symbol.
Rose Pogonias: Early in Frost's poetry, flowers become a symbol for the beloved, his wife Elinor.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening: even though there is no one overt symbol in the poem, the entire journey can represent life's journey. "Dark woods" also become a powerful recurring symbol in Frost.
The Pasture and Directive. Spring (as in water spring) is very meaningful in Frost's poetry. Spring represents origin or source, almost in a Proustian sense. Other variations include "brook" Hyla Brook and West-Running Brook. Water often deals with an emotional state.
Come In: "But no, I was out for stars." The star is one of the chief symbolic images in Frost's poetry. (Table)
 
Personification A type of metaphor in which distinct human qualities, e.g., honesty, emotion, volition, etc., are attributed to an animal, object or idea.
 
Examples:
My November Guest: the guest is Sorrow, personified as a woman dearly loved who walks with him.
Mowing: the scythe whispers
Range-Finding: the spider sullenly withdraws
Tree at my Window: the tree watches him sleep; it has tongues talking aloud
Storm Fear: the wind works and whispers, the cold creeps, the whole storm is personified (Table)
 
Apostrophe A figure of speech in which someone absent or dead OR something nonhuman is addressed as if it were alive and present.
 
Examples:
Take Something Like a Star: the poem begins, "O Star," He addresses the star throughout the poem.
Tree at my Window: He addresses the tree throughout: "Tree at my window, window tree."
Mending Wall: speaking to the stones that make up the barrier, he says, "Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
 
Synecdoche A figure of speech which mentions a part of something to suggest the whole. As in, "All hands on deck," meaning all sailors to report for duty. Hands = sailors. Frost said, "I started calling myself a Synecdochist when other called themselves Imagists or Vorticists."
 
Examples:
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening: The little journey in the poem represents life's journey.
The Gift Outright: The gift represents the history of the United States.
I Will Sing You One-O: Two clock towers striking One o'clock represent extensions of earthly and heavenly time.
Kitty Hawk: Man's first flight represents man's yearning for God or heaven.
Fire and Ice: The heat of love and the cold of hate are seen as having cataclysmic power.
 
Metonymy A figure of speech that uses a concept closely related to the thing actually meant. The substitution makes the analogy more vivid and meaningful.
 
Examples:
Out, Out: the injured boy holds up his hand "as if to keep / the life from spilling." The literal meaning is to keep the blood from spilling. Frost's line tells us that the hand is bleeding and the boy's life is in danger. (Table)
 
Allegory or Parable A poem in the form of a narrative or story that has a second meaning beneath the surface one. Frost is notable for his use of the parable using the description to evoke an idea. Some critics call him a "Parablist."
 
Examples:
After Apple-Picking: the apple harvest suggests accomplishment
The Grindstone: the grinding of the blade suggests the idea of judging and recognizing limits
The Lockless Door: a story of self escape
Birches: the climbing suggests the value of learning and experience
Design: the incident suggests a universal design (Table)
 
Paradox A statement or situation containing apparently contradictory or incompatible elements, but on closer inspection may be true.
 
Examples:
Nothing Gold Can Stay: green is gold
The Gift Outright: "And forthwith found salvation in surrender."
Ghost House: I dwell in a house that vanished.
Fire and Ice:"But if it had to perish twice"
The Tuft of Flowers: men work together whether they work together or apart.
 
Hyperbole A bold, deliberate overstatement not intended to be taken literally, it is used as a means of emphasizing the truth of a statement. This is relatively rare in Frost. He has a penchant for fact and truth.
 
Example:
A Star in a Stoneboat: A meteorite is found in a field and supposed to be a star which has fallen to earth
Etherealizing: The idea of reducing ourselves simply to a brain.
After Apple-Picking: Ten thousand thousand fruit to touch.
Stopping by Woods: The woods filling up with snow.
The Milky Way is a Cowpath (title) (Table)
 
Understatement The presentation of a thing with underemphasis in order to achieve a greater effect. Frost uses this device extensively, often as a means of irony. His love poems are especially understated. He cautions, "Never larrup an emotion."
 
Examples:
Fire and Ice: Ice, which for destruction is great, "will suffice."
Mowing: "Anything more than the truth would have seemed to weak" This is almost Frost's definition of understatement
Hyla Brook: the last line "We love the things we love for what they are."
My November Guest: The speaker appreciates the November landscape, but leaves it to his "guest" to praise.
Brown's Descent: After falling down an ice crusted slope, Farmer Brown still clutching his lantern says, "Ile's (oil's) 'bout out!"
 
Irony Verbal irony is a figure of speech when an expression used is the opposite of the thought in the speaker's mind, thus conveying a meaning that contradicts the literal definition. Dramatic irony is a literary or theatrical device of having a character utter words which the the reader or audience understands to have a different meaning, but of which the character himself is unaware. Irony of situation is when a situation occurs which is quite the reverse of what one might have expected. Often, Frost's use of irony convey's one meaning by word and syntax, and another by the tone of voice it indicates. The tone contradicts the words. Frost's irony is usually tricky because it is so subtle.
 
Examples:
Birches: Dramatic irony the wish to get away from earth may not be granted too soon
Range-Finding: Irony of situation when the spider is disturbed by a bullet but finds it unimportant.
The Road Not Taken: Verbal irony - the speaker knows he will tell the old story "with a sigh" of a choice that "made all the difference."
Ghost House: Irony of situation when daylight falls (usually night falls) into a place that was supposed to be dark in order too keep things for survival.The cellar was a storeroom filled with things to get you through the winter. In this case, daylight is dissolution of the proper and good use of the place. Wild raspberries now grow where fruit used to be stored. This poem is full of irony.
Stars: Minerva, the goddess of wisdom but her eyes are without the gift of sight. (Table)
 
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