Read Mountain Interval by Robert Frost Free Online
Book Title: Mountain Interval|
Date of issue: November 1916
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
The author of the book: Robert Frost
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 381 KB
Edition: Henry Holt and Company
Read full description of the books Mountain Interval:This is a short selection of poems by Robert Frost, who was born in San Francisco, California, in 1874. Although he is considered to be one of the greatest American poets of the twentieth century, his first collection, "A Boy's Will" was originally published in England in 1913, during the 3 short years when he lived in England, between 1912-1915. In England he made some important acquaintances, including Edward Thomas and Rupert Brooke, who were both member of the group of six known as the Dymock poets. For the few years just before the First World War these six poets went walking in the Malvern Hills, Herefordshire and across to Gloucestershire, discussing their poetry and reading. Frost also met T. E. Hulme and Ezra Pound. Back in the USA he went on to write many more highly regarded collections of poetry, winning 4 Pulitzer prizes for poetry and was eventually awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his poetry in 1960. He died in Boston, Massachusetts in 1963.
For English readers, the English connection and his English ancestry resonates, and much of the imagery used seems familiar. Usually it helps to have a frame of reference to assimilate all the nuances, but it is not quite so essential with Robert Frost's work. Nevertheless he is often more specific and localised, using colloquial American speech, with realistic depictions of rural life, specifically those in New England in the early 20th century. Frost had worked the farm for nine years while writing early in the mornings and producing many of the poems that would later become famous. Ultimately his farming proved unsuccessful and he returned to the field of education as an English teacher. His poetry can be read on many levels however, using these themes to examine complex social and philosophical issues. He has been thought of as the poet who hides the most, while appearing simple and obvious. Perhaps this explains his popularity as it is perfectly possible to enjoy the poem's imagery on a straightforward, superficial level, but there are hidden depths for those who want to find them.
There follows a list of the thirteen poems in this collection, with the name and chronological order of the original collections. It can be seen that they span a broad range:
The Road Not Taken (Mountain Interval, 1916)
The Death of the Hired Man (North of Boston, 1914-15)
The Mountain (North of Boston, 1914-15)
Fire and Ice (New Hampshire, 1923)
The Generations of Men (North of Boston, 1914-15)
The Grindstone (New Hampshire, 1923)
The Witch of Coos (New Hampshire, 1923)
A Brook in the City (New Hampshire, 1923)
Design (A Further Range, 1937)
House Fear (Mountain Interval, 1916)
The Lockless Door (New Hampshire, 1923)
Storm Fear (A Boy's Will, 1913)
Snow (Mountain Interval, 1916)
The Road Not Taken, the first poem in his third collection of poems, "Mountain Interval" is perhaps one of Frost's most famous and well-loved poems. It is a narrative, with a strict metre and rhyme scheme. The final couplet,
"I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference"
contains a clear message that there are always two choices in life.
It is also autobiographical. Not many readers may know that it is a poem about the close friendship between Robert Frost and Edward Thomas. They frequently took long walks together through the countryside, sometimes with the other Dymock poets. As Frost himself put it, the poem is "a mild satire on the chronic vacillating habits of Edward Thomas". He was amused over a familiar mannerism of Edward Thomas, who would often choose a route which might enable him to show his American friend a rare plant or special view. Invariably though, Thomas would regret his choice, sighing over what he might have shown Frost if they had taken a "better direction".
Since they were such good friends, it vividly illustrates the importance of irony in understanding much of Frost's work. For, sadly, Edward Thomas failed to see either Frost's irony - or himself as the subject of the poem - and despite his wife's belief that Frost never intended a serious criticism of his friend, it is thought to be a major contributing factor in Edward Thomas's decision to enlist in World War I. He was killed in battle 2 years later.
The Death of the Hired Man comes from Robert Frost's second book of poetry, "North of Boston", although it had been written earlier, in 1905 or 1906. It is a long narrative poem in blank verse, consisting almost entirely of a conversation between Mary and Warren, her farmer-husband, but as critics have observed, Frost makes the prosaic patterns of their speech sound lyrical. To Ezra Pound The Death of the Hired Man was Frost at his best - when he "dared to write ... in the natural speech of New England; in natural spoken speech, which is very different from the "natural" speech of the newspapers, and of many professors."
Silas, an old workhand who used to help with the haymaking, had previously left the farm at an inconvenient time. Now though, he had returned during the Winter, looking, Mary says as she tries to appease Warren, "a miserable sight". She feels sorry for him. The couple wrestle with their consciences as to what to do about the man who seems to view the farm as home, but is not welcome. A major theme in the poem is that of the "home" or homecoming and belonging, as well as justice, mercy, friendship, guilt, age and death.
The much-quoted lines,
"Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in."
come from The Death of the Hired Man, although in the context of the dialogue they are said bitterly, and perhaps with a certain amount of sarcasm.
The Mountain also comes from the collection "North of Boston" and is also a narrative poem in blank verse. The narrator is staying in a village, where a large mountain dominates the sky. On a walk around and towards the mountain, he meets a farmer, and has a conversation with him. As they discuss the mountain, the farmer tells stories about it, and it becomes clear that he is trying to persuade the narrator to climb the mountain.
By the end of the poem, the mountain has been so well described that the terrain seems familiar to anyone who has walked and climbed in mountainous or hilly areas. (To an English reader it might convey the mountains of the Lake Dictrict, for instance.) The narrator has been convinced to make the climb, although the reader is left wondering whether he did so. The farmer's last words are inaudible, as he has left the scene so abruptly.
There are three elements, the description, the persuasiveness of the farmer, and the narrator's actions. It is possibly a poem about manipulation.
Fire and Ice is a beautifully evocative short poem; highly structured and compact. One of Robert Frost's most popular poems, it is often found in anthologies. Although it was published in his fourth collection, entitled "New Hampshire" in 1923, it had been published earlier in a magazine in 1920. It discusses the end of the world, matching the elemental force of fire with the emotion of desire, and ice with hate.
It was partly inspired by Dante's "Inferno", and partly by a conversation Frost had had with the astronomer Harlow Shapley, who went on to quote it as "an example of how science can influence the creation of art, or clarify its meaning."
The Generations of Men is another blank verse narrative poem from "North of Boston" in 1914-1915. Two adolescent cousins meet accidentally at the Stark family reunion. They have a conversation which varies between being nostalgic and being speculative. They show intellectual curiosity and an appreciation of literature with references to Shakespeare and Homer. At one point they invent an imaginative character, Granny Stark, showing their sense of fun. Although the poem is set in the rain there seems to be the promise of sun. The poem is celebrating continuing generations, and perhaps could be broadened to represent the cycle of birth, death and rebirth for all humanity.
The Grindstone, from the collection "New Hampshire", published in 1923, is a poem about the feelings of a boy, who is reluctant to speak out in front of the man sharpening the scythe. It may be metaphorical musings about death. The grindstone would represent the speaker's life, having slowed down and being left out in the cold. The grim reaper comes around and wants to sharpen his scythe's blade. The speaker tries to help by running the grindstone faster and almost ruins the blade, which makes him laugh.
The Witch of Coös also comes from the collection "New Hampshire", of 1923. Coös is an invented county in the north of New Hampshire. The inspiration for the poem is the characters in the tales of Edgar Poe who escape their incarceration or the confines of their coffins; it is a macabre ghost story. The narrator initially stresses the truth of the supernatural events he is about to tell, which he says were told to him by the witch and her son. But the tone of his language suggests that he doesn't share their beliefs - he considers them superstitious.
Forty years ago, they claimed, a skeleton locked in the cellar carried itself up two flights of stairs and into the attic. These bones belonged to the woman's lover, whom her late husband had killed and buried under the house. By the end all the narrator seemed to believe was the husband's name, because there was never any evidence of human bones in the house. Frost said the theme of the poem was "murder will out - he's murder trying to get out."
This treatment of women is reminiscent of some nineteenth-century literature, where the repression of women, and their restriction to the domestic sphere, force them into flights of imaginative fancy, or even madness as in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's story "The Yellow Wallpaper". The reader is unsure. It may have been merely a "good yarn."
A Brook in the City again comes from the collection "New Hampshire", of 1923. This time was a period of increasing industry and urbanisation, but in many ways the poem is timeless, and speaks to us even now. Robert Frost creates and contrasts images of a peaceful brook, and a hectic city. A small sewer drain of water flows through the urban city, forgotten among the tall buildings and monuments. The poet muses that there used to be farmhouses there, and the little trickle was once a strong brook. Both of these represent the rural landscape, and a simpler way of life before the area was urbanised. An apple tree which has also been lost, and in its place is a wooden house.
He describes with regret that people in their greed have built over this fresh green landscape, rendering the strong force of nature weak. At night the stream still flows, but a time will come when people will forget that there ever was a brook. It will exist only on maps. The brook, like the trees, are no longer useful in this new landscape and are converted into a useful system, then covered with dirt. No one will ever know, or care, where the brook used to be; the rural landscape is being destroyed in the name of "progress". The poet concludes that people are so engrossed in their own selfish lives, that they are unlikely to ever understand this mistake; that the brook in the city also deserved a life. In our self interest we have forgotten the interests of nature.
Much of the power of this poem is due to its imagery and personification, such as, "The farm house lingers" or the "brook that held". We feel the force of nature even with inanimate objects. Phrases such as, "The meadow grass could be cemented down" demonstrate both hyperbole and metaphor. The grass is not literally cemented down; it is a symbol for how nature is become overcome by cities. This poem is strengthened further by a specific rhyming scheme, which stays consistent throughout the poem.
Design, from "A Further Range" of 1937, also has a very formal structure. It is a sonnet using iambic pentameter, but then the final 6 lines have a separate tight and perfect rhyming structure of their own. Typically for a sonnet, it is composed of fourteen lines and develops an argument having a shift or turn in it. Of the three different types of sonnets, (Petrarchan, Shakespearean and Spenserian) Design combines elements of both the first two. The first line,
"I found a dimpled spider, fat and white.
sets the rhythm and metre for the whole poem, and the first 8 lines (or "octave") follow this strictly. Then by rhyming the last two lines, there is a classic Shakespearean couplet (or "heroic couplet") within those final differently structured 6 lines.
This is just a superficial analysis of the structure; it is possible to delve far deeper with more detail. But there is a reason for Frost to employ such an unforgiving structure for this poem, which becomes evident when the reader reflects on the content of the poem.
It begins then, with a big white spider on a white flower, poised to eat a white moth. The narrator ponders on the idea that all three might be brought together for some ominous reason, and this leads to further questions. Why is this flower white, when it is usually blue? Why did the spider visit this particular flower? Why did the moth decide to flutter by at that specific moment? The poet concludes that if it is "design" that brought these three together, it must be a very dark design. Why would God want this moth to get eaten? And in the last line he concludes that we do not know whether there is a designer, or whether everything in life is occurs in a random fashion.
It is typical of Robert Frost to notice a simple fact, a small detail in nature, and mull over it at length, so that he will question the very nature of creation, and begin to consider the basic questions we all want answered about life.
But is Frost laughing up his sleeve at the reader here? First of all it seemed a deceptively simple poem about a spider, then rapidly became reflections about whether there is an intelligent design behind things, and in the end the reader becomes aware of the controlled, intelligent and contrived design behind the very structure of the poem. Frost is the master of everything that he creates in this poem, down to each individual syllable.
House Fear from "Mountain Interval" of 1916, describes the caution or concern the narrator feels about what he might find entering a dark house at night. He describes the little rituals he has, such as always making a noise, or always leaving the door open until the house was lit. Is he being fearful and cowardly instead of adventurous and brave, or simply being responsible in the face of the unknown? Does it in fact indicate a loss of adventurous spirit? These fears are common to all of us to a degree, so perhaps this is rooted in an actual fear of Robert Frosts's.
The Lockless Door is such a similar poem in both feeling and thematically, to the preceding one, that it is tempting to consider them as a a pair. Actually, however, it is from the "New Hampshire" collection of 1923.
The poem is said to be based on an autobiographical event. Frost was extremely afraid of the dark as a child, to the point where he slept on a bed in his mother’s room through his high school years. In 1895, Frost was staying alone in a cottage on Ossipee Mountain when he heard a knock on the old, lockless door. Being too terrified to answer the door he jumped through a window in the back and only then calling out "Come in!" Next morning, Frost returned to the cottage to find one of his neighbours drunk and asleep on the floor.
The poem The Lockless Door follows the action of the memory, but makes it less humorous than the original episode must have seemed in retrospect. In the poem, he creates a more ominous force outside the lockless door. He says "whatever" rather than "whoever" to emphasise the potential threat, and exaggerate the narrator's own fear of the unknown. Frost uses short, stilted lines, placing the stress on the final syllable of each statement to highlight the narrator's terror.
In the final stanza, Frost is gently mocking the terrified narrator - and therefore his earlier self. He points out the irony, that one simple knock causes the narrator to leave a safe refuge and expose himself to the New England winter. He also points out that this is the first chance the narrator has had to escape his isolation, and to meet another person for a long time. Rather than communicating with another person, even in an enclosed "cage", he still chooses to abandon it.
Yet in his panicky attempt to escape the person at his door, the narrator is in the end forced to interact with the rest of the world, inevitably escaping his own enforced isolation. He feels he cannot reenter his house without knowing who is in there, so the narrator finally "alters with age", adapting and meeting others.
Again, this is a highly structured poem, made up of five stanzas of four lines each. Each line is very short, with only two feet per line and only one to three syllables per foot. This tight metre increases the sense of panic in the poem.
Storm Fear is the only one of these thirteen poems from Robert Frost's very first collection, "A Boy's Will", published in 1913 in England, or 1915 in the USA.
The poem paints a grim picture of a blizzard, portraying it as a raging beast that dares the inhabitants of an isolated house to come outside and be killed. Wind and snow are hitting a basement window, but when the speaker taunts the storm it responds and gets angry.
At this point it is clear that the storm may be a metaphor, or at any rate the meaning goes beyond the literal of being stuck in a storm. Frost uses many literary devices such as imagery and personification, to get his points across. Early on in the poem, the narrator counts the people, saying there are two adults and a child. Thus the poet is using this example to say that in a difficult situation we must first take control and see what our strengths are. The poem shows how people make a determined struggle to save themselves when everything else is falling apart, ending,
"And my heart owns a doubt
Whether 'tis in us to arise with day
And save ourselves unaided"
Snow is another long narrative poem from his "Mountain Interval" collection of 1916, and weaves a story around one of Robert Frost's favourite themes.
Out of this collection spanning many moods and periods, my personal favourites are The Road Not Taken, Fire and Ice, A Brook in the City and Design.
Read information about the authorFlinty, moody, plainspoken and deep, Robert Frost was one of America's most popular 20th-century poets. Frost was farming in Derry, New Hampshire when, at the age of 38, he sold the farm, uprooted his family and moved to England, where he devoted himself to his poetry. His first two books of verse, A Boy's Will (1913) and North of Boston (1914), were immediate successes. In 1915 he returned to the United States and continued to write while living in New Hampshire and then Vermont. His pastoral images of apple trees and stone fences -- along with his solitary, man-of-few-words poetic voice -- helped define the modern image of rural New England. Frost's poems include "Mending Wall" ("Good fences make good neighbors"), "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" ("Whose woods these are I think I know"), and perhaps his most famous work, "The Road Not Taken" ("Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- / I took the one less traveled by"). Frost was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry four times: in 1924, 1931, 1937 and 1943. He also served as "Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress" from 1958-59; that position was renamed as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry (or simply Poet Laureate) in 1986.
Frost recited his poem "The Gift Outright" at the 1961 inauguration of John F. Kennedy... Frost attended both Dartmouth College and Harvard, but did not graduate from either school... Frost preferred traditional rhyme and meter in poetry; his famous dismissal of free verse was, "I'd just as soon play tennis with the net down."
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