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Common Theme in Robert Frost's Writings
Spring Pools by Robert Frost
Meeting and Passing by Robert Frost
Robert Frost’s four poems, Nothing Gold Can Stay, Meeting and Passing, Once By The Pacific, and Spring Pools all share a theme
All is Vanity
In Robert Frost’s four poems, Nothing Gold Can Stay, Meeting and Passing, Once By The Pacific, and Spring Pools, there is a pattern of a theme. The one thing all four poems have in common is impermanence of life: nature and people are always changing and their glories are here one moment and gone the next. The difference between these poems is that each discusses varying levels of transience.
In Nothing Gold Can Stay, the first line begins with “Nature’s first green”; green is the universal color by which one can readily tell the health of a plant, or grass. It is the color of money, the “GO” sign on traffic lights. It is approval, happiness and acceptable to the eyes. Nature is the subject of the poem and it is personified as a woman, Mother Nature, as supported by the pronouns “Her.” “Gold” is symbolic of what is rare, perfect, and is “Nature’s first” as the speaker states. Yet its quality is made perfect because it is only for a short time, as the speaker states “it is the hardest to maintain.” It is implied, nature slowly nurtures and uses the best of its supply of nutrients to make the first green shine. The title goes further to state the shine cannot stay. The leaf transforms to a flower but once the flower has lived its usefulness it too subsides. The beauty is temporary and limited to an hour. The line which states that the leaf subsides to leaf is analogous to a quote from the Book of Genesis in the Bible, which states “dust returns to dust”, the glory of man being reduced to the very molecule that held him together. After this line we have a turning point, the lines up to this point discussed Nature’s actions but after this, the results of the earlier actions are discussed. “Eden sank to grief”, an allusion to the Bible in which the glory of God left Eden when Adam and Eve sinned. Also we see to state “Eden sank” is to imply Eden was at its zenith of glory, that is at its happiest moment. It was only for a moment none the less and life moved on. Just as the plant grew, it also subsided and returned to its ground, with the speaker finishing the line “Nothing gold can stay.”
In Meeting and Passing, the temporary nature of relationships is discussed. Written in a first person account, it details action by action of a person meeting and essentially passing another person. Though they do spend time together, the speaker chooses to marginalize the event, “As you came up the hill. We met.” “But all we did that day was mingle great and small.” The speaker at first was not following an agenda for the day but strolling about “As I went down the hill along the wall”, he arrives at a gate to look at the view. The passive opening style of the sentence seems to imply a quiet person who happened to see another person. The plot of the poem is in seeing another person but not in the experience of the event. “Footprints in summer dust as if we drew” the speaker speaks on with the actions presenting his day passing away regardless of the activity he is engaged in. The lack of a climax in the poem sets a monotone voice that removes enjoyable meaning from the poem. The last two lines, “Afterward I went past what you had passed Before we met and you what I had passed”, the speaker walks past what the other person passed so as to suggest that even what they did together was fading away as each walked a step further past where the other walked.
Once By The Pacific discusses from a third person point of view the passing of waves. The uneven edges of the water line are presented beautifully in the words “shattered waters.” The use of the water as a metaphor for nature is consistent with the theme of impermanence, waters ebbing and flowing. The waves are personified as “Great waves looked over others coming in” and yet the ‘Great waves’ give way their greatness to the next waves coming in. The speaker states “The shore was lucky in being backed by cliff” and “The cliff in being backed by continent”, as a pretense for the climax ending. As a result these two lines can be said to be the turning point of the poem. The solid imagery of the two lines quickly changes as the dark night was coming “Before God’s last Put Out The Light was spoken.” This line is a reference to the Biblical story of how God spoke “Let there be Light”, and the poem ending with the light being gone.
Spring Pools reflects on pools in forests, staying perfectly still to show the “total sky almost without defect.” But time is slowly moving the waters in the pool so that they’re absorbed by the flowers “But up by roots to bring dark foliage on.” Even the pools of waters are constantly moving even though they can give the illusion of being perfectly still. Even the flowers that absorb the waters will welt away, “And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver, will like the flowers beside them soon be gone.” The line “The trees that have it in their pent-up buds to darken nature and be summer woods” is a turning point because it deviates from the main subject of the poem the spring pools. The last line serves as a warning “Let them [trees] think twice before they use their powers”, somehow to indicate that if they did use their “pent-up buds” they’d be destroyed by their own greed to survive. The new trees would choke out the possibility of any new spring pools and would rather contribute to the destruction of the older trees.
In the four poems, what changes varies from poem to poem. In the first poem, it is what’s perfect, “Gold” that cannot last, while in the second the idea of our actions are seen as meaningless that the illusion of fulfillment is our temporary comfort. Whereas the third poem alludes to the activities on earth as a stage on which everything under the sun has its greatness and shrivels away in time for the other. The last poem the temporary nature of one helps another to rise and live and the cycle continues in such a way that the very first thing that started the cycle, the spring pools is responsible for the last thing, the great trees.