The Psychology of Robert Frost's Nature Poetry
Robert Frost's nature poetry occupies a significant place in the poetic arts; however, it is likely Frost's use of nature that is the most misunderstood aspect of his poetry. While nature is always present in Frost's writing, it is primarily used in a "pastoral sense" (Lynen 1). This makes sense as Frost did consider himself to be a shepherd. Frost uses nature as an image that he wants us to see or a metaphor that he wants us to relate to on a psychological level. To say that Frost is a nature poet is inaccurate. His poetry is in the main psychologically oriented with emphasis on specific recurring themes, which include, but are not limited to, loneliness, retreat, spirituality, darkness, and death. Frost said himself repeatedly, "I am not a nature poet. There is almost always a person in my poems" (quoted in Thompson). This may be hard for some to grasp, as Frost is world renowned for his alleged nature theme. Contrary to popular opinion, nature is not Frost's central theme in his poetry; it is the contrast between man and nature as well as the conflicts that arise between the two entities. Frost's nature poetry interconnects the world of the natural and the world of human beings Both key elements of his motivation in writing poetry. The harsh reality of nature and the thoughtless expectations in the minds of man scarcely cohere to one another. Frost usually starts with an observation in nature, contemplates it and then connects it to some psychological concern (quoted in Thompson). According to Thompson, "His poetic
impulse starts with some psychological concern and finds its way to a material embodiment which usually includes a natural scene" (quoted in Thompson). According to John F. Lynen, "Frost sees in nature a symbol of man's relation to the world. Though he writes about a forest or a wildflower, his real subject is humanity his concept of nature is a paradox and it points toward the greater paradox in man himself" (4,5). Lynen also states that "the struggle between the human imagination and the meaningless void man confronts is the subject of poem after poem" (6). On speaking of Frost's nature poetry, Gerber says, "with equanimity Frost investigates the basic themes of man's life: the individual's relationships to himself, to his fellow man, to his world, and to his God" (117). All of these independent observations of Frost's work acknowledge his connection between nature and man's psyche as being intentional on Frost's part and central to his poetry. The contrast between the humans and nature enables Frost to deal with and illustrate significant issues affecting humans.
A very interesting point regarding Frost's relationship with nature is that he views it with ambiguity. Most assume that Frost is a nature lover; however, while this is true in part, Frost also views nature as having the capability of being destructive. Lynen speaks of this duality by saying, "You cannot have one without the other: love of natural beauty and horror at the remoteness and indifference of the physical world are not opposites but different aspects of the same view" (7). On speaking of Frost's dualistic view of nature, Phillip L. Gerber states, "For nature is hard as she is soft, she can destroy and thwart, disappoint, frustrate, and batter" (132). Robert Frost views nature as an alien force capable of destroying man', but on the flip side, he also views "man's struggle with nature as a heroic battle" (quoted in Thompson).
In his poem "Our Hold on the Planet" Frost illustrates this point by saying, There is much in nature against us. But we forget:
Take nature altogether since time began
Including human nature, in peace and war,
And it must be a little more in favor of man,
Say a fraction of one percent at the very least,
Or our number living wouldn't be steadily more,
Our hold on the planet wouldn't have so...