Two Attitudes to the Passing of Time in Frost's Poetry

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What attitudes towards the passing of time are expressed in two of Frost’s poems? The passing of time is a theme that pervades the poetry of famous American Robert Frost, who explores many aspects of the human experience in his poetry. Two poems which are vehicles for his attitude towards the passing of time are “A Leaf-Treader” and “The Road Not Taken”. Both explore the debate between transience and transcendence but display two differing outlooks on these. ‘The Road Not Taken’ seems to express regret for a path that the persona in the poem ‘could not travel’. The poem has a kind of haunting wistfulness about the transience of time and a sober tone of fatalism is very apparent. The indecisive and contemplative language of the persona of ‘the road’, who tells his story ‘with a sigh’, is ‘sorry’ about his choice in life and expresses regret, and the tone of fatalism is powerfully conveyed through the final stanza. Here, the shocking switch to present tense and the enjambment of the two I’s arrests the rhythm and reflects upon the possibilities of self that could have been. ‘A Leaf-Treader’ also has a tone of wistfulness but an even stronger tone of frustration. The long lines and full rhymes seem to express a sense of weariness with the whole business of collecting leaves, with the repetition of the word ‘treading’ highlighting the monotony of his task. Compounds like ‘autumn-tired’ with their attenuated rhythm, also seem to express a sense of anger at the way things are and the strong language of ‘God knows’ is significant in the persona’s call for for justification of the need for repeated effort in life. There is a paradoxical fear from the persona about the drive to mast his job but also the limitless nature of his task. Despite this, both poems are saved from sentimentality about the passing of time. ‘A Leaf Treader’ avoids sentimentality in its understatements, its sonorous use of ordinary speech phrases, its quiet dignity and its metaphors deriving...
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