Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Late Walk - Poem by Robert Frost



When I go up through the mowing field,
The headless aftermath,
Smooth-laid like thatch with the heavy dew,
Half closes the garden path.

And when I come to the garden ground,
The whir of sober birds
Up from the tangle of withered weeds
Is sadder than any words

A tree beside the wall stands bare,
But a leaf that lingered brown,
Disturbed, I doubt not, by my thought,
Comes softly rattling down.

I end not far from my going forth
By picking the faded blue
Of the last remaining aster flower
To carry again to you.



Robert Frost has always been a favorite of mine. His poems are such a popular subject of study in the American education system that some folks might find him a little passé. Contrary to this view, I would argue that the reason that he is so popular is a function of the enormous aesthetic value of his works.

As I have been rereading some of his poems, I had some thoughts that I wanted to share about “A Late Walk Poem.”

I find this verse to be extremely poignant. Obviously, it represents the decline of life. Frost presents us with the imagery of a harvested field, birds migrating ahead of the approaching winter, withered weeds and a bare tree. There is a reference to sadness.

I think that the imagery and words here are very effective. When I read this I can almost smell the scent of autumn in the air and feel the chilled air against my skin. The best of poets is capable in eliciting such memories for me.

The last few lines of this work make it very distinctive. The aster flower often represents love and enchantment. It is the one flower remaining. It seems that the voice of the poem is experiencing decline and may be nearing the end, but his love and sense of enchantment is still intact.

In the midst of the darkness of decline and death, there is love and human connection. This is a bittersweet reference, however. The flower seems to represent the last of the positive emotions. In some ways, this adds to the sadness of verse.

This level of pathos surrounding death and loss seems to me to be common in Frost’s work. The poet has such a way when he describes the grayness that seems inherent in life. Frost is not a nihilist, he values love and other positive emotions, as is illustrated in this poem. In his work, however, it is apparent that all things in life are marked by the shadow that death and loss brings to everyone.






40 comments:

R.T. said...

Bravo! And "sober birds" is an intriguing phrase.

I very much enjoy your Frost posting, and is coincidental with my new reading project (i.e., see my Beyond Eastrod posting from yesterday), and I hope you will steer me on the correct path if I stray too far in my future postings.

At the same time, I will be reading the Jeffrey Meyers biography; I cannot divorce Frost's poetry from his life (and New Critics would roll their eyes on that statement), and I think Frost has much to offer me in my current situations. (Note: I sometimes see too much of myself in Frost. Hmmmm.)

Tracy Terry said...

Such beautiful words (the second verse particularly poignant). I think this would make a fitting eulogy.

Lory said...

I love Frost but had not come across this poem before. His depth and subtlety are easy to miss but so rewarding. Thank you for pointing us toward some of the important points in the poem; there is much to ponder.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi RT - I think that it is OK to relate an artists work to an artists life. I think that it is OK to not do so sometime.

I am curious to read your thoughts on the Meyers biography.

I am now off to read your post!

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Tracy - This is a poignant yet beautiful poem. It would be so powerful as Eulogy.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Lory - I find Frost to be very accessible, yet, I agree that in his easily comprehendible language, their lies a lot of subtlety.

JacquiWine said...

I very much enjoyed your post, Brian. It's such a beautiful poem - lovely to be reminded of it here.

Brian Joseph said...

Thanks Jacqui.

When I recently reread it I knew right away that I wanted to post it.

James said...

I enjoyed both your wonderful comments as well as Frost's poem. The first line reminds me of his great poem, "Mowing", but this is different; and as you point out it is poignant while hearkening to the end of life.
I like your comment "darkness of decline and death". The arc of the poem is interesting as it begins with "up", repeated in the second stanza, but by the end of the third stanza it is going "down"; then as the leaf is "Disturbed, I doubt not, by my thought", he concludes by picking the last aster. In all it seems very clearly the recognizable voice of Frost. "We make ourselves a place apart," he wrote in "Revelation", and he certainly does in this poem.

ebookclassics said...

I'm not good with poetry, but I feel that poets like Frost are accessible and easy to enjoy.

Suko said...

Robert Frost is one of the first poets I encountered as a youth. I'd envision him outside on a cold, bleak day-- and still do. These poems sound poignant and worth reading,or rereading. Thanks for a terrific and timely review, Brian Joseph.

Scott W. said...

Such a long time since I've seen anyone writing about Frost - a shame, as underscored by your lovely post. Time for a revival!

Violet said...

It's a beautiful poem and so evocative. Everything is change and everything must end, but we are still alive and there is still love.

Brian Joseph said...

Thanks James.

I actually almost posted commentary on Mowing. I may do so in the future. There are indeed similarities.

I did not originally notice the arc that you correctly point out. I am thinking that perhaps it is also symbolic of the course of life.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Violet - I think that you expressed that perfectly.

Brian Joseph said...

Thanks Scott - I think that as I mentioned, Frost is so widely read that ironically, folks do not talk about him much.

By coincidence, RT put up a Frost post on the same day that I did.

http://beyondeastrod.blogspot.com/2015/09/robert-frost-god-and-not-all-there.html

Brian Joseph said...

Hi CJ - Sometimes I struggle with poetry too. I agree that Frost's accessibility really makes it easier.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Suko - The cold bleak day is a good image of Frost. It really does fit with the tone of so many of his poems.

Sharon Henning said...

Hi Brian. I agree with you how his poetry can evoke certain images. I am in the middle of reading a book of Frost's poetry myself. I can see the countryside and the snow, the people, as I read it. You chose a beautiful poem.

thecuecard said...

Love Frost's imagery. Each time I read the poem I find something new. His poems are brilliant. thanks for sharing this one

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Sharon - That is one thing that we both got out of Frost. His words seem to take you out to the place that he is describing.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Susan - I find that your point is true about most great poetry. One finds something new every time they read it.

Maria Behar said...

This is an extremely beautiful and moving poem, Brian. I've just read it over several times, and its sad imagery and flowing music have made me tear up....then, too, your commentary has added to my emotion.

The passing of life, the passing of the seasons, the passing of so many events once deemed important....these are inescapable facts, these are the things I've been running from my whole life, but there's no escaping them....

Even for those of us who hold religious beliefs, the constant trickling away of every second of time is sad.... However, there is a resurgence. The seasons are cyclical. Spring will come again.

I think Frost alludes to the hope of Spring with his reference to the aster flower. And how WONDERFUL that the flower is blue! As you know, blue is my favorite color. It represents peace, calmness, eternity.... So there is hope in the image of this blue flower, the very last one. True, the flower is faded, but still, I do think it represents Hope.

Frost may be alluding to Eternity, as well, with the image of the blue flower. For those of us with spiritual beliefs, the faded flower could represent our limited perspective of the concept of Eternity, due to our earthly senses. At least, I'd like to think so.

I don't remember reading this particular poem when I studied Frost in high school. But we read a collection of literary selections, not his entire work, so that's why. And the collection included works by other writers.

I definitely need to get the complete edition of Frost's poems.

Thanks for your beautiful analysis of this beautiful poem!! : )

joyce said...

For some reason I couldn't post a comment on my blog but wanted to say Thankyou for your kind words. After reading your many blog posts that are so deep rooted and inciteful, I'm glad I can provide some lighthearted entertainment. Happy BLOGOVERSARY to you too!

Brian Joseph said...

Thanks so much Joyce.

Hopefully we will both be posting for many years to come.

Brian Joseph said...

Thanks for your super comment Maria.

I think to some extent all of us run, or at least walk away from this issue.

I never though of the fact that the color of the flower is blue had meaning, but I think that you are likely correct that this represents hope.

So many books, so little time said...

As I have said before, poetry is not a big love of mine, I used to love it when I was younger and wrote a few pieces myself but not so much as an adult. However, this is a nice piece and I think I enjoyed it more reading your commentary and thoughts on it.

Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

HKatz said...

"The headless aftermath" is such a powerful image. Thank you for sharing this. And I agree with your analysis of Frost finding love and connection in the shadow of death and passing seasons. There's often a melancholy to his poems, but as you say, not nihilism.

When reading your post I thought of another of his poems: "Reluctance."
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/238118

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Hila - I think that I read "Reluctance" a long time ago. Rereading it now I am struck by its power and poignancy.

It also really has similar imagery and themes.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Lainy - One thing about Frost, is just how accessible he is. I think a lot of people who do not otherwise enjoy poetry get a lot out of his work.

Delia (Postcards from Asia) said...

That's lovely. My first impression was that it's a love poem. I think that last verse stole my heart.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Delia -

Perhaps one can think of this as a love poem. If so, it is avery complex one indeed.

Parrish Lantern said...

Not read much Frost so thanks for this one.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Gary - Frost's work is around so much that, ironically, some folks tend to overlook him.

Caroline said...

Lovely post, Brian.
I haven't read a lot of Frost's poems but those I read were all amazing. Mournful but not depressing. Complex too. I hadn't known this one but like it very much.
I saw this article recently about hos The Road Less Travelled and how it's always misunderstood. I wish I knew where I read that. The New Yorker, The Guardian . . . Maybe you saw it.
One of my favourite German poems uses asters. Gottfried Benn. I even know it my heart. I think Tom will read him for German Literature Month. There's a new translation out.
Here's the poem
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/243576

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Caroline.

I saw the pice that you are referring to. It is here:

http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2015/09/11/the-most-misread-poem-in-america/

Thank you for the link. The language of the poem is interesting and imaginative. I think I need to spend a little with it pulling out its meaning.


The Bookworm said...

Robert Frost reminds me of when I was in high school, since I was first introduced to his work then...The Road Not Taken and Fire and Ice...

I like this poem very much, and like you say, the imagery is beautiful. I like the last lines best, about the aster flower.
Thanks for sharing!

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Naida - For so many Americans, High School was our introduction to Frost.

For many of us I think that his works have become part of our cultural consciousness.

Hibernators Library said...

I regret to say that I never was taught to appreciate poetry. Over the years of adulthood I've become more interested in poetry, and have had to teach myself to recognize the symbolism. Frost is a great poet because he can elicit emotion in even an inexperienced reader of poetry. I have a hard time appreciating poets that try too hard to be clever. The "simpler" and more natural it seems, the more beautiful it is.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Rachel - I learned very little in terms of interpreting poetry in school.

Though I try to appreciate more complex works, I find that the more transparent poems elicit the most enjoyment from me too.