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  #1  
Old 08-30-2000, 06:36 PM
Alan Sullivan Alan Sullivan is offline
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Seeing how relatively little interest I roused with Robinson and Yeats, I thought the discussion might range more widely if I posted another Frost sonnet, albeit one quite different from "Design." This dates from a second blooming, when Frost was already old...but more of that later. Here is the sonnet.


Never Again Would Birds' Song Be the Same

He would declare and could himself believe
That the birds there in all the garden round
From having heard the daylong voice of Eve
Had added to their voice an oversound,
Her tone of meaning but without the words.
Admittedly an eloquence so soft
Could only have had an influence on birds
When call or laughter carried it aloft.
Be that as may be, she was in their song.
Moreover her voice upon their voices crossed
Had now persisted in the woods so long
That probably it never would be lost.
Never again would birds' song be the same.
And to do that to birds was why she came.
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Old 08-30-2000, 06:53 PM
Josh Hill Josh Hill is offline
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Well, it's certainly wonderful! If anyone can explain to me how he did it, please do. I've come to suspect (on the basis of the "Design" reworking) that part of the reason is that he worked and worked and worked at it. But then, I know people who do that and they are hardly Frosts . . .

Josh
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Old 08-31-2000, 05:45 PM
Sharon Kourous
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Well, you couldn't have picked a stronger contrast to Yeats than this. The language is not elevated, although the concept ends up being so. The tone is conversational, quiet. Read aloud, one can imagine a person simply 'saying' these lines. Poetic tricks are few and subtle: end sounds are dominated by 'o' and 'e'. Your voice is stopped by 'd' end-sounds 4 times; the rest of the end sounds are soft. Lines are enjambed past the opening quatrain, the first sentence ending with line 5, thrusting the first 2 quatrains together. Sentences end with key concepts: words, aloft, song, lost, came.

Some lines are a joy to wrap the tongue around: "Admittedly an eleoquence so soft" for example.

The poem 'seems' effortless - what an achievement. Those of us working in the sonnet form can learn much from this. I need to process it for a day or two - these are simply some first observations.

Thanks for bringing this one to my attention!

Sharon
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Old 08-31-2000, 07:32 PM
Josh Hill Josh Hill is offline
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That's always the case with Frost--he hid his aesthetic and intellectual sophistication with the greatest of care. No wonder he and Eliot detested one another! (g)

Josh
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Old 09-01-2000, 02:40 PM
Alan Sullivan Alan Sullivan is offline
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Frost hid many things. He spent his winters in South Florida and actually owned orange groves, while casting himself in literature as the quintessential Yankee. Then there was the affair that presumably precipitated this poem.

"Never Again..." appears in the Lathem Collected Frost right after an astonishingly masculine poem called "The Most of It," in which a buck surges through a lake. Frost evidently meant to pair these powerful meditations on masculine and feminine archetypes, at a time when infatuation had stirred his imagination.

I'm impressed by Sharon's observations, but I would add one more. Look at the syntax. Isn't it interesting how the sentences move from complexity toward simplicity, until the final sentence becomes a fragment?



[This message has been edited by Alan Sullivan (edited 09-02-2000).]
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Old 09-02-2000, 10:44 AM
Sharon Sharon is offline
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OK Alan, I've read "The Most of It" and see the pairing you spoke of. I'm also interested that the speaker here seeks "counter-love" and "original response" instead of an echo while in Bird Song, the woman's voice adds an 'oversound' to the birdsong. What's with that?? And what do you make of the title "The Most of It"? And how do you interpret the buck?

Sharon
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Old 09-02-2000, 11:07 AM
Josh Hill Josh Hill is offline
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I'm taken, as I so often am with Frost, by the fact that every time I read this I find new shades of meaning. The progression you observed from complexity to simplicity, and from the not-so-quiet rhetoric of the first quatrain to what Sharon referred to as a "quiet" tone, seems to follow the shift in focus from the male narrator, with his capacity for articulation and his complex capacity for both skepticism and belief (would declare and *could* himself believe) to Eve's stereotypically feminine "eloquence so soft."

All of which leads me to wonder whether, as in some of his other poems, Frost was writing about the abstract and emotional, the musical, elements that differentiate poetry from prose, that constitute "tone of meaning but without the words," and which become part of the language of the multiplicity. Cf. the "bird of loudest lay" in the Phoenix and the Turtle--herald sad and trumpet to those "whose chaste wings obey."

I'd love to see the other poem of the pair.

Josh
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Old 09-02-2000, 11:32 AM
Sharon Sharon is offline
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The Most of It

He thought he kept the universe alone;
For all the voice in answer he could wake
Was but the mocking echo of his own
From some tree-hidden cliff across the lake.
Some morning from the boulder-broken beach
He would cry out on life, that what it wants
Is not its own love back in copy speech,
But counter-love, original response.
And nothing ever came of what he cried
Unless it was the embodiment that crashed
In the cliff's talus on the other side,
And then in the far distant water splashed,
But after a time allowed for it to swim,
Instead of proving human when it neared
And someone else additional to him,
As a great buck it powerfully appeared,
Pushing the crumpled water up ahead,
And landed pouring like a waterfall,
And stumbled through the rocks with horny tread,
And forced the underbrush-and that was all.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
- by Robert Frost
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  #9  
Old 09-02-2000, 02:30 PM
Josh Hill Josh Hill is offline
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Thanks, Sharon. That's quite a poem!

Josh
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  #10  
Old 09-03-2000, 07:00 AM
Alan Sullivan Alan Sullivan is offline
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My thanks also to Sharon for posting "The Most of It." The two poems side by side offer some of Frost's most revealing reflections on the subject of gender. Close reading could find many echoes of these themes in other Frost poems. For example in "Come In," I have long been struck by how feminine the bird voice seems, how Frost places in opposition a masculine outer world and a feminine inner one, the impenetrable thicket from which the sweet song comes. Evidently, for him, the gulf between the sexes was very wide indeed. Femininity is an alien (avian) presence that invites and repulses simultaneously. Yet without it, he cannot feel complete. He needs that "counter-love, original response," which he had seemingly not found in his marriage.

Answering your final questions, Sharon, might require more amateur psychopoetics than I would care to venture. Still, it is tempting to regard the buck as an idealized self-visualization for an old man infatuated with a brilliant, much younger woman.

Alan

[This message has been edited by Alan Sullivan (edited 09-03-2000).]
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