Robert Frost's Imagery and the Poetic Consciousness

Robert Frost's Imagery and the Poetic Consciousness

Robert Frost's Imagery and the Poetic Consciousness

Robert Frost's Imagery and the Poetic Consciousness

Excerpt

There are a number of poems that seem to embody Frost's conception of poetry's place in the modern world, what its possibilities are, and what it ought to be doing. Take for example “Pan with Us,” unusual for Frost in that it is based on traditional mythology:

Pan came out of the woods one day—
His skin and his hair and his eyes were gray.
The gray of the moss of walls were they—
And stood in the sun and looked his fill
At wooded valley and wooded hill.

He stood in the zephyr, pipes in hand.
On a height of naked pasture land;
In all the country he did command
He saw no smoke and he saw no roof.
That was well! and he stamped a hoof.

His heart knew peace, for none came here
To this lean feeding, save once a year
Someone to salt the half-wild steer,
Or homespun children with clicking pails
Who see so little they tell no tales.

He tossed his pipes, too hard to teach
A new-world song, far out of reach,
For a sylvan sign that the blue jay's screech
And the whimper hawks beside the sun
Where music enough for him, for one.

Times were changed from what they were:
Such pipes kept less of power to stir
The fruited bough of the juniper
And the fragile bluets clustered there
Than the merest aimless breath of air.

They were pipes of pagan mirth,
And the world had found new terms of worth.
He laid him down on the sunburned earth
And raveled a flower and looked away.
Play? Play?—What should he play?

Pan is the god of forests and pastures, of flocks and herds and their keepers, and of pastoral poetry. I am not certain that I understand the poem; but it seems to me that Pan, here, personifies the spirit of poetry, particularly nature poetry, that the poem is primarily about the place of that poetry in the modern day, and that Pan's “pipes” represent, in part, the outmoded pastoral convention with its idealized Arcadian world.

From a technical point of view, having Pan come “out of the woods” facilitates the speaker's making him the center of attention: he comes onto the stage, as it were. But his purpose is simply to get a better view of “wooded valley and wooded hill”—to see how things are going in his part of the world—and the . . .

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