Thursday, May 15, 2014

Poem Review: "Stars" by Robert Frost

One of America's finest poets that captures the essence of simple living in America and how rural land makes up its innocent beauty is Robert Frost. He is a four-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and Poemhunter has him atop their list of the Top 500 poets of all time. Most people know him for perhaps the most noteworthy poem in American literature with "The Road Not Taken," but he has written much more in his long, active life. His first poetry collection was A Boy's Will, released in 1913. One poem in this collection is called "Stars," following a trend of nature and the rural life. This poem immediately caught my attention, for I see stars as being one of nature's finest gifts that provide us with a beauty that mesmerizes us and in effect calms us down. The way in which Robert Frost describes the power of stars during a snowy blizzard shows a demonstration of his endless talent.

The poem begins with describing the multiple number of stars and how they are scattered across a night sky that is also releasing a massive amount of snow among the wintry winds (L 4). The stars do not take this snow into account and Frost is describing how these stars have such a strong, natural, non-human will that allows them to continue shining despite the interruption of the snow. Lines three and four describe these stars to, "which flows in shapes as tall as trees/when wintry winds do blow!" Before we begin to debate a resemblance to humanistic meaning and how these stars can be compared to individuals who have a strong will, do not forget Frost's background. Frost wrote during the Modernist period and he truly fit that particular realm. Most of his writing was not meant to be symbolic, but instead provide an upfront meaning. So instead of taking the approach of comparing the stars to humanity, I would say we just see the stars as being their own being. The first stanza describes how these stars bear what happens to be a universal carelessness, which is similar to how the Naturalists saw that "Mother Nature" reacted to the living species. At the same time, humanity and their reaction to this beauty is the complete reverse. Even when an antagonizing force, such as wintry weather, is blocking their clear view, the stars remain on their mind and make an impact to their thought and well being.

In the next stanza, the stars continue to be described as catching the attention of the human eye. By the inevitable morning, they find a place to rest. Interesting enough, Frost does not describe their disappearance as "going away," but just says they are "invisible at dawn" (L 8). Describing them as "invisible" makes quite a statement that affirms that throughout the cycle of life, night is sure to return. While stars are not visible throughout the day, the sky remains visible. As the sky remains visible, individuals continue to view the sky and its many faces that it has to offer. Just like people, the stars take a rest, even when the snow remains a constant until it is no longer.

The third and final stanza of the poem makes a further exploration into the Naturalist traits of the poem. Lines nine and ten goes as follows: "And yet with neither love nor hate/Those stars like some snow-white." The former line adds on to the stars and their indifference about our emotions that come about when we come across a star or a whole canvas of stars. It is interesting that like the wintry weather, the stars are being described as being "snow-white" (L 10). There is quite a comparison between the snowy sky and snowy stars in a poem that makes every attempt to affirm that the stars remain very much alive even when it is difficult. The last line describes, "Minerva's snow-white marble eyes" (L 11) being "without the gift of sight" (L 12), which explains Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, bringing attention to the viewer without getting anything out of it in exchange.

The most important element with which "Stars" conveys is that stars are beings onto themselves without humanistic qualities, which in a way is what makes them admirable. While Minerva is mentioned, I would say the stars are not being portrayed as godly in anyway, but instead as an ability of nature. While the essence of nature is far more common with the Transcendentalists, Robert Frost provides a loud, powerful voice for nature in his Modernism, providing a straightforward lens for a designated topic at large. As far as I am concerned, I see the stars as being the subject to Frost's desire and a reason to end a day relaxed and relieved. That would be a far more likely approach than the encrypted meaning that is so often used and nudged upon. No hidden meanings here, just a poem meant to spread a message of beauty!

If you are interested in reading a book of Robert Frost's poetry, just like the one I own and am using, check this book out on Amazon or (like I did) buy it at the bookstore in your area. Here is the link to The Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem, and is the work I used to follow along:

If you do not feel like picking up a collection of Robert Frost's poetry and just want to read this one (which you should read and then read this review again) check out this link:

Of course, I am just getting ready for my summer break from college and this is a poem based on winter, but you are welcome to wait until winter to read this OR go out into the heat and then run back inside to read this poem and pretend that it is far colder when in actuality you are just trying to feel cooler. Seriously, however, I would encourage you to read this mesmerizing work at any opportunity that you are able. It really does bring you into the view of a starry sky on a winter's night.

1 comment:

  1. I actually read not one, but two Robert Frost poems for the YALE School Poetry Slam (one during my sophomore year and the other during senior year), something which I thoroughly enjoyed doing. I believe I did "The Road Not Taken" during my sophomore year, but I can't quite recall the name of the one I did during my senior year. I'll PM you the title once I find it.