The Road Not Taken By Design: Revisiting Robert Frost

This blog post has been brought to you by things.

leaf

This is a thing. A very beautiful thing. Now we are in the right sort of mood, let’s talk about poetry!

The Suite Life of Zack and Cody

OK, I know I said we’ll “talk about poetry” (Govan, 2016) and this is a kid’s TV show, but I have a point. I am pencil, this bit is the sharpener, let’s sharpen the point (what is this metaphor?). 2007, there was an episode where Zack had to go to Summer School and was called ‘Summer of our Discontent’ (No, I didn’t remember that far back, the internet is a wonderful thing!) named after the quote from Richard The Third, ‘Winter of out discontent’. (Also, not-that-fun fact: from 1987-79 in the UK there was a period known as the ‘Winter of Discontent’ because of multiple strikes from miners and other trade unions, putting a lot of things on hold such as piles of black bin bags outside people’s houses not getting collected because the dustbin people were on strike. A-Level Late Modern History being put to use. Where is my point? I think I broke it.)

Anyway, in this episode *SPOILERS* Zack turns out to be quite smart in terms of literature during his first days at Summer School. When he is getting bullied for it he tries to fit in by being ‘dumb’, but after a reading of the line by the teacher-embodiment-of-regret:

Two roads diverge in a yellow wood, I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference’ (I don’t think the ‘an I-‘ bit was included for some reason).

She then asked the class what was Robert Frost trying to say. Then from inspiration and being pestered by the teacher to possibly know the answers, he says he could be talking about how sometimes there is one way to go which everyone takes and you feel like you should do, but you decide to take the other direction because it’s okay not to follow what everybody else is doing. This was a metaphorical life-lesson for what he was going through with being the bullied rather than the bully about being smart.

This was an enlightening moment for me, because it reinforced for me when I was (oh god, math time) about 11 that I was happy and fine thinking and taking different routes to other people because it suited me better and I didn’t have to try and fit into what was considered ‘the norm’ for pre-teens to think and do. I wanted to be a writer. I was a bit off-the-grain, I didn’t really get trends just because I didn’t like them and not the trying-to-be-anti-mainstream sort of way. I was content being myself even if I took the road not taken, because for me, that made the difference as to who I was. It became my mantra and I carried that mantra through my life, I’m not kidding.

Oh, how? Well, have you seen at the very top of this page what it says under the name of this blog? If you read something I wrote last summer you would have seen that and not think I was just putting it in therefor this post for effect to be like a mind blown moment, but it really has become something I live by. Not to the extent I would want a tattoo of it. But it is still prominent in me thinking I am this person, I am not these group of people who think a certain way or have certain attitudes towards writing like ‘how about journalism/teaching?’ and that’s okay. Because what YOU decided to do makes the difference for what YOU do and who YOU are. CAPS LOCK FOR EMPHASIS.

So that is why The Suite Life of Zack of Cody has sharpened my point, because if a kids comedy show can affect one person that way, then something is done right and is why their so popular. As well as being very funny. Oh, the nostalgia.

So, what’s special about Frost?

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How he describes the feeling poetry gives. Need I say more? I mean, what a way to explain the power poetry can give.

People (including me) consider him as one of the greatest American poets. One reason could be because he writes so vividly about nature they aren’t about nature, they become something else entirely and have a grounded sense of meaning in them as readers we try and de-tangle.

If you haven’t read at least one poem of his then I think you should at least read one in your lifetime. You don’t have to analyse it, or figure out its meaning. Just read one.

Frost? How vintage.

Puns! Get your puns here!

The summer before I went to University, I bought the Vintage Classics edition of all of Frost’s poems in one volume. I’m so saying stop what you’re doing and buy a copy. No, that involves exchanging it for money if you can’t trade or borrow it, even for me I was having £6-something worth of separation anxiety. Call me weird, but by my bed, I have on shelf dedicated to Chris Riddell and one shelf dedicated books I might read in bed. One of them is the collection of poems.

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OK, call me lazy if anything. But you know what?

I could be brown, I could be blue, I could be violet sky

Colour plays a prominent role often in Frost’s work and often, that imagery of crisp colours becomes so visual we are distracted for small moments of the weighted meanings that be read from the poems. Repetition of colours such as ‘white’ are so ingrained in some poems to certain items or things that conceptually are strange and yet fascinating to imagine in our head, we are encouraged to think ‘now, what could that mean?’ Yes, he might be using colour for the sake of colour because why the heck not. But, the text of an author arguably belongs to the public once it is available to them so I am going to read it the way it reads to me because interpretation has become an open privilege.

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Isn’t it cool? the idea that ‘nature’s first green is gold’. Green is grown from the power of photosynthesis with help of sunlight, associated with gold. Gold fields. Sunrise to sunset, green is illuminated with almost a blanket of gold. Green is nature’s gold because of how rich we can feel when we are with the vast amounts of nature available to us. But sadly yes, ‘nothing gold can stay’, heavy with ideas of globalisation and the current state of the environment. See what I mean with how heavy Frost’s poetry can be about the world? AND HE’S TALKING ABOUT WHAT WE SEE SUPERFICIALLY in such beauty that the last words are powerful enough to take your breath away to the fact he distracted you with such beautiful imagery. We are brought to a certain amount of truth and reality at the end. I mean, wow.

In his life, he has had to experience a lot of family tragedies with him outliving a lot of his family members included some of his children. How ‘nothing gold can stay’ and the nature of family (love) as a precious, golden thing, can be another layers to the infinite layers of meaning in a text. Although authorial intention is not necessary to know when reading their work, it can always be interesting to explore. Because we don’t know for fact (in its truest form) that his tragic family history and personal life could have affected the way he wrote and approached work, unless it is explicit in the text that is the intention, we don’t have to read into that if we read something else. As readers we have that power.

But, what is meaning? 

17th April 2016, Monday afternoon in a Lecture on Post-Structuralism.

Run-down in the best way possible:

Structuralism: Meaning is given based on the structures of language such as Semiotics which I learnt about similarly in A-Level Media Studies. The key components of Structuralism were by Linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure and the essay compiled out of lecture notes made form his students, Course in General Linguistics.

Post-Structuralism: Criticisms on elements of how Saussure viewed signs based on this essay and Post-Structuralists like Jacques Derrida examined signs and meaning in a philosophical manner such as the definition of meaning, what is given meaning and our consciousness of meaning which creates interesting arguments about our identity as well. Get your knee-highs because that’s deep shoes.

Correct me if I’m wrong, both theories are difficult to get your head around. Especially when you are not only question the existence of meaning in language, but what is meaningful to us.For me, there were brain spatters everywhere. I wouldn’t recommend that happening to you, imagine how frightened and angry the person who would have had to clean that up would be. But not before a quick snap and insta on what has been witnessed by many students with many phones.

Our lecturer gave us two poems. One of them was Design:

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Design

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth —
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth —
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.

Why is the spider dimpled?
Why is it white? Why is a heal-all white when their a blue flower?
It is a morning or is it morning?
Why is something comforting like a broth juxtaposed with witches?
Why is it night?
Why are the wings dead?
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Welcome to Post-Structuralism.

The second poem was a full circle moment and I almost gasped at this reunion. It was The Road Not Taken:

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The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

My introduction to this poem encouraged and drove my pursuit of my writing and what I wanted to do. Being at University 9 years later older and probably wiser, I was simply reminded why I was at University and why I was studying English with Publishing. I was reminded what that all meant to me. I was reminded, when I stared at this poem and next to it drew a red heart (handwritten double-tap) in a lecture room, what it meant to me.

This is the root of the meaning of my blog (pun very much intended); the root of the meaning of me. This poem certainly has meaning.

I will leave you on a final note…quote (rhymes):

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Thank you for reading.

 

Feature Image URL: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_uTGKd6u5pJ4/TQJIMZpm0JI/AAAAAAAAAI0/X6tktDmJUIM/s1600/Nature-wallpaper-landscape-blue-sky.jpg

Image 1: https://louisey.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/leaf.jpg

Image 2: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2b/Dew_on_spider_web_Luc_Viatour.jpg

Image 3: https://environmentalbrigade.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/o-tree-rings-facebook.jpg

Quote URL: https://quotefancy.com/quote/32248/Robert-Frost-A-poem-begins-with-a-lump-in-the-throat-a-homesickness-or-a-love-sickness-It

Quote URL: https://quotefancy.com/quote/23/Robert-Frost-In-three-words-I-can-sum-up-everything-I-ve-learned-about-life-it-goes-on

Book cover URL: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/fa/22/bc/fa22bc0ef0aa556a0f6d2cca3669d799.jpg

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