A summary of a much-misunderstood classic poem
‘The Road Not Taken’ is one of Robert Frost’s most famous poems. It appeared in his first collection, Mountain Interval, in 1916; indeed, ‘The Road Not Taken’ opens the volume. For this reason, it’s natural and understandable that many readers take the poem to be Frost’s statement of individualism as a poet: he will take ‘the road less travelled’. But when we analyse Frost’s poem more closely, we realise how inaccurate such a summary of the poem is. Frost himself, two years before his death, lamented the way readers and critics had misinterpreted the poem, which he called ‘tricky’. You can read ‘The Road Not Taken’ here.
Rather than offer a summary of ‘The Road Not Taken’, we’ll undertake a brief paraphrase of the poem’s meaning. ‘I came to a fork in the road in the yellow wood through which I was travelling, and wished I could have travelled both paths. But obviously that wasn’t an option, so I spent a long while standing there and deliberating which to choose. After spending a good while looking down one of the roads as far as I could see, I then took the other road, since it seemed just as nice. And it seemed to be preferable, perhaps, because it wasn’t as well-trodden as the other – its grass was less worn. Read the rest of this entry
A summary of a curious cat poem
The poetry of Edward Thomas (1878-1917) is marked by an unsentimental view of nature, and the short poem ‘A Cat’ is a fine example of his direct and matter-of-fact style that nevertheless summons an emotional response from the reader. What a close analysis of Thomas’s poetry often reveals is a razor-sharp eye for detail and an ability to make straightforward statements which nevertheless have the feel of great poetry, and ‘A Cat’ is no different in this regard from Thomas’s better-known poetry, such as ‘Adlestrop’ or ‘As the Team’s Head Brass’.
She had a name among the children;
But no one loved though someone owned
Her, locked her out of doors at bedtime
And had her kittens duly drowned.
In Spring, nevertheless, this cat
Ate blackbirds, thrushes, nightingales,
And birds of bright voice and plume and flight,
As well as scraps from neighbours’ pails. Read the rest of this entry
A critical reading of a classic poem
‘As the Team’s Head Brass’ is one of the best-loved and most widely-anthologised poems by Edward Thomas (1878-1917), who is viewed variously as a Georgian poet and as a poet of the First World War. Thomas wrote ‘As the Team’s Head Brass’ in 1916, focusing on attitudes to the ongoing war expressed by people back home in England, rather than fighting at the front. Below is the poem, and some words of analysis.
As the team’s head-brass flashed out on the turn
The lovers disappeared into the wood.
I sat among the boughs of the fallen elm
That strewed the angle of the fallow, and
Watched the plough narrowing a yellow square
Of charlock. Every time the horses turned
Instead of treading me down, the ploughman leaned
Upon the handles to say or ask a word,
About the weather, next about the war. Read the rest of this entry