Realistic Optimism in Robert Frost

Article Posted in: Research Articles


by – Dr. Shraddha Ashapure, published in Vol.II, Issue XIX, August 2016

Introduction to the Author:

Dr. Shraddha Ashapure M.A, M. Phil, Ph.D. (English Literature) is serving as Assistant Professor (Department of Humanities) in Indore Professional Studies Academy (IPSA) which is one of the Central India’s largest educational hub playing a major role to develop Indore as Central India’s most preferred educational centre. Her domain comprises English Language and Literature, Communication Skills, Business communication and Language lab. She handles graduate and postgraduate courses. Dr. Shraddha has presented several research papers in various national and international conferences.

  **                                 **                                 **                                 **                                 **

It was Frost’s daring optimism, which inspired India’s first Prime Minister to serve the nation and humanity all through his life. The following lines of Frost’s poem were discovered from his table written in his own writing soon after his death:

            “The woods are lovely; dark and deep

            But I have promise to keep,

            And miles to go before I sleep.

            And miles to go before I sleep”.


            Robert Frost was born in San Francisco, California on 26 March 1874. His mother was Isabelle Moodie she was a scot. His father’s name was William Presscott. Young Robert was frequently sick child. His father died of Tuberculosis in 1885. His widow returned to New Hampshire along with eleven years old young Frost and his sister. Young widow joined a school in order to earn for her small family.

            Young Frost composed his first poem ‘The Butterfly’ at the age of nineteen, which was published in ‘The Independent’. The reflection of his promises and seeds of future greatness are quite evident in his early works, I agree with views of Untermeyer.

            “Always the worker as well as the dreamer, Frost shapes his versa and judges a poem by the same standards which, says T.K. Whipple, he would apply to an axe or a hole or a spade: it must be solid, strong, honest. The pulse of his verse is timed to the heartbeat of the work – a – day world. Poetry and action, love and need are united.

Any careful reader of Frost’s poem notices the structure patterns of affirmative moods in his varied poems. He is extremely gifted in his ability to make even his sharpest irony, affirmative. He believes in reason and love. All his poems contain hopeful attitude towards life. His optimism is clearly visible in his early sonnet titled ‘Mounting’ it was included in “A boy’s will”, the first volume of verses.

In his sonnet the laborers find the greatest pleasure in doing his work, honestly and sincerely.

“The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows”

In ‘Birches’ the poet gives us assurance that,

“Earth is the right place for love”

and here he explains that it is the right place for labor too.

Thus in ‘Moving’ the poet rejects the idle dreaming. Real life is full of hard labor. The learned write Elizabeth Jenning remarks; ‘Mowing’ also demands and holds our complete attention because the reader never for a moment feel that the poet has a palpable design upon him or that he is trying to put something across him. There are no tricks in mourning, no sleight of hand or mind.

            Mending wall which was included in North of Boston published in 1914 represents two opposite attitudes towards life one young and broad minded and the other old orthodox.

“Something there is that

 Doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen growing

            Swell under it,


And spills the upper boulders

            In the sun;

And makes gaps even two can

            Pass abreast.

Untermeyer stresses this point and writes, “The strength of Mending wall, one of Frost’s most often quoted poems, rest upon a contradiction. The poem says ‘Good fences make good neighbors’”.

            As Elizabeth Jenning remarked “Frost often writes of inanimate objects, as if they were alive and capable of human actions thoughts and emotions”. He says,


“My apple trees will never get across

 And eat the cones under his,

 I tell him”.


Thus in Mending wall the poet portrays a universal problem of human relations. The whole poem is entitled with the undercurrent of brotherhood and tolerance of honest living. Man cannot live without walls and self-limitations.

His another poem ‘The death of the Hired Man’ (North of Boston, 1914) is full of Frost’s optimism. The central idea of the poem is changing of the husband’s pessimistic attitude into optimistic attitude. Thus there is a slow transformation of Warren to pity and sympathy.This poem is widely praised for its rich sense of ordinary life and nature description. Part of the moon was falling down the west.


Dragging the whole sky with it to the hills.

Its light proved softly in her lap

She saw it

And spread her apron to it.

In ‘Home Burial’ Frost very sincerely depicts the problem of alienation in modern life. The incompatibility of husband’s and wife’s nature presented in ‘Home Burial’ can be perceived in almost every couple of modern times. Frost presents the real psychological change in the attitude of the emotionally excited wife.

“What and how long it takes a birch to rot

To do with what was in the darkened parlor

You couldn’t care…………..”.

I admire it because very skillfully and realistic fully the grief of the mother is fused with a universal significance:-

“A man must partly give up being man

With women- folk. We could

Have made arrangement

By which I had bind myself to

Keep hands off

Anything special you are a mind to name.

The poetic language is simple and controversial.

Robert Frost is a realist as he knows the thing he deals with he was a deep and intimate knowledge of the nature descriptions. All his poem contains his personal minute, accurate and precise observations; in ‘The Mountain’ –

When I walked forth at down to see new things were fields, a river and beyond more fields:

The river at the time was

                        Fallen away.

            And made a widespread

                        Brawl on cobble stones;


            But the signs showed what

It had done in spring:

Good grass land gullied out,

            And in the grass

Ridges of sand, and driftwood

            Stripped of bark.


One of the learned critics aptly remarked about Frost realism in after apple-picking;

“The concrete experience of apple- picking is communicated firmly and realistically, but the poem invites a symbolic extension of meaning”.

In After Apple-picking Robert unites fact and fancy together as “Two eyes make one sight”-

The apple-picker dreams of labor and activity which is needed to sustain life. Similarly, several examples of Frost’s realism can be quoted the road not taken is one of his finest lyrics published in 1916 in the volume of poems entitled Mountain Interval. It contains the real inner lyric vision and the outer contemplations narration. It is a great lyric which records a personal experience of the poet who soon rises to the universal and the general. One can find real fact that every minor decision has lifelong results. The poems identify with the life values. In this evaluation of life simple and clear language is used

The real fact of ‘love’ is depicted in ‘Hyla Brook’. One who really loves will love for what things are and not what they should be. Robert Frost’s himself was true lover of life and a sincere lover accepts imperfections. The language of poem is vivid and picturesque. For example “a faded paper sheet”

“The ghosts of sleigh bells in a ghost of snow”

Robert Frost has acquired perfect mastery in blending reality and imagination.

‘Birches’ published in the Mountain of Interval 1916 is widely known for the beautiful fusion of realism and fancy. The poet never like to leave this earth forever. He would like to return to it for example;

“Earth is the right place for love I do not know where it is likely to go battle”.

How realistically Frost describes the minuteness of observation and his love of the earth. The real description of the habits of birches led to the suggestion that Man should arrange his life in such a manner to attain on earth and his spiritual aspirations. The problems of modern life like frustration anxiety, lack of mental peace, loss of confidence are also reflected. According to Frost life is;


“A pathless wood

 Where your face burns and tickles with the

            Broken across it, and one eye is weeping

From a twig having lashed across it open”.

Frost doesn’t want to escape he knows that ‘Earth is the right place for love’. This fact shows how much Frost believes in reality.

Frost’s withdrawal is momentary

            “May no fate willfully misunderstand

            And half grant what I wish and snatch

            Me away- not to return”.

Frost is a realist in the sense that he sees life steadily. In ‘stopping by woods on a snowy evening’ the best known poems of the twentieth century, reminds every reader of hid purpose, promises and obligations. It expresses the conflict felt by everyone. The clash between demands of practical life with its responsibility and the desired to escape into a world of daydream the sample, realistic description tends the readers to identify themselves with the poet. The real meaning is hidden in the symbols.

Sleep, darkness and snow suggest death, wood suggests enchantment. The reality is that we all are travelers in a journey. Strange voices, temptations lure us away from our duties while promises guide us towards our duty.

            The earthly reality is evident in “Neither out Far nor in Deep” published the volume of verse which searches few mysterious people standing on the shore gazing at the sea. At times they notice a ship raising its hull or a sea-gull reflected in the glass-like surface of the sea the land too is varied but they keep looking at sea. But they can neither look out far enough, nor have they vision sufficient to look far into the deep.


“They cannot look out far.

            They cannot look in deep,

            But when was that ever bar,

          To any watch they keep?”


“Land” is described with reality with all its changes and sea symbolizes fantasy. Here reality and fancy is symbolized. Everyone wants a perfect world which exists in fancy only so the people turn their backs upon earth and wants to escape from the tensions, worries, and problems of real life. There is an unknown quest hidden written each of us for the ideal and perfect.

‘In design’ Mr. Robert Frost faithfully presents the real view of nature that in this world everything is the result of chance or accident, rather than of careful planning and design Randall Jarrell says;

            “In large things, microscopic and phenomena of some real importance, the classical mechanics, but these little things, things of no real importance, microscopic phenomena, like a flower or moth or man or planet or solar system are governed by the purely statistical laws of quantum mechanics, of random distribution or in other words, by chances and Accident”.

In ‘Come In’ published in 1942, in a witness Tree. Robert Frost proves once again that he is for the clear and unambiguous world. He proved that he always belongs to common world. The poet in ‘come in’ did not enter the wood he enjoyed the beauty of the starry sky, he ignored the thrush and said;

            “But no, I was for stars:

           I would not come in

          I meant not even if asked

         And I hadn’t been”.

This is the real fact of life that life has two shades the first one is dark, ignorant, evil, tempting sensuous and misleading while the other shade of life is radiant, wise, good, instructing, spiritual, and optimistic. Our poet is with the bright side of his life.

            His another poem ‘Directive’ directs man to adopt a more realistic outlook. One should not be a lost in past days memories. Escape into a world of imagination leads to nothing but only illusion it is as the world of make believe. To avoid chaotic confusion one must be in real world and accept the reality as it is. In ‘Directive’ the brook represents the concept of continuity past will be followed by present this leads to attain completeness that spiritual wisdom which encourages man to be free from any confusion and tension.

Like the journey of the Questers in the search of the lost Holy Grail we are in a journey in search of spiritual. Going back frequently in dead past in vain and future. One must make attempts to attain salvation that is freedom from desires and wants through spiritual meditation;


“Here are your waters and your watering place.

Drink and be whole again

Beyond confusion

Randall Jarrell, a well-known critics comments on ….

“Frost’s understanding that each life is pathetic because it wears away into the death that it as half-welcomes that even its salvation for back at the cold root of things, is make believe, drunk from a broken and stolen, a playing hidden among the of the lost cultures……..the poem is hard to understand, but easy to love”.

Frost’s realism is enriched with his optimism. He never advocates the pessimist or gloomy side of life, He believes in society and sympathy. He never with dreams from the bitter realistic of life rather he has presented all the terrible realistic of life ion has the different poems. But in the presentation of reality, he never allows himself to become too serious. He permits humor to make his poem ‘soft’ and ‘tenable’ there is a pinch of humor in the ‘The Mountain’, ‘Came In’ and ‘Mending wall. All his poems confirm his view of; “the poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom”.

Rich treasure of wisdom can be found in many of his poems. The poem ‘Mowing’ suggests pleasure can be obtained through hard labor similarly “stopping by woods on a snowy evening” instructs us and reminds that pleasure should be well-earned reward. One should always give preference to duties and obligations.

Frost never preaches or imposes moral on his reader he poetic characters speaks themselves and moral gradually surfaces after making several readings of his poems. Frost in fact portrays his personal experiences of life in his poetry. He doesn’t have to make any attempts to search themes and write but he lives through his poems. It is impossible to separate Robert from his poetry

            Robert Frost depicts realistically the regional characteristics and the basic humanity of his character from his particular he rises to the universal.


Robert Frost is a great poet of man. He portrays his poems realistically. He does not believe in escape he always faced the life with all its conflicts and complaints. Robert Frost has a deep faith in the moral values, values of life as well as in mighty God. In my view his philosophy of life is

            “It is better to die trusting rather than to die untrusting”.

Emerson, Whitman, Frost and Emily Dickenson are the pioneers who have taken up the themes of spiritual and moral values. Whiteman throws light on what is in the meaning of the new movement of humanity. Frost too is prudent supporter of humanity. Emerson, in order to embrace the spiritual contemplation had led a theory of Robert Frost has earned a distinction as a major American poet. He is a great artist of words. His approach is pragmatic and realistic.



  1. Cox Sidney: A swinger of Birches. A portrait of Robert Frost New York University, City Press 1957
  1. Complete poems of Robert Frost(Holt Rinehast and Winston, New York)
  1. The complete poems of Robert Frost Johathn cape- thirty Bedford Square, London.
Explore More in: Academic Research Paper

Read More Articles: