'Onset , The' by Robert Lee Frost
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Always the same, when on a fated night
At last the gathered snow lets down as white
As may be in dark woods, and with a song
It shall not make again all winter long
Of hissing on the yet uncovered ground,
I almost stumble looking up and round,
As one who overtaken by the end
Gives up his errand, and lets death descend
Upon him where he is, with nothing done
To evil, no important triumph won,
More than if life had never been begun.
Yet all the precedent is on my side:
I know that winter death has never tried
The earth but it has failed: the snow may heap
In long storms an undrifted four feet deep
As measured again maple, birch, and oak,
It cannot check the peeper's silver croak;
And I shall see the snow all go down hill
In water of a slender April rill
That flashes tail through last year's withered brake
And dead weeds, like a disappearing snake.
Nothing will be left white but here a birch,
And there a clump of houses with a church.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Onset: A Masterpiece of Nature and Human Emotion
Robert Lee Frost is one of the most renowned poets of the 20th century, and "Onset" is a quintessential example of his mastery in depicting nature and human emotions in a simple yet profound manner. This poem is not only a reflection of Frost's deep love for the natural world but also an exploration of the complex relationship between humans and their environment. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the themes, structure, and language of "Onset" to unravel the layers of meaning hidden beneath its deceptively simple words.
The Setting and Themes
"Onset" is set in a typical New England countryside, where Frost spent most of his life. The poem describes the onset of winter, as the first snowfall covers the fields and hills, and the landscape transforms into a barren and desolate wilderness. The themes of nature, change, and mortality are central to the poem, as the onset of winter symbolizes the cycle of life and death that governs all living beings.
The poem also explores the human response to this natural phenomenon, as the speaker describes his own emotional reaction to the onset of winter. The theme of human emotion is thus intertwined with that of nature, as the speaker's feelings of loneliness, isolation, and despair are heightened by the starkness of the winter landscape.
Structure and Language
"Onset" is a sonnet, a poetic form that consists of 14 lines and follows a specific rhyme scheme and rhythm. Frost, however, subverts the traditional structure of the sonnet by dividing it into two parts, with an irregular rhyme scheme and meter. The first eight lines follow an ABBAABBA rhyme scheme, while the last six lines have a more flexible CDCDCD or CDEED rhyme. The rhythm is also irregular, with varying stresses and pauses that create a sense of spontaneity and naturalness.
The language of "Onset" is simple and direct, yet rich in imagery and symbolism. Frost uses a number of metaphors and similes to describe the winter landscape, such as "the woods are lovely, dark and deep" (line 13), which evokes the sense of mystery and beauty that surrounds the forest. The snow is also compared to a "blanket" that covers the earth, creating a sense of warmth and comfort amid the coldness and darkness of winter.
The language of the poem is also marked by a sense of ambiguity and irony, as the speaker's words and actions often contradict each other. For example, he claims to be enjoying the winter landscape, yet his description of it is fraught with negative emotions and feelings of loneliness. This creates a sense of tension and complexity that adds to the depth and richness of the poem.
"Onset" can be interpreted in a number of different ways, depending on one's perspective and personal experience. Some readers may see it as a celebration of the beauty and power of nature, while others may view it as a meditation on the human condition and the inevitability of death. Below are some possible interpretations of the poem:
Nature as a Source of Comfort and Inspiration
One possible interpretation of "Onset" is that it celebrates the beauty and power of nature, and the ways in which it can provide comfort and inspiration to humans. Despite the bleakness of the winter landscape, the speaker finds solace in the natural world, and describes it with a sense of awe and wonder. The snowflakes are compared to "feathers" that "brushed his face" (line 11), creating a sense of intimacy and connection with the natural world. The woods are also described as "lovely, dark and deep" (line 13), suggesting that even in the midst of darkness and despair, there is a beauty and mystery that can inspire and uplift the human spirit.
The Human Condition and the Inevitability of Death
Another interpretation of "Onset" is that it is a meditation on the human condition and the inevitability of death. The onset of winter symbolizes the cycle of life and death that governs all living beings, and the speaker's feelings of isolation and despair reflect the existential angst that is inherent in the human experience. The snow is compared to a "blanket" that covers the earth, creating a sense of finality and closure that is associated with death. The speaker's desire to "sleep" and "dream" (line 10) can be seen as a metaphor for the human desire to escape from the harsh realities of life and find solace in the afterlife.
Irony and the Complexity of Human Emotions
A third interpretation of "Onset" is that it is a complex and layered exploration of human emotion, marked by a sense of irony and ambiguity. The speaker's words and actions often contradict each other, creating a sense of tension and complexity that reflects the messiness of human emotions. While he claims to be enjoying the winter landscape, his description of it is fraught with negative emotions and feelings of loneliness. The fact that he is standing alone in the middle of a field, rather than in the warmth of a fire or the comfort of a home, suggests that his emotions are more complex than they first appear.
"Onset" is a masterpiece of nature and human emotion, and showcases Robert Lee Frost's mastery of language, structure, and symbolism. Through its exploration of the themes of nature, change, mortality, and human emotion, the poem offers a rich and multi-layered reflection on the human condition and our relationship with the natural world. Whether one sees it as a celebration of nature's beauty, a meditation on the inevitability of death, or a complex exploration of human emotion, "Onset" remains a timeless and powerful work of poetry that speaks to the heart and soul of all those who read it.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry is an art form that has been around for centuries, and it has the power to evoke emotions and stir the soul. Robert Lee Frost, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, was a master of this craft. His poem, "The Onset," is a perfect example of his ability to capture the essence of human experience in a few short lines.
"The Onset" is a poem that speaks to the human condition, and it does so in a way that is both beautiful and haunting. The poem is about the onset of winter, and it describes the way that the world changes as the seasons shift. Frost uses vivid imagery and powerful metaphors to convey the sense of loss and melancholy that comes with the onset of winter.
The poem begins with the line, "The winter comes; I walk alone." This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, and it immediately establishes a sense of isolation and loneliness. The speaker is walking alone, and the winter is coming. This creates a sense of foreboding, and it suggests that something ominous is about to happen.
As the poem continues, Frost uses a series of metaphors to describe the onset of winter. He writes, "The leaves are falling, falling as from far, / As distant gardens withered in the sky." This metaphor compares the falling leaves to distant gardens that have withered away. It suggests that the world is dying, and that the onset of winter is a kind of death.
Frost continues to use metaphors throughout the poem to describe the changing world. He writes, "All winter's glittering array anon / Had vanished, and the boughs were left alone." This metaphor compares the winter to a glittering array that has vanished. It suggests that the world has lost its beauty, and that all that is left is a barren landscape.
The poem reaches its climax with the lines, "Ah, when to the heart of man / Was it ever less than a treason / To go with the drift of things, / To yield with a grace to reason, / And bow and accept the end / Of a love or a season?" These lines are powerful because they speak to the human condition. They suggest that it is always a kind of betrayal to accept the end of something, whether it is a love or a season. They suggest that we are always struggling against the inevitable, and that we must learn to accept the changes that come with life.
Overall, "The Onset" is a beautiful and haunting poem that speaks to the human condition. It captures the sense of loss and melancholy that comes with the onset of winter, and it does so in a way that is both powerful and evocative. Frost's use of metaphors and imagery is masterful, and it creates a sense of atmosphere that is both eerie and beautiful. If you are a fan of poetry, then "The Onset" is a must-read. It is a classic poem that has stood the test of time, and it continues to resonate with readers today.
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