Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Figure a Poem Makes

This is an excerpt from Robert Frost's "The Figure a Poem Makes."

It should be of the pleasure of a poem itself to tell how it can. The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom. The figure is the same as for love. No one can really hold that the ecstasy should be static and stand still in one place. It begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life-not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay against confusion. It has denouement. It has an outcome that though unforeseen was predestined from the first image of the original mood-and indeed from the very mood. It is but a trick poem and no poem at all if the best of it was thought of first and saved for the last. It finds its own name as it goes and discovers the best waiting for it in some final phrase at once wise and sad-the happy-sad blend of the drinking song.

Is that not the story of us all, or at least shouldn't it be? to tell ourselves how we can. We all do the best we can to find our identity and to be able to express it. I think the passage speaks for itself, but my English professors would smack me for not adding some context and interpretation. (And excuse my excessive commas) This is pretty rough though and the real profundity is found in Frost's own words.

Poetry, like love, (and like our lives) has always has a first line, a starting place. It doesn't matter where this place is, but it provides a direction for us to move in. Frost argues that no one can be static and really live life, we must move and experience things. From there, things run a course of events and eventually we find that we have some clarity. Though we may begin in confusion and carry on in our journey in confusion, eventually we will find some respite, albeit a "momentary stay."

This wise bit of clarity does not have to be grand. Religions and cults found themselves on what they see as "great clarifications" of life, but that is unnecessary here. It can just be a small, but momentous, bit of clarity that just barely allows us to have to have the faith to keep moving in life. We find, as we continue down our paths, that all these bits of insight, these pearls, were totally unforseen however seem to have been predestined and planned from the beginning with the very first line. It is only with retrospect that we can see the wisdom in it all.

The best things in poems are not these insights that are obtained at the end, things that are known as the poem begins and saved till the end to be revealed. The best things are found as we wind through life and discover things. Just as finding our identities is a lifelong process, Frost says the poem "finds it own name as it goes."

1 comment:

  1. Robert Frost and Tommy. Two pretty smart people.

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