A Late Walk By Robert Frost

Robert Frost’s “A Late Walk” is an enchanting poem that captures the beauty of Nature and its captivating seasonal changes. This poem is not just an ode to the changing of seasons, but it carries a deep melancholic overtone due to its staunch realism of the inevitable passing of time in life. Even though there’s a pervading sadness, the poem offers a sense of comfort by reminding us of the beauty and cyclical nature of the natural world.

The poem is mainly about a late evening ‘walk’ of Frost and the way he gets self-reflective and philosophical. The poem begins with Frost slowly taking a walk down a tranquil, dimly-lit path in a countryside. Frost refers to the night being ‘apparelled in celestial light’ and sheds a soft light upon the scene. A gentle mist and dewdrops cling to the grass and trees that line the path.

At this point of the walk Frost gets a sense of the passing of time despite how still and tranquil the night appears. He personifies Time as a ‘diplomat’ and proclaims that if Time stood still, Nature would completely collapse around him. He makes a comparison between himself, who has grown old and tired, and Nature, which will remain as if it was in its first bloom.

As he furthers his walk, he encounters a White Star and the murmurs of a brook. Frost describes the chorus of the brook as ‘unheard music’ and that sums up the scene; tranquil, peaceful and full of music. But despite the beauty, Frost is still aware of the ‘downward slope’ of Time and comes to the realisation that life and Nature will both eventually perish.

‘A Late Walk’ by Robert Frost is a timeless poem, which through its stark realism, melanolic musings and breathtaking imagery paints a beautiful picture of Nature in a tranquil night. It’s a must-read for everyone who enjoys Nature poetry that comes with a hint of philosophical undertones.

Personification In The Poem

Robert Frost’s ‘A Late Walk’ is renowned for its use of personification to emphasise the idea of the ever-passing of time. In the poem, Frost personifies Time as a ‘diplomat’ that claims dominion over Nature and produces a sense of fear among the creatures of the night, even though the story takes place at a calm and peaceful night. Consequently, pointing out the irony in how an evening of solace and beauty can be claimed by the harsh inevitability of life.

Furthermore, Frost uses personification to liken Nature to a young girl who slides seesaw with Time; as Time slides down Nature rises back up in its eternal cycle. This further stresses the idea of the ever-changing state of Nature being portrayed in a whimsical context. In addition, Frost personifies the passing of time itself by naming it a ‘Jacob’s-Ladder’, referring to an old, dusty ladder the Bible says ‘Angels ascending and descending’.

The allusions to biblical concepts in the poem show the connection Frost creates between Nature and the impermanence of life. By using powerful and vivid personifications, Frost creates a lasting impact of the melancholic air his poem carries, conveying the subtle nuances of the inevitable passing of time in life.

Imagery in the Poem

In ‘A Late Walk’, Robert Frost uses vivid imagery to capture the beauty of Nature and the chill of the autumn night. Throughout the poem, Frost paints a vivid picture of a late evening stroll in a countryside, featuring ‘celestial light’, ‘dew-drops’, and the soft murmurs of a brook. This imagery gives an ethereal feeling to the text as Frost peppers his poem with wordplay.

For example, Frost employs anaphora in ‘Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though;’ to create a picture of a peaceful, calm and slow-paced rural life. Moreover, as Frost takes his stroll he contemplates the never-ending cycle of life and Nature, using metaphors to describe it. He uses the metaphor of a seesaw to represent the up-and-down pattern of Time, and a ‘Jacob’s-Ladder’ to display the idea of life going up and then slowly ebbing away.

In ‘A Late Walk’, Frost’s use of imagery brings the senses of a tranquil rural night alive with his captivating portrayal. By combining a rich palette of adjectives with metaphors, Frost creates a rich and varied backdrop for his musings on Nature and life.

Metaphors and Similes in The Poem

Robert Frost adorns ‘A Late Walk’ with metaphors and similes to create a narrative of stark realism, beautiful imagery and melancholia. He uses a seesaw to portray the cycle of Nature with Time going down and Nature rising up, emphasising the theme of eternal change in life.

Frost also uses a ‘Jacob’s-Ladder’ as a metaphor to symbolise life going up and coming down, implying the indomitable passing of Time. In addition, he writes of a ‘White Star’, its light reflecting on the still pond, symbolising the beauty of Nature in a poignant and evocative manner.

Frost also often uses similes to compare the crisp autumn night with a ‘frosty silence’. He talks about the dewdrops forming ‘beads like tears whenever the night-wind stirs’ as a way to further emphasise the changing of Nature as the night sets in. He also speaks of the soft murmuring of the brook like ‘unheard music’, noting the absolute silence of the night.

Frost’s use of metaphors and similes throughout the poem serves to bring a vivid visual of the rural autumnal night alive with his elegant writing. The scenery described takes on an imaginative quality with its second-by-second description and the various symbols used.

Themes in The Poem

Robert Frost’s ‘A Late Walk’ covers a wide range of themes such as Nature, Time and the impermanence of life. Throughout the poem, Frost speaks of ‘Nature’s total lapse of time’ and his ravish admiration for the delightful sights the setting of autumn night provides.

In the poem, Frost speaks of the melancholic nature of time, by likening it to a ‘diplomat’ who ‘claims dominion over Nature’ and how it pacifies even the creatures of the night. By doing so, he emphasises the theme of the changing of seasons and the impermanence of life. His musings over the ‘downward slope’ further emphasise this idea as well.

Frost also talks about the cyclical nature of Nature and uses imagery such as ‘Jacob’s-Ladder’ to display the notion of life going up and coming down. He speaks of Nature persisting ‘like a first-born child’ in its first bloom, despite the passing of Time. Ultimately, Frost’s ‘A Late Walk’ conveys a deep, melancholic musing on Nature and the inevitability of Time.

Structure of The Poem

Robert Frost’s ‘A Late Walk’ is an ode to the beauty of Nature and its ever-changing seasonal cycle. This poem is a classic example of free verse, where the poem does not feature a regular rhyme scheme, or a regular metre or any set stanza length.

However, the poem does feature a subtle rhythm of iambs within the text, forming a ‘ba-dum; ba-dum’ cadence throughout. Frost also often uses enjambment to move from one line to the next, creating a sense of continuity of thought and focus, as if the poem was a stream of words flowing from Frost himself.

The poem is structured by the imagery constructed by Frost. He positions each element in the poem to be memorable and vivid, crafting an emotionally captivating piece of rhetoric. For instance, Frost personifies Time to symbolise the passing of time, then speaks of the beauty of Nature then goes back to the passing of time.

By doing so, he draws attention to the ever-fleeting nature of life, creating the melancholic atmosphere of the poem. Through its free verse construction and dynamic imagery, Frost’s ‘A Late Walk’ is an excellent example of how a single poem can be used to evoke a plethora of emotions by using clever composition and tongue-in-cheek realism.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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