There is a great controversy between two groups of well-known critics over the issue that whether Robert Frost is a poet of nature or not. Frost’s own statement “I think I am not a nature poet” encourages those critics who do not regard him as a poet of nature. But there is another group of highly learned critics, which equally defend the view that Frost is essentially a poet of nature. Regardless of their futile, hair-splitting discussion, it is quite clear from the vivid, minute, accurate, realistic, and comprehensive portrayal of nature that Frost is undoubtedly a great poet of nature.
Frost’s poetry is full of beautiful descriptions of the hills, dales, rivers, forests, plains, flowers, animals, seasons, and seasonal changes. However, it is notable that Frost is not the only poet who deals with these subjects. There is a long list of those poets who treat nature with great love and care, but the intensity, spontaneity, and variety of passions for the conception as well as the execution of these subjects as is found in Frost is found nowhere else. Frost has a great love for beautiful natural scenes like a snowfall, a spring-thaw, a bending tree or a valley-mist, and he describes the landscape with such great dexterity and devotion that a reader not only reads but enjoys as well. Birches is the beautiful example of Frost’s faithful description of the playfulness of a heavy storm with the branches of birches.
“When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.”
Frost’s love of nature is not confined to the vegetative part of nature only, he is a great lover of birds, insects and animals, and a long series of the titles of the poems like A Minor Bird, The Oven Bird, A Drumbling, woodchuck, A Blue Ribbon at Amesbury etc. strengthens the idea that Frost has very warm feelings even for lower creatures. Frost observes their habits and doings very keenly and interprets them in human terms, which makes his description humorous and delightful. For example, A Blue Ribbon at Amesbury is not only a poet’s glowing tribute, but also a chicken fancier’s poem which is written in deference to the hen, though, handsomely feathered, is not decked out merely for show, but might well be the mother of a new and sturdy race; a pullet whose will and shoulders are so strong that “he makes the whole flock move alone“.
It is a common habit of the critics that they compare a writer with some others and then start an endless debate over his evaluation and the same is the case with Frost. Critics compare him with Wordsworth and find certain similarities as well as dissimilarities in their approaches to nature. When we study both Wordsworth and Frost as poets of nature, we find that both of them are keen observers of nature, but Wordsworth romanticizes, spiritualizes, and philosophizes nature and has a blind romantic love for nature, who finds nothing wrong with it. One impulse from the vernal wood may teach you more of the man of moral evil and of good than all the sages can.
Whereas Frost has an equal eye for the benign as well as the cruel in nature. Frost thinks that nature is neither a kind mother nor it has any holy plan for the good of mankind. Man and nature co-exist on the same plane and share some superficial resemblance that does not imply that both of them enjoy absolutely mutual harmony, rather they may be hostile to each other. In Two Tramps in Mud Time Frost interrupts his genial chat about the April weather and alluding to the lurking danger in nature advises that:
“Be glad of water, but don’t forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.“
It can be said without any doubt that Frost’s attitude towards nature is quite realistic and scientific and it reflects the spirit of the present age. He thinks that man should pay full attention to his physical, moral and spiritual needs besides enjoying the beauties of nature because work and enjoyment both arc essential for life. That is why he thinks that:
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep.“
Thus, the panorama of nature presented in Frost’s poems not only offers a feast of beauty to the view of readers but also provides him the awareness of life.
In short, Frost is not only a great and original poet of nature but also his treatment of nature is unique and distinctive in many ways. He does not take any theory of nature for granted, rather he writes from his own personal experiences and observations. His approach is vivid, pragmatic, realistic and unique.