Sometimes, I watch a drama or a film of people together whether as a family, friends or lovers and I get a nice warm feeling inside as I marvel at the happiness and beauty of relationships. However, there are occasions when after watching those things, I feel an extreme feeling of loneliness as I find myself (unnecessarily) comparing my own life to that of others.
Today was such an occasion and tying in with the feeling of loneliness, I found myself reciting, “that loneliness will be more lonely ere it will be less”, which is a line from Robert Frost’s poem, “Desert Places”. I felt the urge to write down my response on this poem and though I am no good English student, I offer a brief analysis below.
Desert places by Robert Frost
Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.
The woods around it have it – it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.
And lonely as it is, that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less –
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.
They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars – on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.
In this poem, the narrator describes a winter landscape in relation to his own feeling of loneliness. The first stanza sets the scene by mentioning the coldness and the darkness of the surrounding field, and the soft s and f sounds reflect the smooth untouched snow that covers the earth as well as the quietness of the scene, muted by the snow. However, although such a scene could be described to be beautiful by some, the narrator picks out “weeds” and “stubble” which are words that suggest undesirability and the narrator’s discomfort as he examines the scene. The word “smothered” in the second stanza also has a sense of suffocation which could reflect the narrator’s own feelings of being oppressed by the sheer emptiness of the field.
The feeling of isolation that the narrator experiences is emphasized in the third stanza where a bleak picture is painted. Throughout the poem, the third person plurals (ie they, theirs etc) are used in contrast to the singular first person pronouns (ie I, me etc). This emphasizes how the narrator is separated from the rest of nature which is described as a collective. There is a clear emphasis on the fact that the snow-covered landscape has no meaning on its own, which I think ties in with what the final stanza is saying about nature in relation to man.
From the description of the field, the perspective is widened to look at the stars. The way in which he says “on stars where no human race is” suggests how he now acknowledges that he himself is pretty small in the whole scale of the universe and how his state of loneliness could be considered not lonely in comparison to the emptiness out there in the distance. The final two lines include four pronouns that refer to himself, which shifts the main focus of the poem from the landscape onto the narrator. These lines suggest that the landscape, which he described earlier to be bleak and empty, is an illusion that is a result of his own sense of loneliness.
Overall, I think Robert Frost is saying that our perspective of a landscape is dependent on our internal thoughts and emotions. When we feel lonely or depressed, we are more likely to see a scene like this and describe it as blank and empty, when at other times, we might describe as beautiful and tranquil. We can become enveloped in our own emotions and forget our measure on the overall scale of place, time and significance and I think Frost has a point that “I have it in me… To scare myself with my own desert places”.
I am not saying that we are insignificant nor am I claiming that we should all get a move on with our lives and that our emotions do not matter; because it does, and when we feel down, we have a right to feel down until we feel better. But I think this is a beautiful poem that makes me reflect on the fact that our perspectives are influenced on our internal conditions and I think that Frost quite accurately conveys the thoughts of the narrator and his realization that his view is a result of his own imagination.
Comments and discussions are welcome 🙂