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A TEACHER’S Guid E TO THE Si GNET CLASSi CS Edi Ti ON OF POEMS BY ROBERT FROST A BOY’S WILL AND NORTH OF BOSTON yb James . e m CGlinn Serie S eDitor S: JeANNe M. McGli NN AND JAMeS e. McGli NN T E A C H E R ’ S G u i d EA Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost 3 in TRo DUCTion Robert Frost is one of the most widely cele- This volume of Frost’s early poems presents a brated of American poets. During his lifetime rich resource for readers. It comprises the first he received four Pulitzer Prizes for his poetry, two published books of poetry and largely and his works are still widely anthologized in consists of poems centered in rural life in collections of American poetry and school New England. A Boy’s Will shows Frost’s vari- literature textbooks. In the afterword to this ous uses of the lyric and traditional poetic volume, the poet Peter Davison says that for forms, and North of Boston explores the use of some time Americans “tended to regard Frost blank verse in longer narrative poems to pres- as the other bookend to match Norman ent reflections on human experience. Some Rockwell…whose work could be counted on of Frost’s best known and loved poems are to convey the values of traditional American contained in these two books. For example, country life” (p. 147). However, this concep- “Mowing,” “e Th Tuft of Flowers,” and “Reluc - tion does not account for the depth and tance” are in A Boy’s Will and “Mending complexity of even some of the most Wall,” “The Death of the Hired Man,” and straightforward-seeming poems. Frost expe- “After Apple Picking” in North of Boston. rienced times of intense hardship and grief in Students will find many opportunities to his personal life, and echoes of his grief and explore, enjoy, and be challenged by the levels the wisdom he learned about the hard truths of meaning they n fi d here. And in their explo - of life can be found in his poetry. Along with rations, students can learn about the elements vivid images of American life and landscape, of poetry—imagery, metaphor, rhyme, rhythm, Frost’s poetry also contains deep and some- diction—that Frost uniquely developed in times enigmatic reflections on life and nature. his expression of “the sound of meaning.” befo Re Rea Din G 2. In addition to the printed works, there are e xpol Rin G fR os T’s l ife a few useful biographical resources of Robert 1. As mentioned by Peter Davison in the after- Frost online: word to this volume, an excellent biography Robert Frost Biography of Frost is Into My Own: The English Years of http://www.biography.com/articles/ Robert Frost 1912-1915 by John Evangelist RobertFrost-9303322 Walsh. iTh s work focuses on a period when Frost This essay reviews the major events of Frost’s wrote some of his greatest poems and when A life and also discusses his work and signifi- Boy’s Will and North of Boston were first pub- cance as a poet. lished. It is useful in that it discusses the context of Frost’s writing such poems as “Mending Modern American Poetry: Wall” and also gives a more sympathetic por- Frost’s Life and Career trait of Frost’s character than the three-volume http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/ official biography by Lawrance Thompson. poets/a_f/frost/life.htm If you can get several copies from your media This site contains two biographical summa- center or local library, have students sign up in ries of Frost’s life—one by William H. pairs to read specic fi chapters from this biog - Pritchard, writer of the introduction to this raphy and report interesting points to the class, volume which includes a commentary on using a Power Point presentation. Alternately, Frost’s work. The other is a slightly longer as a class, students could build a timeline of essay by Stanley Burnshaw which describes significant personal and professional events more of the personal details of Frost’s life. in Frost’s life as covered by this biography.4 A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost Robert Frost Biographical Information making study of the elements of poetry a http://www.ketzle.com/frost/frostbio.htm secondary means to responding to the poetry. Based on a detailed chronology published in Reader response gives students an opportu- Robert Frost: Collected Poems, Prose, and Plays nity to express their personal reactions to the (1995), the chronology listed here includes poems through open-ended questions and interesting details about Frost’s life in a brief journal writing. For example, the teacher can format. ask students to explore a group of poems and then choose the poem that they liked the best The online biographies can be used to give and tell why in a journal. Then, as a class, students an outline of Frost’s life and provide students can discuss their reactions and a context for his poetry. Assign students to explore their choices and different reactions. read one of the online sources and choose In another reader response activity, students one event in Frost’s life before 1915 when the reread a poem several times, choosing what Frost family moved back from England to they believe are the most significant lines first America. Students could report on how the and then after a second reading, the most event they have chosen could have been significant word in the poem. Students share instrumental in the development of the life their ideas with a partner, again reflecting on of an artistic person. Ask the students to dis- how their responses are different and alike. cuss their reasons for the choices they made. Teachers who begin with reader response 3. Places and Poetry prompts encourage students to not only http://www.frostfriends.org/places.html is express their reactions but also to explore a very interesting biographical sketch with why they are reacting in a certain way. This links to pictorial essays illustrating the places type of open-ended discussion can build stu- where Frost lived including San Francisco, dents’ confidence in their ability to under- where Frost was born, and villages in New stand poetry and their willingness to take Hampshire, England, and Vermont. risks in expressing their ideas. Assign students in teams to visit one of the sites and capture images for a video presenta- Rea De R Response an D tion to the class about the place they studied The i mpo RTan Ce of Choi Ce and Frost’s life there. Since reader response encourages choice, an approach to teaching the poetry in this o n Tea Chin G p oe TRy volume is to focus on those poems that are According to Frost, teachers should not take most interesting to both you and your stu- dents. After handing out Poems by Frost to the a “pre-graduate school” approach to teaching students, take 10-15 minutes to have stu- poetry in high school and college. He believed that a scholarly approach to teaching dents survey A Boy’s Will and individually poetry was not appropriate. He stated that identify three to five poems that they would the object of the poet is “to entertain you by like to read. Because the poems are generally shorter and more traditional in this book, it making play—it’s symbol and metaphor, is appropriate to consider them before see—by making play with things you already know” (Frost, 1954). It follows from this approaching those in North of Boston. Stu- view of poetic composition, that the goal in dents can find their favorite poems initially teaching poetry is to enable students to by skimming through the section, reading the titles and a few of the lines of each. Have “make play” in reading. In other words, students list their choices to be handed in. teachers should encourage and facilitate stu- dents’ delight in reading the poems. One With the whole class, discuss why students approach to enabling personal enjoyment is made the choices they did and share the titles through focusing on reader response first and of your favorite poems with the class. Using A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost 5 the students’ and your choices, you can now designed to extend your background knowl- identify the corpus of poems for whole group edge and show your responses to the reading. reading and analysis. 3. Choose roles Alternatively, you can lead students in this Choose roles for each member of your group: survey of the poetry, pointing out titles and Discussion Director (develops questions for themes as you go and then following this up the group discussion), Literary Luminary with choosing those works that you and the (chooses several key lines of the poems being students would like to study, based on their discussed to read aloud to the group), Inves- initial reactions. tigator (looks up background information on any topic related to the poetry, identifies Rea De R Response unfamiliar terms or vocabulary words), Travel Tracer (describes where the action in p oe TRy Ci RCles takes place—this will be useful especially in Poetry circles can be created for students to the longer poems), Connector (makes con- engage in reading, responding to, and dis- nections between students’ experiences and cussing self-selected poems. Poetry circles are the themes in the poems), Poetics Expert designed to give students: (leads the analysis of form, meter, and rhyme scheme), Summarizer (prepares a brief sum- • the opportunity to choose poems they mary of the day’s reading and discussion), want to read and Illustrator (sketches or finds images on • control over the pace of the reading the internet or in magazines related to the • opportunities to respond to the poetry poetry). Since most groups will be no larger and discuss it in detail than five students, some of the roles, sug- • choices for how they will contribute to gested by these labels, can be combined. The the discussion teacher will explain the role of each group • opportunity to develop skills of literary member. Your group will be counting on you analysis to contribute to the group’s effort. • time to develop independent thinking • time to engage in creative group projects 4. Set goals During each group meeting, students need to i sn TRUCT snoi of R s TUDne T: s accomplish the following: A. Discuss the poems thoroughly, using 1. Choose a group of poems questions prepared by the Discussion Direc- Independently identify poems you would tor and information on the poetry presented like to read in A Boy’s Will and in North of by the Literary Luminary, Investigator, Boston. Choose at least three poems in A Boy’s Travel Tracer, Connector, and Poetics Will and at least one from North of Boston. Expert. Explore and discuss symbolic or You will be assigned to a group of four or five metaphorical meanings as appropriate. students based on the poems you choose. B. Keep a journal recording the new vocabulary related to the poetry and the 2. Plan the r eading poetic elements discussed. When your group meets for the first time, decide how members want to read and dis- C. Work on a creative project. cuss the poems (independently, in pairs, (Note: The teacher can assign one of the fol- groups, silently, aloud) and the pace of the lowing activities: plan a Reader’s Theatre reading (how many poems per day). Your presentation of one of the poems to the class teacher will give you a deadline for comple- or to another poetry circle; write a poem, tion of the selections and the projects imitating the subject matter, structure, meter, 6 A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost or rhyme scheme of one of Frost’s poems. p oe Ti C Devi Ces There are more suggestions in After Reading Activities.) Robert Frost had an ear for the music in poetry and was a master of poetical structure 5. evaluate and devices to create this music. In order to As a group, assess the work of the group and enable students to better respond to his poetry, its members. How effectively did group have them work in groups to find and present members work together? Did you keep to examples of Frost’s use of sound. In a com- your schedule? What can you do to improve puter lab setting, assign groups of students to the quality of your poetry circle? study different sections of “The Poetics of Robert Frost: Sound Devices” at: http:// www.frostfriends.org/sounddevices.html p oe Ti C f o Rm e Th sections include: Assonance, Consonance, an D sTRUCTUR e Alliteration, Rhyme, and Tone. in fR os T’s p oe TRy After students have understood the concept In addition to starting out with reader assigned, have them explain their concept to response activities, teachers can review and the class giving examples from Frost’s poetry. build students’ background knowledge of At least some of their examples should be poetic form. The tutorial on poetics provided beyond those presented on the site. by the Friends of Robert Frost (http://www. frostfriends.org/tutorial-poetics.html) has m e Te R a very useful approach to analyzing the form and structure of Frost’s poetry. It identifies Since Frost uses natural, colloquial language three main forms used by Frost: lyric, dra- in his poems; students can rely on the mean- matic, and narrative. It also discusses the ing they understand in the lines of poetry to structure of the forms used by Frost, dividing guide them in their expressive reading of the these into stanzaic form (referring to the poetry. However, it may prove useful for stu- number of lines in the stanzas), fixed form dents also to scan the meter of the poems (including the sonnet and blank verse), and while preparing to read the poems out loud. continuous form (not broken into stanzas). “The Poetics of Robert Frost: Meter” at: Students can be directed to this site either http://www.frostfriends.org/meter.html individually or in pairs to learn about the gives examples of the various uses of meter by definitions of form and structure and to see Frost and also gives an example of how to examples in Frost’s poetry. scan a poem using “Birches.” Another site, “About the Sonnet” http:// In analyzing the meter, students will need to www.english.illinois.edu/maps/sonnet. be able to recognize the different types of htm, gives a clear definition of the sonnet metrical feet used by Frost in his metered and other elements like lyric, pentameter, lines. An additional site defining the different and rhyme scheme. types of metrical feet is “Examples of Iambs, After studying these sites and discussing with Trochees, Spondees, Dactyls, and Anapests” the class the various forms and structures http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/documents/ Frost used, students can create a word wall or Examples%20of%20iambs.pdf visual maps, called graphic organizers or Teachers can use these sites in their teaching thinking maps, of poetic terms with clear of the concepts of meter and feet or else assign definitions. These maps can be displayed students to gather definitions and examples around the classroom so students can apply from the sites. Again students can create these concepts when analyzing and discuss- thinking maps that display den fi itions and ing individual poems. examples to post around the classroom. e Th se A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost 7 thinking maps will provide a ready resource practice reading the poem aloud to empha- to consult when reading Frost’s poetry. size the meaning. Volunteers can present their reading to the class and have the class During reading students can compare poems discuss which reading best captures the to see how the meter of a poem conveys or meaning of the poem and why. reflects meaning. For example, have students compare the meaning, tone, and meter of “Into My Own” with “Flower-Gathering.” l evels of Di CTion Ask them to identify how the differences As William Prichard states in the introduc- between the poems are emphasized by the tion, Frost wrote the poems in North of different meter used in each? Boston in a “different cast and style” than in A Boy’s Will. In the latter book, Frost “dropped s o Un D of s ense to an everyday level of diction that even Wordsworth kept above” (p. 7). In some of In the introduction to this volume, William the poems he realistically captures the speech Pritchard refers to Frost’s use of the “sound of of the rural New Englander, and he also sense” in his poetry, and quotes how Frost breaks from colloquial to more poetic speech considered “Mowing” to “come so near what at heightened moments in the narratives. In I long to get that I almost despair of coming order to enable students to be sensitive to the nearer” (p. 4). Acquaint students with the levels of diction that Frost uses, have them concept of “sound of sense” or the reciting of expressively read in small groups “The Death sentences in poetry in a way that communi- of the Hired Man,” and listen for the point cates their meaning through expressive into- where the poem uses a more elevated form of nation. First have students silently read language. Ask students to discuss why the “Mowing” and brainstorm their initial ideas change in language occurs where it does. about its meaning. Then have them listen to “Home Burial” and “After Apple Picking” are Frost’s recitation of the poem at: “Robert other poems that are very appropriate for Frost Out Loud” http://robertfrostoutloud. students to analyze for the change of tone com/Mowing.html. Ask them in what ways and diction with meaning. they think Frost’s intonation conveys the meaning of the poem? Have students practice For a clear contrast between elevated and reading the poem out loud in pairs similarly colloquial speech, have students contrast the emphasizing the meaning in their reading. formal language in “My Butterfly” (the first Then have students in groups read and dis- poem Frost published) with a poem such as cuss the meaning of “Storm Fear.” Based on “Blueberries” which maintains a strict poetic their understanding of the poem, have them structure despite the colloquial voice. DURin G Rea Din G a CTivi Ties e Th general reader-response approach will be to m o Delin G Dis CUssion elicit students’ first impressions and the literal of fR os T’s p oe TRy Usin G meaning in the poems, before discussing the l evels of Q Ues Tions deeper levels of meaning and the ways the poet expresses this meaning through figura- Depending on the ability of your students, it tive language and other techniques. In order may be best to begin with whole class discus- to hear the music in Frost’s poetry, a good way sions of some of Frost’s more accessible to start is to read the poem out loud a couple poems to model how students can approach of times and then silently. The teacher might them when they read and respond on their r fi st read the poem aloud, then call on a stu - own and in groups. 8 A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost dent to read it or ask students to read the poem similar process when responding to poems to a partner, and then ask the students to read individually or in their poetry circles. Stu- the poem silently, identifying a key word or dents should r fi st read the poem out loud and line and journaling about why they think it is silently, discuss the surface meaning of each significant. Following is a model of the types stanza, discuss the overall meaning or theme, of questions that can be used to discuss first discuss possible metaphorical meanings if each stanza and then the whole poem, after appropriate, find personal connections, and the initial reader response discussion. then consider the elements of the poet’s style in conveying the meaning of the poem. “i n To m y o wn” Thema Ti C a pp Roa Ches • What does the poet say in the first To fR os T’s p oems stanza? What else does he say? Although Frost’s poems depict the New Eng- • What images do you see or hear? land village and farmland and the characters • What tone is set in this first stanza? indigenous to this setting, the themes and How is this tone conveyed? ree fl ctions expressed in these poems have uni - versal interest and relevance. The poems in A After reading and discussing each stanza, ask: Boy’s Will and North of Boston can be grouped • What change referred to in the last according to general topics, with individual stanza would the person undergo? poems expressing different points of view • Why do you think that this experience and insights. The activities provided here can might lead to this change? be used as teachers lead students as a whole class or in small groups. Poems addressing a • What do you think is the overall thought similar topic are listed together, though some or idea the poet wants to convey? of the poems are covered in more than one • How might this poem be interpreted at section. Discussion questions are included a symbolic or metaphorical level? for each of the poems. These can be used as support for students as they develop their • Is there anything in your personal abilities at analysis following a reader experience that connects with the response approach. Once students become theme or ideas in this poem? confident and insightful in their personal After this initial discussion of meaning, ask responses to the poetry, these questions students to reflect on the impact of sound might be made available only as a backup for and meter in the poem: students to use as needed. Look for discus- • What is the rhyme scheme of the poem? sion questions at the first listing of the poem. • What is the meter? The Jo URney • What effect does the regularity of the form in this poem have on you? From A Boy’s Will: “Into My Own,” By discussing this poem in this manner, you “A Late Walk,” and “Reluctance” have modeled a questioning approach which From North of Boston: “The Wood-Pile,” begins with readers’ personal responses and and “Good Hours” then leads into analysis for meaning. The Frost uses the journey as a metaphor for the poetic style of the poem is then analyzed to significant issues that individuals face in their see how it helps to convey the meaning and lives, and in some of his poems, the image of the overall effect of the poem. Discuss with students the steps in the process you have the journey seems to reflect his own personal followed and encourage them to follow a crises. For example, at a difficult turning A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost 9 point in his life, Frost journeyed to The Great “Reluctance” Dismal Swamp in Virginia. Have students • Where has the speaker journeyed? read about this journey at: “Robert Frost in • How are his heart and feet in conflict? the Dismal Swamp” http://www.literary traveler.com/literary_articles/robert_ • What is the meaning of the last frost_dismal_swamp.aspx stanza—that it is good to go with the drift of things or not? For a vivid description of the swamp, have students read a sight seer’s journal at: “Swamp in “The Woodpile” a Quagmire” http://findarticles.com/p/ • Why does the speaker pause articles/mi_m1016/is_4_106/ai_67547037/ in the frozen swamp land? Show students an image of a road like the • Why does he go on? one Frost took into the swamp at: “Great Dismal Swamp Road” http://www.pbase. • How does he personify the small bird? com/tmurray74/image/84401122 • Describe the image of the woodpile. Ask students to discuss Frost’s possible moti- • Why would someone work so hard at vation for journeying into the swamp. What chopping and stacking wood and leave was he seeking? What might happen to him it to decay? from this experience? Then ask students to • What metaphorical meanings are tell about individual journeys they have suggested by this journey to the taken which have been meaningful for them. swamp, the bird, and the woodpile? How did the journey change them? Did they learn anything on the journey? What did “Good Hours” they learn about themselves? • What does the speaker see and hear Have students read the cluster of poems on the way out of town? which reference different kinds of journeys. • How far does the poet go, Ask them to discuss in small groups or lead a and why might he repent? discussion in class and ask: • What does the speaker see and feel • What happens in each of the poems? on the way back? • What is the journey? • What metaphorical meanings are • What is the insight gained from the suggested in this poem? journey? • Which poem seems most appropriate Roman Ti C l ove to Frost’s experience in The Great Dismal Swamp? From A Boy’s Will: “Love and a Question,” “A Late Walk,” “Wind and Window Flower,” Following are additional questions for discus- “Flower Gathering,” “A Dream Pang,” and sion on each of the poems. “A Line-Storm Song” “A Late Walk” From North of Boston: “The Generations • What does the speaker see on of Men” his late walk? In this group of poems, Frost explores the emo- • What is the speaker’s mood? tions of the romantic lover whose yearning for love is largely unfulfilled and is reflected • How does his mood change at the end of the poem? in the natural setting. To begin discussion of Frost’s various reflections on romantic love, • What might be the significance of show the picture of the painting “Lovers” by the faded blue of the flower?10 A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost the 19th century painter, Pál Szinyei Merse, • What is his lover’s response at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ when she sees his return? F i l e : S z i n y e i _ M e r s e , _ P % C 3 % • How might his lover feel upon A1l_-_Lovers_(1869).jpg the speaker’s return? Ask students: What do you see in this paint- “A Dream Pang” ing? Describe the figure of the man. Describe • What is the action in this poem? the woman. Describe the landscape. What is the relationship of the man to the woman? • What does the girl who approaches What is the overall effect of this picture? the wood say in the dream? Does the landscape reflect the emotion How does the speaker respond? evoked by the lovers? How does it do this? Or • What do the last two lines indicate how does it suggest a different emotion? actually happened between the Have students read the biographical sketch boy and girl? about Frost by Stanley Burnshaw at http:// “A Line-Storm Song” www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/ frost/life.htm regarding the events leading • What are the images of nature up to his marriage to his high school sweet- in this poem? heart, Elinor White. Ask students how Frost • What has happened to the responded to Elinor’s refusal of marriage. sounds of nature? What does this suggest about Frost’s tempera- • What images does the poet evoke ment? What sort of love poems do you think that are especially striking? Frost might write given this temperament? • What, if anything, is attractive about Following are additional questions for discus- the idea of being in love in the rain? sion of each of the poems on this topic. • What is the analogy that the poet “Love and a Question” draws in the last stanza? • What is the underlying question asked • What does the east wind represent by the stranger? for the speaker? • What does the bridegroom want for his bride? • How are these poems similar in meaning and how are they different? • How should the bridegroom respond • What are the different moods of to the stranger and why? romantic love that the poet expresses? • At a deeper level, what might the “The Generations of Men” stranger symbolize? • What did the governor proclaim? • What does the poet suggest about marriage? • What marked the ancestral origin of the Stark family? “Wind and Window Flower” • What spoiled the gathering at • What is the attraction of the winter the cellar hole? wind to the flower? • What might be the attraction of the • What happens between the two who meet there? flower to the wind? • In what ways is the young woman • What might the poet be saying about connected to the Stark family heritage? love in this poem? • Why do the two joke that “Flower Gathering” the girl may be mad? • Why has the speaker left his lover?A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost 11 • What do the two pretend to see? Relax, close your eyes, and breathe deeply, become aware of your breath- • To what does the young man listen? ing. You have left the turmoil and ugli- • What do the voices tell him to do? ness of the city, seeking peace within yourself. You go out to the countryside. • How is Granny’s voice different? You walk out at dusk into a field. You sit • Why does the girl feel she must leave? and relax and breathe deeply and gaze at the sights around you. What do you • How would you describe the see? What do you hear? What odors do relationship between the young man you smell? You let your mind wander— and woman at their parting? what do you think about? Hold this thought in your mind. Let this thought n a TURe’s b ea UTy float away as if it is on a cloud. How do an D p owe R you feel? Hold on to this feeling for a while. Now open your eyes, and come From A Boy’s Will: “A Prayer in Spring,” back to the classroom. “Rose Pogonias,” “Asking for Roses,” “Wait- After the guided imagery, ask for volunteers ing—Afield at Dusk,” “Going for Water,” to answer: “The Tuft of Flowers,” and “October” Were you able to visualize a field? What kind Many of Frost’s poems have a natural setting, of field was it? What was in the field? What and in the poems included here, Frost looks did you see or hear or smell? What thoughts directly at the beauty of the natural world. came to your mind? How did you feel? Begin discussion of this subject by showing the class the images in “Spring in New England by Following are additional questions for discus- George W. Drew” at http://americangallery. sion of each of the poems on this topic. wordpress.com/category/drew-george-w/ “A Prayer in Spring” or “Field of Flowers” at http://www. johnharveyphoto.com/PanoramaRidge/ • What is the speaker’s prayer? FieldOfFlowers.html • What images do you see and hear in Discuss: How are these pictures realistic? this poem? How are they idealized? How does nature • What might the last stanza mean? have the power to inspire us? How can nature “Rose Pogonias” be frightening to us? • What does the meadow look like? Ask students to write freely in their journals about a time they were outdoors in nature • Why are the speaker and the person and felt inspired or frightened. Have students with him bowing? share their writing in pairs, and then call on a • What are the images you see here? few students to share their writing with the class. Brainstorm a list of emotions inspired by • What is the prayer in the last stanza? nature and post this list for students to add to • How does this poem connect with when discussing the poems on this subject. “A Prayer in the Spring”? To get students in the mood to read Frost’s “Waiting—Afield at Dusk” lyrical nature poetry, have them take a mental journey into nature through a guided imagery • Where is the speaker? activity. • At what time of day is it? Dim the classroom lights and say in a calm, • What are the images of moon and sun? slow voice, loud enough for everyone to hear: • What does the poet “dream” of?12 A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost • In what way is this a love poem? p oe Ti C i nspi Ra Tion • Why has the speaker come to this field? From A Boy’s Will: “To the a Th wing Wind,” • Why is the poem titled “Waiting”? “In a Vale,” “Mowing,” “Pan with Us,” For what is the speaker waiting? and “Reluctance” “Going for Water” In speaking about poetic inspiration, Frost observed that true poems begin tentatively “as a • What are the images in this poem? lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a home- • How might the water in the brook be sickness, a lovesickness” (Walsh, 1988, p. 126). like pearls? Like a silver blade? For example, Frost wrote “Birches” while long- ing for home and reminiscing as he was “tramp- • How do these images contrast with ing the muddy yard at the Bungalow” sometime those in “A Prayer in Spring”? during his stay in England from 1912-1914. To • Besides going for water, what other get students thinking about poetic inspiration, reason has brought the speaker and the ask about what inspires them when they write person with him on this journey? personally, for themselves. Discuss what might “The Tuft of Flowers” inspire a poet to write poetry? • What happens in this poem? Following are additional questions for discus- sion of each of the poems on this topic. • Why has the speaker come to the field? “To the Thawing Wind” • What does he think about being alone in the field? • To what is the poet referring in line 2? • What does he see? • In your own words identify the meaning of lines 3, 4, and 5. • What does the butterfly show him? • What is the literal meaning of the • How does this sight change his feeling second half of the poem? about being alone? • What could be the poetic or symbolic “October” meaning of the second half? • What does the poet ask of the October • Do you see any connections between morning? this poem and your personal experience? • What is the mood of this poem? “In a Vale” How does it contrast with the mood of “A Prayer in Spring”? • Discuss this poem stanza by stanza. “Storm Fear” • Stanza 1: How might a fen ring? What could have given the speaker • In contrast to the previous nature poems the impression of a trailing garment? discussed here, in this poem Frost suggests a menacing aspect of nature. • Stanza 2: Where is the speaker? What is the time of day? • How is the wind like a beast in this poem? • Stanza 3: What do we learn about • What do those who are awake in the the speaker? house during the storm think about? • Stanza 4: How might the bird and • How does the speaker feel about his flower be “one and the same”? ability to survive the storm? • Stanza 5: Why were the speaker’s imag- • How is this poem different from inative musings not in vain? How can “Waiting—Afield at Dusk”? the imagination enrich our life?A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost 13 “Mowing” personal grief they have had (or the grief of a person they know), and, if the atmosphere is • As in “In a Vale,” the speaker imagines conducive in the class, take some time to hearing a voice. What does he guess the share their writings. These reflections may scythe may be whispering? cause students to be open to the reflections • What does he say that the scythe does on sorrow and death in Frost’s poetry. not whisper about? Following are additional questions for discus- • Why is this distinction of what is said sion of each of the poems on this topic. important to the speaker? “My November Guest” • What could the “facts” be that the • In what “beauties” does the speaker’s speaker refers to in this poem? “Sorrow” take pleasure? “Pan with Us” • Why might the poet not be able to tell • What is the action in the first three his “Sorrow” about the pleasure he stanzas? takes in “bare November days”? • In the last three stanzas, why does Pan “Stars” “toss his pipes”? • What is the image of the first stanza? • What does Pan choose for his music now? • How might someone feel in such • What songs might Pan (or the poet) play? a landscape? • How does this poem reflect • In the second stanza, where do the ideas in “Mowing”? the stars go at dawn? • How might this image apply to GRief/Dea Th where the speaker is heading? • In the third stanza, what is the From A Boy’s Will: “My November Guest,” simile the poet makes? What does “Stars,” “Spoils of the Dead,” and “The this show about the speaker’s feeling Trial by Existence” about the stars? From North of Boston: “The Death of the “Spoils of the Dead” Hired Man,” and “Home Burial” • What is the action in this poem? In the afterword to this volume, Peter Davi- son notes the sadness and turmoil Frost • What do the fairies do with the man’s experienced in his personal life. Frost “lost jewelry? two children to death in early childhood, • How does the speaker’s view of death another to insanity, another to death after differ from that of the fairies? childbirth, and still another (after the death • How does the tone of the poem of his wife, Elinor) to suicide” (pp. 145- change from beginning to end? 146). Given the personal tragedies Frost experienced, it seems inevitable that a strain • What might be an overall message of grief and, perhaps, bitterness would run of this poem? through his poetry. Review with the class one • What connection do you see between of the online biographical timelines such as this poem and “Stars”? “Robert Frost Biographical Information” http://www.ketzle.com/frost/frostbio.htm, “The Trial by Existence” mentioned earlier. Discuss the personal trials This is one of Frost’s more complex and Frost faced in his life. Ask students how they ambiguous poems and may be prot fi ably expect such experiences might affect his assigned as a challenge to the more able poetry. Also, ask students to journal about a 14 A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost students. The focus of the discussion as • How is the relationship between the always should elicit students’ personal man and woman revealed in their interpretations. physical postures toward each other? • What happens in this poem? • Does the man want to share the woman’s grief? How does he reveal • Why are the souls gathering? his attitude about her grief? • What choice is given the souls waiting • What does the woman find abhorrent for birth? in the man? • Why can the brave souls who • What does she find abhorrent about make the choice not remember death? that they did choose? • What does the last stanza reveal about • What is the effect of the trial by the relationship between the woman existence on the individual? and the man? • What view of human existence is expressed in this poem? Cha Ra CTe R s ke TChes After students have discussed this poem, in North of Bosto N an option is to assign them to read a critical interpretation such as Frost dedicated this book to his wife Elinor, “Frost, Schopenhauer, And ‘The calling it “this book of people.” These poems, Trial By Existence’” at http://personal. for the most part, depart from the lyricism of georgiasouthern.edu/jpellegr/ the poems of A Boy’s Will. Instead in North of articles/frostarticle.html Boston, Frost uses blank verse and colloquial speech in narrative, conversational poems as After noting key ideas in the critique, he depicts the attitudes and struggles of New students can reread the poem for a England farm people. His character sketches deeper analysis. of his subjects often reveal the effects of “The Death of the Hired Man” alienation and the loneliness of the life of the • What is the scene of the first stanza? small farmer. Because so many of these poems consist of dialogue, it is especially important • Why does Warren not want Silas back? that they be read aloud with realistic expres- • Why did Silas leave during the last sion. These poems often lend themselves to haying? being read in parts, as with Reader’s Theater. Following are suggested discussion questions • How has Mary received Silas? for poems not already covered. • What do Silas’ remarks about Harold “Mending Wall” Wilson and his troubled feelings about Harold reveal about Silas? • What is the meaning of the first four lines? What makes the gaps in the • How are Warren and Mary different stone wall? from each other? • Why do hunters tear apart a wall? • What does the poem reveal about their relationship? • Why might the speaker consider that rebuilding the wall with his neighbor is “Home Burial” “just another kind of out-door game”? • What happens in the first stanza? • In general, why might the saying that • Why hasn’t the man noticed the view “Good fences make good neighbors” of the graveyard at the top of the stairs? be true?A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost 15 • Why does the speaker not think • How does the scholar reveal that he that the saying is true for his and is a democrat only on principle? his neighbor’s wall? • Which of these two characters do you • What is it that the speaker imagines find the more trustworthy and why? does not love a wall? “The Black Cottage” • What does it tell us about the neighbor • What is the sequence of action that he won’t consider any other idea in this poem? about whether to maintain the wall? • What has made the cottage walls • What are the differences between the look black? speaker and his neighbor? • What does the interior of the cabin “The Mountain” look like? • What does the speaker see when he • Why does the cottage seem forsaken takes a walk at dawn? by the minister? • What is the image of the mountain as • How did the woman feel about the he speaks with the ox-cart driver? principle of equality? • How does the speaker’s imaginings • How does the minister feel about this about the mountain differ from the principle? view of the driver? • How was the woman innocent in the • Why doesn’t the driver want to climb minister’s eyes? the mountain? • What is the minister’s view of “truth”? • What is peculiar about the spring flow- • How is the last stanza different from ing from the top of the mountain, and the rest of the minister’s monologue? what is the natural explanation for this? “Blueberries” • How does the diction of the driver differ from that of the speaker, and • What is the image of the blueberries what does this suggest about their in the first stanza? personal differences? • Were the blueberries planted or wild? • How might this poem be interpreted • What kind of person is Loren? metaphorically? • Do you think the speakers of the poem “A Hundred Collars” should compete with Loren and his • In the first stanza, why does the family for the berries? scholar decide to spend the night • How is the meaning of the couplet at in Woodsville Junction? the end of the poem appropriate? • Why does he consider his fellow “A Servant to Servants” boarder a brute? • What does the speaker reveal • How are the two men different in about herself? physical appearance? • Why do you think that she doesn’t know • From the scholar’s actions and words, how she feels about things in her life? what do we discover about his character? • What does Lake Willoughby represent • How is the salesman’s character to her? different from the doctor’s? • What is her husband, Len, like?16 A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost • What motivates Len? • Why does the other helper stay? • What motivates the speaker of the poem? • What story does the helper tell? • How does the speaker feel about the • What caused the sense of dignity of pen in which her father kept her uncle? Sanders to be hurt? • What does the speaker see that she • Why didn’t Sanders fire the field hand? must do in life? • What is the moral of the story for the • Why is the person who has come to town-bred farmer to learn? camp so interesting to the speaker? “The Housekeeper” • Trace the change of subjects in the • What is the housekeeper doing when speaker’s conversation. What does this the speaker enters the house? reveal about her? • What has been the relationship of • How is the speaker’s life similar to her Estelle and her mother to John? mother’s? • What effect has Estelle’s leaving • What advice would you give the had on John? speaker? • Why hasn’t John married Estelle? “After Apple-Picking” • Why has Estelle left John? • What is the sequence of images in this • What do Estelle and John have poem? What is the first thing we see? in common? What next? • Why does the speaker consider • What explains the magnie fi d images the Estelle to be bad? speaker sees while drifting off to sleep? • Why does the mother call John a • Why has the speaker worked so hard at “dreadful fool”? picking apples? • What do we learn about the attitudes and • Has the harvest of apples been fullfi ling? values of the farmer and the two women? What in the poem supports your inter- pretation? “The Fear” • What will trouble the speaker’s sleep? • What is the action in this poem? Why? • What has the woman seen? • How might this sleep be like the wood- • What is she afraid of? chuck’s sleep? • What indicates that the woman has • How might you interpret this poem been afraid for a long while? metaphorically? For what might apple-picking be a metaphor? • What is Joel’s response when the man on the road identifies himself? • What effect does the rhyming in this poem have on your response to it? • What happens at the end? Why does the lantern hit the ground? “The Code” • What has contributed to the • What is the setting in the first stanza? woman’s fears? • What images do you see? “The Self-Seeker” • What has the “town-bred farmer” said? • What is the sequence of action • Why does the one helper head home? in this poem? • What has the farmer found out?A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost 17 • What has happened to the • What is the attitude of the lawyer injured worker? toward the worker? • What sort of mill has he been • What is Willis’ view of the agreement? working in? • Why is the worker so anxious to get • What has the injured worker’s the signing of the agreement over with? avocation been? • What does his gesture at the end of the • What can be inferred about Anne’s poem convey? love of wildflowers and her relationship to the injured worker? af Te R Rea Din G a CTivi Ties Now that students have been immersed in Robe RT fR os T Frost’s poetry, they can return to specific on s mybolism poems or sets of poems to engage in a deeper analysis of Frost’s themes and to relate Frost’s 1. Frost discusses his use of symbolism in his poems to other poetry they have read. They letters as quoted in Monteiro (1988): can also engage in various creative activities, I should be sorry if a single one of my such as Reader’s e Th atre and writing their own poems stopped with either of those poems modeled after Frost’s style or themes. things—stopped anywhere in fact. My poems—I should suppose everybody’s Coamp Rin G fR os T poems—are all set to trip the reader To l on Gfelowl head foremost into the boundless. Ever since infancy I have had the habit of The title of A Boy’s Will alludes to Henry leaving my blocks carts chairs and such Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “My Lost like ordinaries where people would be Youth.” Have students read Longfellow’s pretty sure to fall forward over them in poem at: Representative Poetry Online: the dark. Forward, you understand, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807- in the dark. I may leave my toys in the 1882) http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poem/ wrong place and so in vain. It is my 1335.html intention we are speaking of—my innate mischievousness. (Selected Letters After discussing Longfellow’s poem, ask stu- of Robert Frost, p. 344) dents to compare and contrast its poetic structure, tone and meaning with Frost’s “In After reading “Mending Wall,” or “The a Vale.” Alternatively, have students find a Wood-Pile,” ask students how these poems poem in A Boy’s Will that reflects the mean- “trip the reader” into considering the deeper ing, meter, or rhyme scheme of one of meanings suggested. Longfellow’s stanzas, or is counter to these 2. Frost also discusses the use of symbolism in features of Longfellow’s poem. Discuss with his talks at the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference students which of Frost’s poems resemble at Middlebury College in Connecticut. In that of the romantic poet and which have a “Being Let in on Symbols” Frost discusses the more realistic tone or perspective. value of metaphor and also that poetry should be understandable by the normal lit- erate person who has grown up with figura- tive language and not just by scholars. Have students listen to or read the transcript of this 18 A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost talk at: http://midddigital.middlebury.edu verse. Have students use the poem as a model /local_files/robert_frost/lectures_readings and write an eight-line poem about a trip /transcripts/1953_june_25.html, and then they have made that was important to them. ask them to discuss their own feelings when 2. In “The Generations of Men” in North of they n fi d it dic ffi ult to understand poetry that Boston, Frost plays with New England rural they are reading. Discuss the importance of diction in the speech of the young woman first getting the literal meaning as best they and more notably in the young man’s imita- can by taking the poems line-by-line, looking tion of Granny’s speech. After reading aloud up unfamiliar references, making connec- and discussing the speech patterns in this tions with their own experience, and then poem, assign students to identify persons or discussing with others possible deeper or groups whom they know with distinctive symbolic meaning in the poetry. “Into My speech patterns and listen carefully to bring Own” and “Stars” are good poems on which in examples of expressions and turns of to practice this way of reading for deeper phrase they hear. Then, have students com- meaning. pose a dialogue including the expressions they have heard. The dialogue can be written in poetic form, using iambic pentameter, Respon Din G To The C Ri Ti Cs figurative language, or stanzas. 1. One of Frost’s contemporaries, the poet 3. Nature is often the setting and at times the Amy Lowell, opines that North of Boston “is subject of Frost’s poems. After reading the the epitome of a decaying New England.” poems listed under the “Beauty and Power of Have students read the review and its com- Nature” topic in the During Reading section ments about the various poems, and choosing of this guide, modify the guided imagery one poem write a personal review that supports activity described there to have students first or refutes Lowell’s comment. Her review is identify a difficult problem or challenge they at: Review-a-Day—Poems by Robert Frost: are currently facing and then go to the natu- A Boy’s Will and North of Boston http://www. ral setting for reflection. Have them become powells.com/review/2001_05_17.html conscious of the sights, sounds, and odors of 2. John F. Lynen in The Pastoral Art of Robert the setting and then reflect on the problem. Frost (1960) published by Yale University Perhaps you can have them meet a favorite Press (New Haven, CT) compares Frost to person or someone they consider wise, tell William Wordsworth and states that, unlike that person their problem, and listen to his or Wordsworth, “Frost views nature as essen- her advice. Immediately after the guided tially alien….he looks at nature across an imagery, have students write freely a narrative impassable gulf.” Have students read “Nature of their experience. Ask students to compose and Pastoralism” at http://www.frostfriends. a poem of their own structure or modeled org/FFL/Nature%20and%20Pastoral after one of Frost’s such as “A Late Walk,” ism%20-%20Lynen/lynenessay1.html. “Rose Pogonias,” or “Waiting: Ae fi ld at Dusk.” Ask students to outline Lynen’s comparison of Frost with Wordsworth, and then choose Rea De R’s Thea TRe one of the poems in A Boy’s Will and analyze it discussing the relationship of the speaker to Students can create a Reader’s Theatre pre- the natural world. sentation of a poem. Poems in this volume that especially lend themselves to dramatic wR i Tin G p oe TRy readings are: From A Boy’s Will: “Asking for Roses” 1. In its regular meter and rhyme, “Flower- From North of Boston: “e Th Death of the Hired Gathering” in A Boy’s Will makes a good poem Man,” “A Hundred Collars,” “Home Burial,” for students to emulate in writing their own A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost 19 “Blueberries,” “e Th Code,” “e Th Generations version can be typed and duplicated, of Men,” “e Th Housekeeper,” and “e Th Fear.” if the students wish. Students create a script from the poem they e. Students choose the parts they will select and then perform, assuming the voice read; one person is needed for each of the narrator and characters. They do not character, plus one for a narrator. use physical action; rather, the interpretation f. Students read through the poem once or of events and characters must come through twice, stopping as they wish to discuss voice, gestures, and facial expressions. Students the characters and how to interpret do not memorize their parts, and elaborate (deliver) their lines. They should decide props or costumes are not needed. what facial expressions and gestures Steps to create a Reader’s Theater Script: will make the characters come alive and practice voice inflections, pronuncia- a. Choose a poem or a section for the tions, speed, and other vocalizations. longer poems. g. Readers stand or sit together in one b. Make copies of the poem and highlight place. If standing, they may step forward the dialogue. to read their lines. Props and costumes c. Adapt the poem by adding a narrator’s are not necessary but simple ones may line to set the scene and bridge gaps. be used. Students should concentrate on interpreting the characters as fully d. Students assume roles and read the as possible for their listeners. poem aloud, revising the text until they are satisfied with the effect. The final Usef Ul o nline Reso URCes brief biographical essay and links to a variety aDD i Tional of Frost’s poems and also biographical Robe RT fR os T p oems sketches and criticism. Teachers may wish to refer students to other popular poems of Frost outside of those col- Robert Frost: America’s Poet http://www. lected in this edition. ketzle.com/frost/ This site, maintained by Jeff Ketzle, links to additional poems from the volumes: New Hampshire (including Links to all of the poems in A Mountain Inter- “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” “Stopping by val, Frost’s third volume of poetry including Woods on a Snowy Evening”); West-Running “The Road Not Taken,” “Birches,” “The Hill Brook (“Tree at my Window,” “Acquainted Wife,” and “‘Out, Out—’” can be found at A with the Night”); A Further Range (“Two Mountain Interval: http://www.bartleby.com Tramps in Mudtime”); and others. Also /119/index2.html included are links to a detailed biographical timeline and other resources. Miscellaneous Poems to 1920 http://www. bartleby.com/155/ includes “e Th Axe Helve,” PoemHunter.com: Robert Frost http:// “Fire and Ice,” and “Good-by and Keep Cold.” www.poemhunter.com/robert-frost/ Contains links to 116 poems listed in alphabetical From The Academy of American Poets: order for ease of finding. Also links to a bio- Robert Frost http://www.poets.org/poet. graphical sketch and a multitude of quota- php/prmPID/192 This Webpage includes a tions taken from the poems.20 A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost mU l Time Dia CRi Ti Cal Reviews Robert Frost Out Loud http://robertfrost- “The Art of Poetry No. 2 Robert Frost” outloud.com/ Links to poems read by Frost, http://www.parisreview.com/media/4678_ accompanied with text, including: FROST.pdf From A Boy’s Will—“To the Thawing Wind,” A 1960 interview of Frost published in the “Mowing,” “The Tuft of Flowers,” “October,” Paris Review. He discusses his early years, and “Reluctance.” some of his acquaintances in England, such as Pound and Eliot, and some of his poetry, From North of Boston—“The Pasture,” such as “The Subverted Flower.” “Mending Wall,” “A Hundred Collars,” and “After Apple Picking.” The Poetry Foundation: Robert Frost From Mountain Interval—several poems (1874-1963) http://www.poetryfoundation. including “The Road Not Taken.” org/archive/poet.html?id=2361 Some poems have a different reader. A critical review of Frost’s work. It includes discussion of Frost’s style, use of colloquial Robert Frost http://town.hall.org/radio/ speech, metrical form, New England region- HarperAudio/012294_harp_ITH.html alism, and views of life and nature found in his poetry. Also includes summaries of his Here are more poems read by Frost. Several published books of poetry and comments on are grouped together on the same audio files, his significance as an American poet. so individual poems may be hard to find. But includes many of the popular poems such as “The Death of the Hired Man” and “Birches.” The Friends of Robert Frost http://www. frostfriends.org/ Poetry Everywhere http://www.pbs.org/ This is an essential site for teachers which has wgbh/poetryeverywhere/frost.html helped inform this guide on teaching Frost’s poems. Resources here include a tutorial for Here is a video of Frost reading “Stopping by students, a Frost library, a biography, and a Woods on a Snowy Evening.” chronology. Modern American Poetry: A Robert Frost The Robert Frost Tutorial http://www. Exhibit http://www.english.illinois.edu/ frostfriends.org/tutorial.html maps/poets/a_f/frost/exhibit.htm This site gathers a variety of resources for the This site contains a variety of images of Frost, student including links to biography and places he lived, book covers, and a hand- criticism. Especially useful is the “The Poetics written manuscript. of Robert Frost” which includes instruction on Frost’s use of figurative language, imagery, Robert Frost—A Chronology http://www. meter, and other devices. frostfriends.org/chronology.html Together with the detailed chronology of Frost’s life are pictures of Frost and his family.A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of Poems by Robert Frost 21 b ooks in pR in T Refe Ren Ces Frost, R. (1995). Collected Poems, Prose, Frost, R. (1954). On teaching poetry. and Plays. (New York: Library of America). Retrieved February 17, 2010, from Robert This comprehensive volume of Frost’s work Frost at Bread Loaf: An Online Exhibit Pre- also contains notes on the texts and a detailed sented by Special Collections at Middlebury chronology. College: http://midddigital.middlebury.edu/ local_files/robert_frost/lectures_readings/ Walsh, J. E. (1988). Into My Own: The English Years of Robert Frost, 1912-1915. Frost, R. (1964). Selected Letters of Robert (NY: Grove Press). Frost L. Thompson, (Ed.). New York, NY: Holt. Thompson, L. & Winnick, R. H. (1981). Robert Frost: A Biography, one-volume ed. Monteiro, G. (1988) “Linked Analogies.” (NY: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston). Retrieved February 17, 2010, from Robert Frost and the New England Renaissance: http://www.frostfriends.org/FFL/ Frost%20%26%20NE%20Renaissance %20-%20Monteiro/monteirotitle.html a bo UT The U a T ho R of This G Ui De JAMES E. Mc GLINN, Professor of Educa- interests currently focus on motivating and tion at the University of North Carolina at increasing the reading achievement of stu- Asheville, teaches methods of teaching and dents in high school and college. He is the reading courses. He has taught high school author and editor of numerous Penguin English and developmental reading to stu- Teachers’ Guides. dents age 6 through adulthood. His research a bo UT The eD i To R of This G Ui De JEANNE M. Mc GLINN, Professor in the Language Experience Special Interest Group Department of Education at the University of the International Reading Association. She of North Carolina at Asheville, teaches Chil- has written extensively in the area of adoles- dren’s and Adolescent Literature and directs cent literature, including a critical book on the field experiences of 9-12 English licen- the historical fiction of adolescent writer Ann sure candidates. She serves on various edito- Rinaldi for Scarecrow Press Young Adult rial and professional boards, such as the Writers series.