Excerpt from Theodore Maynard's Review of Robert Frost's poetry

- By Appeared in the New York Times, Sunday, June 27, 1920
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Snow the Predominant Note in Robert Frost’s Poetry
Robert Frost’s Skill
1) But I would like to draw my reader’s attention to Frost’s skill in packing a line. His words close in and dovetail upon one another. He uses no sawdust and wastes no words. This, of course, is the result of intense intellectual clarity, combined with repeated pruning, the excision of everything not absolutely essential. It has its drawbacks, of course, chief of which is a stiffness which is occasionally, but very occasionally evident in his work. But then, everybody who packs poetry tightly suffers under some drawback – generally one that is much worse than stiffness. Browning and still more Father Gerard Hopkins, often pack so closely as to lose all intelligibility. That never happens to Frost, who is invariably lucid.
2) The firm precision, however, which often characterizes him is, I think, a real defect. He has the New Englander’s limitations along with the New Englander’s noble gifts. He has grace, but very little glamour. It is the custom these days to sneer at glamour, to consider it a cheap affair. “Let us feed the scoffers upon solid food, not thin air!” Quite so; still, without denying the necessity of solid food, I will assert that glamour has been the breath of life to English poetry. I do not say to all poetry, but to poetry written in English. We are of the North, and our language has a symbolistic, rather than the ideological, quality of the Latin languages of the South. Mystery is in our blood, and without it we would become anemic.
3) Robert Frost’s poverty of glamour is to my mind a defect, and allied to it is his feeble capacity for praise. There is about him a curious absence of exultation and exaltation – the two principal marks of the major poet. But Robert Frost is beyond any question in a major poetry. How, then, you ask, can he be that if he has these specified defects? That is Robert Frost’s secret. Instead of glamour, he has the most piercing poignancy; for praise he substitutes irony, for spiritual exaltation a tender beauty, forever close to the earth and the children of the earth. A Cold Landscape
4) This leads me to offer the remark with which I nearly opened my essay. If I had to sum up Frost with a word, I would use the word “frost.” Winter flies over all his landscape; his brooks are sealed with ice and his hills covered with snow. I have not calculated the exact proportion of poems which are pictures of snow, but to make a rough guess rather more than half definitely refer to winter. The remainder, with few exceptions, suggests the winter. His spring poems are full of the remembrance of snow; his autumn poems are full of the anticipation of snow. It is not simply that he describes a snow-bound world, like Whittier. The snow has taken possession of his mind.

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Word Lists:

Glamour : an attractive or exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing

Dovetail : a joint formed by one or more tapered projections (tenons) on one piece which interlock with corresponding notches or recesses (mortises) in another.

Anemic : (of a person) suffering from anemia

Poignancy : the quality of evoking a keen sense of sadness or regret

Exaltation : a feeling or state of extreme happiness

Drawback : a feature that renders something less acceptable; a disadvantage or problem

Clarity : the quality of being coherent and intelligible

Ideological : based on or relating to a system of ideas and ideals, especially concerning economic or political theory and policy

Exultation : a feeling of triumphant elation or jubilation; rejoicing

Poetry : literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm; poems collectively or as a genre of literature


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Rating: A

Words: 510

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