Analysis of Imagery Used in Robert Frost’s "To Earthward"

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Words: 979 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Mar 19, 2020

Words: 979|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Mar 19, 2020

Robert Frost was a famous American poet that is well known for his philosophical poems that are rich in detail. Frost’s poem “To Earthward” was published in 1923 and illustrates the naivety and sweetness of a past love, and how when one grows old such a love will be coveted once again.

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In Robert Frost’s “To Earthward”, the speaker looks back on a youthful romance and describes it as all consuming, before moving on to the present and how life has changed. Through the inclusion of diction, figurative language, and his comparisons to nature and the past, the speaker resonates his message within the reader. In “To Earthward”, Frost included a set of four stanzas in which a speaker reflected on a past love. The first stanza is rich with imagery and includes the phrase, “Love at the lips was touch/ As sweet as I could bear”. This phrase brings forth the image of kissing without using the word itself; the speaker’s youthful romance was centered upon sweet kisses. The speaker then invokes the image of a besotted love with the lines, “And once that seemed to much;/ I lived on air”. When the couple was not kissing, merely being in each other’s presence was enough to keep them content, and breathing the same air was just as sweet as the many kisses they shared.

The first stanza of the poem employs imagery to illustrate a young couple in love and stresses that the simple act of breathing together was enough to be satisfied. Frost’s second and third stanzas include the speaker’s memory of himself and a lover in a meadow. The speaker recounts an experience, “Downhill at dusk” that made him, “Swirl and ache”. The inclusion of this diction alludes to a feeling of lightheadedness; the speaker took his lover to watch the sunset, and his lightheadedness surely came from the combination of sweet-smelling flowers and his blissful love. The sweet smell came, “From sprays of honeysuckle, That when gathered shake, Dew on the knuckle”. While in the meadow, the speaker picked honeysuckles for his lover, and they left dew from the cooling dusk air behind on his hands. The speaker’s syntax in these lines ends the stanza on a rhyme, continuing the pattern from preceding stanzas. The diction and syntax included in the second and third stanzas indict a dreamy feeling, reflecting the speaker’s own lightheadedness and feelings towards his lover.

Frost’s fourth stanza is the last one that reflects upon the past, and symbols of sweets and roses are included to depict a young love. The speaker claims he, “Craved strong sweets, but those/ Seemed strong when I was young”. He is referring to his inexperience as a young man; now that he is older, he realizes that his love, in the beginning, was pure and untainted by reality. He thought that his love could conquer anything but now realizes that maintaining a relationship takes work. He goes on to state that, “The petal of the rose/ It was that stung”. The speaker is touching on the fact that love is often bittersweet. Reality caught up with him, and his rose petal, a symbol for his lover, caused him pain in the end. His innocent love turned out to not be as steadfast as he thought it was.

The final four stanzas take the reader back to the present, and once again there is a change in diction. In the fifth and sixth stanzas, the speaker is now in a relationship that has no spark, and instead of using the word sweet to describe his encounters, he now uses the word “Salt”. His current encounters have “No joy” and leave him plagued by “Weariness”. Although his first love caused him great pain, from her he also received great sweetness and companionship. The speaker wants to experience this once again, and states, “I crave the stain, Of tears, the aftermark, Of almost too much love, The sweet of bitter bark, And burning clove”. His relationship with his current lover contains no excitement, and he would rather experience a love affair that is tumultuous and deep than one without passion. He realizes that the bittersweet relationship he once had is what he longs for now; he wants an overwhelming love that will bring him to tears.

The final two stanzas conclude the poem with a somber tone by including comparisons to nature and the past. The speaker is now starting to succumb to old age, and he realizes that life without a passionate love is not worth it. He states that, “When stiff and sore and scarred I take away my hand From leaning on it hard In grass and sand, The hurt is not enough”. Though he once laid in meadows with his young lover and watched sunsets, he now leaves the place that once gave him such sweetness; the feelings he has for his current lover come nowhere near surpassing those he once felt for another. He solemnly says, “I long for weight and strength To feel the earth as rough To all my length”. While yearning for his younger years, the speaker realizes that at his age this fantasy love will never be. He asks to once again feel the rough earth along his body like he did in his youth, only this time requests it in death instead of a romantic sequence.

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Robert Frost’s “To Earthward” is a poem deep with rich imagery and detail that is spoken through the lens of a man who has lost a deep love. Now suffering from old age, he longs to feel passion once more and resonates this feeling within his reader by changing his diction and figurative language throughout the stanzas. Ultimately, the lack of a passionate love proved too much for the speaker, and he asked for death in the wake of his sorrow.

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Analysis Of Imagery Used In Robert Frost’S “To Earthward”. (2020, March 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 25, 2024, from
“Analysis Of Imagery Used In Robert Frost’S “To Earthward”.” GradesFixer, 16 Mar. 2020,
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