Reflection on Ethical Values and Symbolism in Poetry

Have you ever hypothetically pondered the details of your own fatality? Everyone covets a bit of certainty that not many realities allow, but mortality -while a glum concept- is a definite fate we will all ultimately encounter in our respective lifetimes. “Nothing is more predictable than death. Each of us will die without any need to take adventuresome risks. ” (Kelly, 1986). This is likely the reason prolific poets Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost have created quite similar themed poems using dissimilar imaginative slants in which they optimistically convey the topic of human transience.

Death is a disheartening, tragic matter that not very many individuals readily wish to discuss. Because ephemerality is, however, an extremely ordinary notion to countless expressive artists, it is vital to notice the literary elements these renowned authors applied which set such works apart from less potent pieces. The symbolism, tone, assonance, rhythm, and other literary techniques behind the elegies “Nothing Gold Can Stay” (Frost, 1969) and “Because I could not stop for Death” (Dickinson, 1893) fervently beg for further exploration.

No matter which approach authors apply to such deviations, one truth remains; the amount of life contained in the works by Frost and Dickinson is somewhat ironic to say the least. If you envision the scenery described in literary pieces you read as if you are a participating, fictional character, you exceptionally possess “The human power that shapes artistic expression… ” (Clugston, 2010 a).

Put in simpler terms, you clearly have a vivid imagination! Prodigious writers can and will effortlessly incorporate such imagery into their work by imploring the implicit values of society and culture(s).

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Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost (1969) is unquestionably far from the exception as he connects the way leaves grow, change, and die to our eventual demise with ease. Frost wrote, “Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. ” (Frost, 1969). With the introduction of this allusive writing technique, he develops a clear yet slightly ambiguous mental picture for his readers to envisage. Of course, we know nature is not a person nor does have hands in which it could literally grasp a color.

Hence, the meaning of Robert’s words is symbolic and figurative. Sure, Mr. Frost could very well have written something resembling “Beings age like leaves change colors. ” Instead, this brilliant poet was aware of the fact that generating embodiment versus the aforementioned simile delivers the most enticing reading experience to the audience. In “Because I could not stop for Death” (Dickinson, 1893), the author similarly dishes out a full serving of powerful metaphors making this another comparable aspect to personification found in Frosts’ poem.

At the very beginning, Emily Dickinson refers to unescapable, human cessation as a chivalrous gentleman when she states, “Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me;” (Dickinson, 1893). The author is actually being extremely facetious as a deliberate, artistic maneuver in order to give life to the darkest of subjects. She selects to represent passing away in a more graceful process. It is a steady flowing motif continuing throughout the body of this work to form a concise, elucidating theme. From centuries beyond the grave, the narrator describes the peaceful process of her passing, in which Death is personified and escorts her in his carriage. During the leisurely ride, she passes many ordinary sights: a school house, fields–but finally realizes that the ride will last for all eternity. ” (Chen & Aull, 1993). Dickinson’s apparent intention in this poem is depiction via exemplification. Her language is a quintessential representation of an allegory with more thought provocation than verity.

Again, readers should prepare themselves to observe a nonliteral or rhetorical scenario and focus on ascertaining the seriousness hidden behind a much more abstract meaning. Symbolism is another conceptualized, literary element featured in both stories despite being more prevalent in “Nothing Gold Can Stay” (Frost, 1969). Frost used the typical colors of nature (green and gold) imply symbols of spring, that progress as the remaining cycles of nature seasonally occur. Furthermore, he hints at a deeper meaning behind death— a period of transformational change.

In order to appreciate this impression, “Recall Socrates’s argument: ‘the state of death is one of two things: either the dead man wholly ceases to be and loses all consciousness or, as we are told, it is change and a migration of the soul to another place’. ” (Deppman, 2000). He picked the color gold to symbolize the fragility and eventual insignificance of even our most valuable physical and emotional possessions. By his statement, “Then leaf subsides to leaf, So, Eden sank to grief. ” (Frost, 1969), Frost selects to demonstrate the sorrow felt after loss of life as well as depicting an analogous allusion to the biblical Creation story.

Whereas in “Because I could not stop for Death” (1893), Emily Dickinson poses a more unconventional attitude toward her own demise. In lines five through eight, she writes, “We slowly drove, he knew no haste, And I had put away, My labor, and my leisure too, For his civility. ” (Dickinson, 1893). When the speaker refers to ‘his’ “kindness” and “civility”, she is articulating death as a slow, patient, and compassionate. “She progresses from childhood, maturity (the “gazing grain” is ripe) and the setting (dying) sun to her grave.

The children are presented as active in their leisure (“strove”). The images of children and grain suggest futurity, that is, they have a future; they also depict the progress of human life. ” (Unknown Author, 2009). Thus, the carriage ride actually symbolizes the act of abandoning her life and the memories it contained. She humbly revers death as the calm, quiet finally of incarnation. Dickinson even insinuated the harsh reality of visiting of her own grave when she wrote, “We paused before a house that seemed, A swelling of the ground; The roof was scarcely visible, The cornice but a mound. (Dickinson, 1893). Aging to the point of loss of life does remain the central theme inside both poems, but representations are a tad more distinct in Frosts’ than in Dickinson’s symbolic approach. Have you ever witnessed one’s mood shift completely? Authors generally try to maintain the same theme throughout one work. It is equally as important to discern the how the author’s tones contribute to the clarity of each piece. Sometimes, whether done by the author accidentally or with intent, we observe a change in the mood(s) of a motif.

While Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost mutually demonstrate the qualities of human temporariness, their tones are also diverse. By writing, “Nothing Gold Can Stay” (Frost, 1969), the permanent state of leaving this world is denoted in a matter of fact way. Frost does not truly elude to his personal outlook on an afterlife, but focuses more on the cycle of life itself. Dickinson not only utilizes the same facet, but also takes it a step further when she states, “Since then ’tis centuries, and yet each, Feels shorter than the day I first surmised the horses’ heads, Were toward eternity. (Dickinson, 1893). She began her countenance with succinct tenor that later becomes a bit clouded. Dickinson’s audience receives a definite resolve rather than experiencing the need to imply ideals she holds about her faith. Each of these poems is incredibly whimsical, but Frost concisely manipulates the setting of nature giving his work the currency of application to any period in time. Sound patterns are another inspired technique both composers have exposed us to in the intricacy of their work. We automatically follow the rhythm these superb authors display.

For instance, Frost uses alliteration in “Nothing Gold Can Stay” when he writes, “So dawn goes down to day. ” (Frost, 1969). The repetition of words that begin with a “d” is a strategy meant to make the thought stronger and more emphatic for readers. His rhyme scheme is comprised of modest, consonant couplets (non-alternating). Dickinson actually used the complete opposite effect. In her poem “Because I could not stop for Death” (Dickinson, 1893), she integrated the repetition of vowel sounds by presenting an alternating pattern of words known as assonance.

Again, an example is unmistakable in the lines, “We slowly drove, he knew no haste, And I had put away, My labor, and my leisure too, For his civility. ” (Dickinson, 1893) and more specifically the poetic harmony of the words “away” and “civility. ” With the rhythm in this poem, there is rhyme, but it has a much greater reliance on pronunciation. She may have started a trend in literature as, “Assonance is frequently substituted for end rhymes in modern poetry. ” (Clugston, 2010 b). The authoring style Frost exercised was extra simplistic, yet multidimensional as well.

Is it not an astounding conception to think of the distinguished artistry that must have went into two ostensibly austere compositions about the matching theme of impermanence? The fact that we cannot artlessly disregard the scholarly adeptness and literate gifts of Dickinson and Frost is surpasses distinction. Even more significant than the expiry themes both versifiers applied is the presence of underlying secondary themes. Frost hints life as being “golden,” leading one to surmise he is ‘saying’ to “Carpe Diem” or “Enjoy the day. (Online Etymology Dictionary, 2010). Therein, he selects to show life has precious intrinsic worth. Even though there are purity and a biblical reference in Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” (1969), his nature theme additionally highlights environmental/scientific characteristics. Syntax expended by Dickinson in “Because I could not stop for death” (Dickinson, 1893), in fact, alludes to a compassion and sympathy being felt for the persona. A prime example is her statement, “The carriage held but just ourselves, And Immortality. ” (Dickinson, 1893).

If the dramatic concentration of this author was to deliver a graceful reflection on her evolution, she was unequivocally efficacious. Some find it helpful to get an outsider’s opinion of the depressing conversational topic of human immortality. While our passing lingers as a fully common subject for individuals to contemplate spiritual principles, authors have written pieces that include a plethora of other beneficial notions worth uncovering. “Because I could not stop for Death” (Dickinson, 1893) is exquisitely illustrated by Emily Dickinson and venerated as an allegoric requiem with assonance that produced solid imagery.

Likewise, Robert Frost impeccably regulated “Nothing Gold Can Stay” (Frost, 1969) to communicate symbolism with a classic form of consonance that is painless to identify. Both literature icons fine-tuned those components with figures of speech, personification, and tone and themes, rhyme schemes, and other literary techniques all requiring immense, prior critical thought in “Nothing Gold Can Stay” (Frost, 1969) and “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” (Dickinson, 1893).

They expel an aura of chirpiness that renders as a refreshing and unique outlook encompassed in positivity. These poetic mavens wanted their audience(s) to derive a deeper message about making the most of our lives. Two notorious, inspirational pieces of literature are calling upon us to take some risks and make an impression before we take our last breathe.

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Reflection on Ethical Values and Symbolism in Poetry. (2016, Sep 16). Retrieved from

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