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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Number 90: Robert Frost "Fragmentary Blue"

Fragmentary Blue

Why make so much of fragmentary blue
In here and there a bird, or butterfly,
Or flower, or wearing-stone, or open eye,
When heaven presents in sheets the solid hue?

Since earth is earth, perhaps, not heaven (as yet)--
Though some savants make earth include the sky;
And blue so far above us comes so high,
It only gives our wish for blue a whet.

--Robert Frost

Hap Notes: I have to apologize for the two-day gap. I'm on jury duty and still trying to do my writing work and trying to keep up with the dishes (there are so many of them in the sink I have heard them murmuring about starting their own government). I don't mean to complain about jury duty- it's one of the great honors and rights of being a voting citizen in America. I'm mostly whining about my lack of time management skills.

Let's go to the poem. Essential to the understanding of this poem is what one feels when looking at the sky. What does the vast open blue sky make you feel? Is the beauty something you love and perhaps covet as a distinct part of your personal appreciation? Does the vault of heaven make you think of God or nature and the power, lushness and mystery of life? Is is just a very pretty color? Frost is saying something about human desire- is it that we always want more? Do we dream of the heaven we were taught exists after death? What is it that you think of when you see a beautiful blue sky? What does it stand for when you see it?

Now you may say, it's just the sky- it's just a collection of molecules that bend the light into the blue spectrum. So is THAT what you think of each time you see the blue of the sky? Is there something free and liberating about that blue "air" overhead- something that makes you think there's more to life than just existence on the ground?

Frost is asking why it is that when we (maybe you, maybe not you) look at a patch of blue color on a bird's wing or bit of blue on a butterfly or when you see an extraordinarily blue flower or eye, we make much of it- we see it as wonderful. He's asking why do we think it's so special when the sky above us, which is so vast, is a darn big lot of blue. It seems as though life has an abundance of the color -- even though we cannot get too close to it... even though it's, maybe, illusion.

Is it better to own a piece of blue or have the sky, which we share with everyone? Is that little flash of blue on a bird's wing more precious because the blue of the sky is so far away? Does the sky whet our appetite for a closer communion with it? It's a tiny poem with a big question; what is so special about blue if we see it almost every day overhead? Why do little bits of the color attract us? He's using the sky as an example of that ineffable, unattainable "stuff" we want whether it's freedom, beauty, communion with God, or a "one-ness" with nature. It's a small, but interesting observation, isn't it?

Frost leaves it up to your perception of blue as to what it symbolizes to you when you see the sky. But almost everyone has a some sort of feeling whether it is longing or satisfaction when they gaze at the sky out of their window at work, or standing at the edge of a lake, or climbing a mountain or just hanging around outside. What is that feeling?

And just what does he mean when he says "Since earth is earth"? Is he talking about the ground or is he maybe talking about the people and what they are like? When he says it's not heaven "as yet" that's Frost coming out and winking at you a bit. Will earth ever be heaven?

We've done Frost before and here's where the first one is if you want to refresh your memory about him:

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