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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Number 95: Robert Frost "Spring Pools"

Spring Pools
These pools that, though in forests, still reflect
The total sky almost without defect,
And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver,
Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone,
And yet not out by any brook or river,
But up by roots to bring dark foliage on.
The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods --
Let them think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
These flowery waters and these watery flowers
From snow that melted only yesterday.

-- Robert Frost

Hap Notes: Frost is often a bundle of seeming contradictions. What is he saying in this poem, that he hates summer? That brutal trees suck up all the spring pools beneath them and darken the woods? Or maybe, that nothing, even as beautiful as these puddles of water under the bare trees which reflect early blossoming flowers, can last?

Winter is a time of survival, especially in the Northeastern part of the U.S. where Frost was living. The melting snow, the first blossoms, the reflected sky, the buds on the trees all stand as a mark that winter is over, one has survived another cold snowy season and life is returning anew to the earth. Does Frost really want the trees to not "use their powers" to drink up the water and grow? Does he think that will happen, that the trees will "think twice"?

There's something going on in this lovely poem with its "flowery waters" and its "watery flowers" aside from the declaration that summer is coming on too fast. It has to do with the passage of time, survival, growth and loneliness. Any contradiction in the poem is really supplied by nature who gives with one gesture as it takes with another. Is Frost, perhaps, encouraging us to "think twice" about the passing of the seasons and the delicacy of the beauty of the spring before we go to another phase of our lives?

Think how this poem also replicates the human condition. Nobody packs a pretty poem with more dangerous, lonely and mysterious stuff than Frost and a lot of that is because he is describing the supreme mysteries of life and death.

It's a good poem for the coming spring as we watch the land changing in our eyeblink of existence. Everything changes- and sometimes that seems dark and forlorn and we are filled with a sadness at the passing loveliness of life.


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