When I go up through the mowing field,
The headless aftermath,
Smooth-laid like thatch with the heavy dew,
Half closes the garden path.
And when I come to the garden ground,
The whir of sober birds
Up from the tangle of withered weeds
Is sadder than any words
A tree beside the wall stands bare,
But a leaf that lingered brown,
Disturbed, I doubt not, by my thought,
Comes softly rattling down.
I end not far from my going forth
By picking the faded blue
Of the last remaining aster flower
To carry again to you.
….. Robert Frost
Robert Frost is a well known poet, known for his monologues; he does not need any introduction, so I shall go directly to his poem ‘A Late Walk’.
The title of the poem itself suggests the relativity of the present moment in time- it is past the moment that was perfect. The perfection may be of the poet’s life, of the season, or the day. It may be the poet’s individual experience which he has elevated to the whole of universe. The rattling leaf, the whir of sober birds, the withered weeds- they are not merely signs of an outward gloom. They represent a disharmony and imperfection too. And this imperfection may very well be that in the mind of the poet. May be he has not been able to preserve something precious to him, or in him, something which was not only worldly, but something transcendent too. May be he has lost his wholeness, so that he is doubtful that even the dry brown leaf may be disturbed by his thoughts. Earlier, he has scared the birds hidden in withered weeds.
This brings us to two things. The first is that the disharmony and gloom outside is natural. The imagery of autumn tells us that. At the same time, the the fear and discord has also been created by the man himself. Like, the birds get disturbed by the poet’s presence. The dying leaf is, feared by the poet that it may have been disturbed by his thoughts. At a certain level, whole of the nature is communicating with each other wordlessly. Discord at one place creates a discord everywhere. For example, when Macbeth kills the king, the birds cry all night and the the horses in the stable fight with each other indicating to the general public that something terrible has happened.
The poet is self conscious of having lost, or about to be losing, something precious. It may be his own self. The ‘you’ that he talks about in the last line may be his own consciousness, and gifting it the last aster may be his last attempt at saving his conscience. The personal being of a poet is not limited to his individual self, rather the the whole of the universe is engrossed in it. Of course, the ‘you’ can be his dying love too, which may be a person or a thing or an idea or ideal much adored by him.
The symbol of evening is also very striking. It is sad. The birds are whirring in the ‘withered weeds’. The general tone of melancholy becomes obvious with ‘ sadder than any words’. But, at the same time, evening comes and goes away with a promise of new dawn. Moreover, it is ‘a late walk’ not ‘the last walk’.
…Sahar Raman Deep
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