You know, the universe is too much

By: Anjali Anjali ARUMUGANAMBI S6ENA

“‘Courage is the human virtue that counts the most. Courage to act on limited knowledge’. Everybody has said that courage is the greatest virtue, but the point of what I said was, we have got to go ahead on limited knowledge. A general must go into battle on limited knowledge, insufficient knowledge”  And that is the virtue of courage. Unafraid despite the terror shaking your legs and chattering your teeth.

Robert Frost – 1952 Interview 

Robert Frost was an American poet (1874 – 1963), known and admired for his world-renowned poetry. Today he is recognized as a distinguished figure, who left an impact on the history of the art.

Frost was, for most of his adult life often caught in heavy slumps of depression (which seems, unfortunately, characteristic of all the great artists). However, it is during these years, that he produced and published some of his best works that are known and studied internationally, by children from all over the world.

The humble origin of his poetry comes back to his teenage years. Those awful couple of years, where everything is changing, your life feels like its accelerating so fast, and you just cannot seem to understand who you are beneath your skin. Frost used poetry, during times of difficulty, to overcome certain challenges in his life. Especially in his earlier poems, he always seems to be fighting emotions inside him, searching for a purpose, to find something. Perhaps it was freedom? Maybe he was searching for an understanding of who he really was.

Frost’s poetry serves as a documentation of the journey he has made, and through it, he portrays to the reader every ordeal, every emotion and thought he faced. In dissecting his works, we are invited in on his deepest emotions, how your feelings are staring at the world, breaking the shell of your eye and learning to see with your heart. This style of writing allows people to identify with him. When they read his works that can think, “hey, I’ve felt that too”

His poetry is very much a reflection of his journey as a person; much of his poetry is heavily reliant on symbolism, and he often grapples with the ideas of Life and Death. Following the earlier pretence, it is evident why. His poetry shows that as he aged, his thoughts and opinions also matured; And the world which he left, was not the same one he entered.

There is a certain quality in his works that gives him the ability to reach out to people everywhere and connect with them. He never did say outright, in any interview (and any statements in his works likely slipped my interpretation) what the aim of his works were. Therefore, I think if he were allowed to come back from the dead to see just for a moment the impact of his art, I think he would smile.

Further reading; a collection of poems accompanied by their analyses: https://instituteofeducation.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Robert-Frost-Notes.pages-compressed.pdf

Have fun 🙂

Viewer Discretion: The following paragraphs contain poetry analysis

I would like to merely make a brief mention of a certain one of his poems, one of my favourites. If you have read this far, I implore you to read the rest. If at least I can leave you with a fleeting memory of this poem, I will have succeeded in fulfilling the purpose of this piece of writing.

Robert Frost’s “Acquainted with the night”, published in 1927.

This poem has quite some significance, especially during the current times. Initially it was months of isolation that we had to persevere through, and now, the impending doom of a global war looming over us. This poem speaks about a depression and forlornness that has had an impact on everyone around the world today, some more than others. This poem was published much later than his initial works, demonstrating a new phase of his growth. His values are no longer concerning the development around him; His surroundings concern him little, as at this point, he is almost living entirely in the emotions in his head.

The main subject of the poem is a walker, whose primary action is roaming a city at night. During his walk, he explores the town during the later hours of the day, essentially “acquainting” himself with the night. He comes across a few characters and experiences which are a couple of odd occurrences, such as the watchman with whom no words are exchanged, the cry of another’s pain and suffering, the light of the clock against the sky, time ticking away steadily. He is getting to understand, familiarising himself with his darkness. He is getting to know the manner of the night, the darkness in his life, in himself, the difficult moments that we all encounter in this human life. He is acquainting himself with these things meaning he knows them; he is familiar with them; to be acquainted with the darkness of the night around him, and the darkness of the hell inside him.

Quite unlike many authors, Frost, rather than painting the night in a beautiful and life-giving light, rather than singing songs about the religious elegance of the moon, he paints the night and his surroundings in a depressing, realistic light. The rain that is pouring down on him, does nothing more than kick him when he’s down. “I’ve walked out in it and back in it”. It did not get any better, the night has not healed him, rather it accompanies him in his sorrow. 

Van Gogh’s lesser known but equally as beautiful “The Starry Night over Rhone”

Hence, he can say, “Yes, I have been acquainted with the night”. He can say that he is a person who has known darkness, explored the darkness, been in the darkness. And he does not presume to advise the reader, he does not claim to understand any secrets of life, nor does he tell you how to get through this sadness. Rather than wanting to make a statement, he tries to convey a story that invites the reader in, sit down and speak as if they’re old friends, and share the sentiment with the readers, I’ve been there, I’ve been there too. He seems to tell you to embrace this darkness rather than run away from it. For all of us who have been there, for all of those that will be there, this poem is for us. And Frost, he understands this, because by authoring the poem; he’s connecting to us. When we feel isolated and alone with our darkness, we can think of Frost who is also alone with his darkness, and we’re alone together. He is taking all his pain and loneliness, and holding out to us in outstretched arms, exposed and vulnerable, for us to see, and for us to know. That if nothing else, at least we are not alone.

“You know, the universe is too much”

Robert Frost 1952 Interview