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Patrick J Wilson

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Frost’s View on The End of the World
by Patrick J Wilson   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Thursday, August 13, 2009
Posted: Thursday, August 13, 2009

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If passion or fire in Frost’s case means love, then one can see why he, as should we, decides on fire to end his world. I guess it is always better to leave this world engulfed in the flames of love than in the blizzards of hate.

It appears that every ten-years or so some obscured modern-day visionary climbs out of his cave and becomes visibly famous for prophesying how the world will end. The last so-called visionary genius to grace our eyes and ears was Al Gore. To be frank, Gore may be a “visionary genius” for some, but to me he is just another politician who loves to hear himself talk about how Global Warming will eventually destroy the world. Is Al Bundy, aka Gore, right? He thinks he is, and for Gore that is all that matters; Gore’s views, nonetheless, are debatable as is another visionary from the past -- Nostradamus.

Indeed, Nostradamus’s predictions follow a cycle, as does Gore’s Global Warming scheme. For example, after any horrific event, such as 9/11, those in the mainstream media love to blog about how Nostradamus predicted the US terrorist attacks, or he is predicting the world to end in 2012. Again, we can debate his predictions until 2012 but why?

Because we, as humans, are mesmerized in how the world will end. Unfortunately, for some, tomorrow will never come; as a result, they will never know how the world will end. Alternatively, for others, tomorrow is just another day closer to an answer unobtainable. Why worry? Robert Frost’s poem Fire and Ice may deliver an answer; besides, it is not an answer intrinsically more than it is is a choice. Frost’s poem is a concise nine-line poem; therefore, it is easier to block sections rather than unpack each line.

I. We will Fry?

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire. (1-4)

Frost’s opening lines merely introduces a pair of paradoxes to the long-standing query of how the world will end. The speaker only presents two probable conclusions for us to ponder, and he is careful not to provide specific names of who support the proclamation the demise of the world will end either in “fire” or “ ice.” The poet is not only crafty, but also he is ambiguous; in fact, his diction in the first two lines heightens his vagueness: “Some say. . .” X will happen while others say Y will. Nevertheless, Frost does not recoil from his opinion, for the speaker asserts his “desire,” if strong enough, can be transformed to “favour fire”; thus, his fiery passion is enough to engulf the world in flames.

So is the speaker pronouncing that he is the only one to decide how the world will end? Not exactly! Readers must understand the historical time in which Frost lived. During his time, the Cold War and the threat of nuclear winter lingered within the psyche of many. Of course, one can assume that was on Frost’s mind when he penned the first two lines. However, the last two lines of this block exhibit an individual commentary rather than a worldly view. Yet his individual sentiments, as do ours, have a role in deciding how “our world” will end, as the final block displays.

II. We will Freeze?

But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice. (5-9)

Here, the speaker switches from paradox/choice A -- fire -- to paradox/choice B --ice and he only makes this switch “if it had to perish twice.” Now, Frost’s usage of “it” in line five does not appear to be puzzling, at least on the page. On one level, “it” refers to the noun phrase in line one: “the earth.” On a deeper level, “it” refers to the poet in lines three and four. For example, lets look at both reference points: Reference A: “But if {the earth} had to perish twice” and Reference B: “But if {I} had to perish twice.” In regards to the first reference, how is it possible for “the earth” or the world to “perish twice”? In reality, it cannot; we know that and so does Frost. The speaker is using the subjunctive here to create a possibly or an uncertainty. If we take a closer look at the second reference, we might be able to figure out Frost’s motives. Again, how is it possible for Frost “to perish twice” is he not mortal like the rest of us? Of course, he is! His words live on with the speaker, but Frost, the poet, is not alive in the physical sense. His emotions, however, are alive through his immortal speaker. In fact, Frost knows enough about the emotion “of hate” / [t] o say that for [the] destruction ice” would be an acceptable outcome for the world to end.

Yet can we take his choices/paradoxes at face value? Perhaps! Frost is merely unpacking two extremes, two worlds of human emotion: fire = passion and ice = hate. Both emotions are dangerous when one does not have full control on them. Intrinsically, both passion and hate are at war in the world and within our individual earth/world, which is inside us all.

What the speaker says to us is to beware of both. Our emotions do have the chance “to perish” multiple times if we allow them to. Hate most definitely can corrupt the world on a collective level; furthermore, it can destroy the lives of many on an individual level but so can passion. If passion or fire in Frost’s case means love, then one can see why he, as should we, decides on fire to end his world. I guess it is always better to leave this world engulfed in the flames of love than in the blizzards of hate.

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