Monday, July 22, 2013

Analysis of "Meeting and Passing" by Robert Frost

Original poem reprinted online here: "Meeting and Passing" by Robert Frost
Originally read: March 26, 2013
More information about the Poet: Robert Frost

Elizabethan Sonnet.  Narrative.

Do we have those things out of the way?  I point these out in the beginning because what constructs the poem is usually what people look for, what people expect.  And, yes, the poem follows the expectations of a sonnet, and, actually, a narrative (there's a "conflict").  Yet, with this poem, as the title foreshadows )"Meeting and Passing" -- there's a sense of expectation that hasn't been fulfilled -- a missed opportunity.

The colloquial tone in the first three lines sets up an exposition.  The "I" character  is walking along a wall.  The "I" character leaning on wall to get a better view.  And, unexpectedly (to the scene, but expected by the reader), "I first saw you."

Here's the trick in this part of the poem.  The "exposition" in the poem mostly focuses on the "I" and what he/she sees.  The "you" in the poem, no matter the importance, will act mostly like scenery in the poem used to explain the speakers outlook on "meeting and passing."  Furthermore, the more conceptual the "you" is, then the more of a projection the speaker creates, then the more didactic the narrative becomes (yes, I'm claiming that this poem may edge along the lines of a fable).

But, as usual, I'm getting ahead of myself.  The description of what they did is pretty general -- "mingle [about things] great and small."  At least it fits with the rhyme.  

Here's a line that I don't understand, "Footprints in summer dust as if we drew / The figure of our being less than two / But more than one as yet." This line feels didactic with that whole sort of two into one thing (almost there).  However, it's not about the content of the line here, rather the perspective.  This line comes from the speaker's head with the expectation of connection.  That there could be a connection but not really being explained in a confusing way.  Here is where I see what the speaker wants -- well, something more.

Then there's the description of the "you" with a parasol -- which identifies the "you" as a woman who ends up doing this: "Something down there to smile at in the dust."  So there's an intimate moment observed by the speaker.  Could she be smiling out of shyness?  Could this be a fabrication by the speaker to set up the epiphany in the last line.  Yes.

The us of the parenthetical on the next line is interesting.  Here the speaker goes further internal, but more so, announces that the "I" is going internal for the reader to take note.  "(Oh, it was without prejudice to me!)."  That exclamation point!  Anyway, I see this as the speaker, the "I" wanting the motions of the "we" to be influenced by him.  Yes, point to that spot because of me, turn away because of me, smile because of me.

The last two lines play with the rhyme (well rhyming "passed" together is a little, yeah), "Afterward I went past what you had passed / Before we met, and you what I had passed"  So here, with all the repetition play (past/passed) and the mindset of the speaker focusing on the scene -- the speaker is stuck in the past (mentally) wanting to recapture the moment of "you" and place, but the poem ends here.

So I pointed out that too much general description may lead up to a didactic end.  I think this is the case here.  The whole idea of not letting this pass by is here, but, me being me, the psychosis of nostalgia intrigues me here.  Probably not what Frost intended.  Design, design.

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