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To the Thawing Wind

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  • To the Thawing Wind

    Leah Newton, my daughter in law, sent me this poem and her interpretation of the authors meaning.

    Well worth reading:

    To the Thawing Wind


    Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963


    Come with rain, O loud Southwester!
    Bring the singer, bring the nester;
    Give the buried flower a dream;
    Make the settled snowbank steam;
    Find the brown beneath the white;
    But whate’er you do tonight,
    Bathe my window, make it flow,
    Melt it as the ice will go;
    Melt the glass and leave the sticks
    Like a hermit’s crucifix;
    Burst into my narrow stall;
    Swing the picture on the wall;
    Run the rattling pages o’er;
    Scatter poems on the floor;
    Turn the poet out of door.
    Last edited by Lou Newton; July 11, 2018, 10:12 PM.

  • #2
    "To the Thawing Wind"

    To The Thawing Wind
    Come with rain. O loud Southwester!
    Bring the singer, bring the nester;
    Give the buried flower a dream;
    make the settled snowbank steam;
    Find the brown beneath the white;
    But whate'er you do tonight,
    bathe my window, make it flow,
    Melt it as the ice will go;
    Melt the glass and leave the sticks
    Like a hermit's crucifix;
    Burst into my narrow stall;
    Swing the picture on the wall;
    Run the rattling pages o'er;
    Scatter poems on the floor;
    Turn the poet out of door.

    Here in Minnesota serious winter cold set in before the Solstice and has only now relaxed its grip. We've been calling for the thawing wind since February, but here in the central part of the state we had eight inches of snow as recently as April 16. Now at last the thaw has arrived, with wind and rain punctuated by occasional sunshine. Yesterday, despite the remaining winter chill in the air, we fertilized and tilled our plots at the St. Cloud Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Community Garden. We’re looking at another week of spring rain. It seems a good time to appreciate Robert Frost’s “spring” poem, published in A Boy’s Will (1913).

    We think of spring in clichéd terms of budding trees, singing birds, blooming flowers, and warm sunshine; Frost reminds us that early spring can be cold, wet, and windy. And in northern climes, the thaw can come late in April. It is a time of year when the wind and rain are welcome signs, not only of winter’s end, but of an end to our long indoor human hibernation.

    Frost writes the poem in a staccato-like trochaic imperative, calling on that wind and rain, indeed, celebrating the coming storm. It’s not a gentle wind and rain but “loud” and strong enough, at least metaphorically, to “burst” the window, rattle pages, “scatter poems,” and blow the poet out of his “narrow stall.” The lines grow shorter as the poem goes on, increasing the sense of urgency for escape from winter’s grip. Yet the couplets convey a sense of order and security that somehow the storm will remain within nature’s bounds, even as it brings disruption to the indoor life.

    Obviously it is a poem about the welcome change of seasons and the anticipation of singing birds, blooming flowers, and warm brown earth, but perhaps more importantly (“whate’er you do tonight”) it is a poem about the anticipation of a thaw in the human isolation of our winter hermitage. The inner life has become close and confining; we yearn for relief and release to a more active, outgoing life in the open air, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. We long for escape from our introspection to a life of interaction with the outside world.

    I have no problem seeing Frost’s text as both a nature poem about the change of seasons and a psychological poem about the human need to escape from our own inner prisons.

    What I wonder about is the reference to “a hermit’s cruxifix.” Of course the poet is being compared to a hermit and the crucifix literally refers to the wooden crosspieces within a window frame. But does that reference to a religious symbol suggest some other meaning? Does the cross represent the burden of winter, of human self-consciousness, of the poet’s calling?

    Or, does the cross represent the universal principle of sacrifice, the reality that suffering is the necessary evil that makes some greater good possible. Is the suffering of winter necessary to the glory of spring and summer, is life possible without death, is our human inwardness somehow necessary to enhance our social life, is the poet a kind of scapegoat whose sacrifices make possible a higher level of consciousness for all of us?

    Or, are we too far out on the limb of interpretation?

    For those who insist Frost’s text is just a simple nature poem, in which the poet expresses his winter weariness and longing for spring, we’re making too much of a good thing. For those who love poetry for the levels of meaning it can express, its power of expressiveness, and its unfailing ability to surprise us with new insights, we’ve made a good thing even better.


    Posted by Judy C. Foster at 7:49 PM

    Comment


    • #3
      Leah Newton
      To:lou newton

      Jul 11 at 1:50 PM
      Hi Lou,


      I just typed this up for fun and was wondering if you might want to post it on your site. It's fine with me either way but I just thought I'd share, because the post is too long for the site where I was originally intending on posting it. I'm really wordy!

      Hope you're doing well!

      - Leah
      __________________________________________________ ______

      I just read “To the Thawing Wind,” by Robert Frost (http://yourbrainonbooks.blogspot.com...wing-wind.html).

      I was confused by the line where the poet compares his windowpane to a hermit’s crucifix, so I looked up some interpretations online. I found this interpretation by someone named Judy Foster (http://yourbrainonbooks.blogspot.com...wing-wind.html). This is my response to her post (if you’re interested, I suggest you first read “To The Thawing Wind” as well as Judy Foster’s interpretation):

      I really like your idea that the cross represents the principle of sacrifice. Like a hermit, the poet in “To The Thawing Wind” has dedicated himself to solitude for spiritual reasons. For the hermit, physical solitude is an overtly religious discipline. For the poet, the solitude and the religious or spiritual aspect are both subtler. The poet has committed himself to introspection and thus some level of both physical and mental (but mostly mental) isolation for the purpose of contemplating immaterial truths. He often doesn't focus on the same aspects of daily life as the people around him (material things, diversions, surface-level meanings, etc.). He doesn’t always see things the same way as other people, and so he feels like he's "off in another world."

      Just like a Christian suffers but has complete freedom in Christ, the poet endures this isolation because he's looking forward to a promise of vitality. He believes that, by thinking deeply about things, he'll find more meaning in life and will ultimately be more satisfied. In this poem, he's tired of all the thinking and isolation. He wants the quiet contemplation to pay off as a flood of satisfaction washes over him; he wants to feel completely in tune with the world around him and energized by it.

      I do believe this poem has multiple layers of meaning, including secular and religious. I just described the secular meaning – wanting quiet contemplation to pay off as you’re energized by what you’ve observed. But, in my opinion, the religious allusions don’t just serve to illustrate a secular point – I believe Frost was making a religious statement as well. According to Jay Parini writing in the March 4, 2013 issue of America Magazine, when Frost was a child he attended a church founded on the principles of Emanuel Swedenborg (a Christian mystic who “believed that a relation existed between the material and spiritual worlds”). As a result, Frost “absorbed a mystical sense of the world, an understanding of the universe that was founded on the idea that everything we see is a foretaste of things to come and that one must listen for the voice of God in unusual places, such as the wind in the trees or the ripples of lake water against the shore” (Parini, 2013).

      While Robert Frost certainly seems to have internalized this sense of the world, as expressed through his poetry, his religious convictions were not as straightforward as those of Swedenborg. Many critics consider Robert Frost to have been agnostic, while others say he grappled with his faith in a way that challenged and strengthened it. Either way, he had a deep interest in God and he investigated that interest through his poetry, seeking “to say spirit in terms of matter and matter in terms of spirit” (Stanlis, 2008).

      The religious interpretation of this poem’s message has to do with finding freedom in the cross. The Bible states, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" In “To The Thawing Wind,” the poet has essentially forfeited the whole world to gain his soul. For the poet, bliss is something to hope for and plead for, but not to have at all times (which is why the poem is written as an invocation rather than a narrative). Bliss is something to be experienced in these completely overpowering moments where the glass melts right off the window and the buried flower realizes its dream. The poem reveals that, on this earth, it’s only in rare moments and certain seasons of life when we fully appreciate God’s glory – or freedom or truth – but it’s a miracle when we get to be immersed in it, and it’s worth pursuing at all costs, even to the point of suffering.

      Parini writes that Frost was reputed to be “always mercurial, drawn either to intense socializing or austere solitude, with very little middle ground. He defined poetry as ‘a momentary stay against confusion,’ suggesting that it was only in the clarity of the poem itself that he found solace, clarity and grounding” (2013). In “To The Thawing Wind,” we can see the contrast between intense socializing and austere solitude. I believe that we can also see how the poem provided Frost with religious clarity and grounding in Christ. Maybe Frost only included the reference to the cross as an illustration of the secular concept of freedom. Or maybe he made a conscious decision to communicate this message of fixing our eyes on Jesus, who endured the cross for the joy set before Him. Either way, God speaks through general revelation, of which this poem is an example.

      Frost himself may have been surprised to find solace in the Christ-centered truth that surfaced in “To The Thawing Wind.” His poetry is interesting because it’s how he expressed meaning but also how he discovered it. Therefore, it’s raw and real and, like Frost, we can be surprised to find solace in it. We can join him in contemplation, discovery, and – hopefully – being swept away by the thawing wind.

      I do not believe that a psychological, spiritual, or religious reading of the poem is too far out on the limb of interpretation. I really think it’s how the poem is meant to be interpreted. Yes, “To The Thawing Wind” has a surface-level meaning about rejoicing in the changing of the seasons, but it’s not what the poem is mostly about. The line about the “hermit’s crucifix” is what threw me off when I first read this poem. Even when I understood the poem to be about isolation, freedom, etc., this line tripped me up. It really does beg the reader to wonder if there’s a deeper religious message. The reader could say, “hmm… I’m not sure what to make of that… oh well,” and throw it out the window (yes, throw the window out the window). But in doing so the reader would be one of the people with whom Frost doesn’t see eye-to-eye, someone who hasn’t experienced his quiet contemplation and who therefore can’t relate to the heart of the matter.

      Frost used poetry to explore ideas that he wasn’t even certain about. I think it left him feeling exposed and vulnerable at times because it was a way of shedding light on his innermost thoughts. So in a way, the process of writing poetry – and the process of discovering truth – was like the thawing wind. It wasn’t the most comfortable thing, and it could be downright difficult. However, it did lead him from time to time (in his most authentic and even confused state – think of the poems scattered on the floor), to experience true life and real invigoration. Similarly, as readers we should be willing to spend some time considering the difficult parts of this poem, and we should at least entertain the notion that there’s a deeper meaning there. Doing so might bathe our windows and make them flow, or it might melt our defenses and leave us only with the cross.

      Comment


      • #4
        Much has been written contemplating what Robert Frost meant by his lines of the poem, To the Thawing Wind. But here is another angle to think about:

        Maybe The Holy Spirit of the Lord Jesus inspired Frost when he wrote the poem. If that is the case the question then is what did The Holy Spirit mean by these lines?

        Any thoughts?

        Comment

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