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The Wisdom of Frost Exposed in The Oven Bird

The Wisdom of Frost Exposed in The Oven Bird

These seemingly negligible birds, symbols of the lyric voice, have intuited the Oven Bird’s lesson and are the signs by which one is meant to divine Frost’s acceptance of the linguistic implications of the fall from innocence. The Oven Bird, who watching “That other fall we name the fall” come to cover the world with dust, “Knows in singing not to sing.” Instead, “The question that he frames in all but words / Is what to make of a diminished thing.” The fall, in necessitating both birth and death, imposes a continuum of identity that compromises naming. The process toward death, begun with birth, transmutes and gradually diminishes form, thus adding to the equation – words are things before they become words and things again when they do – an element of inevitable, perpetual senescence. The birds of “A Winter Eden” say “which buds are leaf and which are bloom,” but the names are always premature or too late: gold goes to green, dawn to day, everything rises and falls and is transformed. Thus the Oven Bird says, “Midsummer is to spring as one to ten,” because a season – this or any other – may only be codified analogously. “Fall” takes on a series of identities: petal fall, the fall season, the first and fortunate fall, each of which bears, at the moment of articulation, the burden of a whole complex of moral, aesthetic, and literary valuations. This bird is a “midsummer and a midwood bird” that sees things at the moment of capitulation to the imperatives of fall. Loud, he predicts the inevitable, and his “language” reflects the potential meaninglessness of a world in which one is forced to define a thing by what it departs from or approaches rather than what it “is.” To…

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… ice are, after all, the inextricable complementarities of one apocalyptic vision: that endlessly regenerative cycle of desire and (self) hatred that necessarily brings the productive poet to scourge his own voice as he mocks both the poetic vocation and the state to which poetry – and if poetry then all language – has come. Frost anticipates modernism’s lament and, it may be said, prefigures in his dualism its dubious palliative of self-referential irony. The lyric birds and the weary speakers tell us the genuine Frostian wisdom of achieving a commonsensical accommodation with the fallen world, while inciting at another, and ineffable, level a profound disquiet.

Works Cited

Robert Frost and a Poetic of Appetite. Cambridge University Press. 1994

“Robert Frost” in The Columbia History of American Poetry. Ed. Jay Parini. Columbia University Press. 1997

Un-Victorian Tenets of Browning’s Strange Medical Experience of Karshish, the Arab Physician

Un-Victorian Tenets of Browning’s Strange Medical Experience of Karshish, the Arab Physician

Robert Browning’s “An Epistle Containing the Strange Medical Experience of Karshish,

the Arab Physician” is a dramatic monologue in which Karshish writes to Abib about his

experiencing the miracle of Jesus, when he raises Lazarus from the dead. “Karshish” is a dramatic

monologue containing most of the tenets of Browning.

Although “Karshish” is in the form of a letter, it is still an excellent example of a dramatic

monologue. There is a speaker, Karshish, who is not the poet. There is a silent audience, Abib

the reader of the letter. There is a mental exchange between the speaker and the audience:

Karshish writes as if Abib were right in front of him listening to everything. This can be seen in

the hang between “here I end” and “yet stay;” it is as if Abib were getting up to leave (61-2).

There is a distinct critical moment, when Karshish decides to write about his original concern:

“Yet stay. . . I half resolve to tell thee, yet I blush/ What set me off a-writing first of all” (62,

65-6). “Karshish” has all the basics to a dramatic monologue.

It also contains a character study in which the speaker speaks from an extraordinary

perspective. Karshish is a humble doctor from one of the most civilized nations of the time, he

has seen most of the civilized world, and he is still amazed by the miracle that he witnessed. His

amazement after having seen many great things in the world proves to the audience that this event

was indeed spectacular and significant. In the non-Christian world, the most common response is

to doubt and to reject, but because of the conviction of the speaker the audience believe that the

miracle did happen. This contrast between doubt and believe creates the dramatic tension of the

work. Thus, “Karshish” contains the character study and dramatic tension which make the work a

dramatic monologue.

“Karshish” contains many of the tenets of Browning. One of first tenets noticed is the idea

that physical success in this life does not correspond to success in the next. This can be seen in

the peaceful “carelessness” seen in Lazarus after being raised from the dead despite the

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