“The Tuft of Flowers,” “Mowing,” and “After Apple-Picking,” – Robert Frost poems show his unique view of nature and its connections to the human world. Beginning his career in New Hampshire, he moved his family to England where he met with Ezra Pound who helped secure publication of, and Edward Thomas who reviewed his first two volumes of poems. Portraying himself as a literary exile unappreciated in his home country, he controlled his public image and moved back to America, growing in fame. He worked at multiple universities, received many honorary degrees, was appointed goodwill emissary to South America and the Soviet Union, and was afforded the opportunity to read his work at a presidential inauguration. Frost battled to break into print, and later with the decline of his poetic prowess. He then dealt with the death of his wife and three children, one of whom committed suicide. Another daughter and sister undercame mental illness. He maintained a feeling of resentment over never winning of a Nobel Prize.
He undermined himself in a projecting himself as a folksy, lovable, homespun poet, damaging his reputation as a major poet. While seeking recognition as a major poet and critical and popular acclaim, he succeeded in reaching a wide audience and in doing so lost and diminished his critical stature. He confirmed his view as a less serious, less impressive, less demanding, and therefore less significant poet by choosing to read only his most congenial, folksy poems in public while avoiding his darker, more skeptical poems. He concealed his hunger to fame and occasional degraded his strongest rivals in public encounters. Though neither straightforward or simple to understand, the use of familiar voice and traditional form enhance the accessibility of Robert Frost’s poems. Their diction is more allusive and connotative than it first appears, providing a more profound view than one may conclude after an initial read through. Though traditional, their form is more intricate and experimental than generally recognized. He shuns foreign words and blatant references to economic, literary, and political history and favored traditional poetic forms utilizing coherence and continuity over the structural openness and fragmentation popular with other contemporaries.
“The Tuft of Flowers,” written during Robert Frost’s time in England, tells of the one who mowed the grass prior to arrival of the narrator and finishes with the observation that, “Men work together,’ I told him from the heart, ‘Whether they work together or apart’. The one doing the mowing is first portrayed with a pervasive sense of solitude, a loneliness stretching deeper than the temporary seclusion of morning hours. As the narrator begins to adjust to this state, a butterfly appears and reminds him that there is more, and draws attention to a tuft of flowers, described as a “leaping tongue of bloom” with “a message from the dawn’.
Another poem written during Robert Frost’s residence in England is “Mowing,” a poem describing the work of a whispering scythe. In comparison to the human in the poem “The Tuft of Flowers,” the narrator of the poem “Mowing” is transfixed on the sound of the scythe and the sound it makes mowing hay in a field by a forest and what it may signify. Rejecting the possibility that it may indicate a connection to the supernatural realm, the narrator is content in the reward of the work itself.
Within the year following Robert Frost’s return to America, he wrote a poem which narrates the job of apple picking and the toll it takes upon the human body, the exhaustion it causes to even those whom desire and anticipate the harvest, titled “After Apple-Picking.” The apple-picker feels exhausted and has turned his mind to dreaming since morning after looking through the sheet of ice on the water trough, picturing it as a piece of glass instead. The exhaustion he feels may be normal, or may indicate a permanent sleep.
These three poems by Robert Frost are all rooted in nature and similarly focus on each narrator’s task and job that, upon completion, will assist in bending the natural world to better-fit the human world’s intent and purpose for such. As Robert DiYanni notes in his examination of Robert Frost and his works, “When asked whether he was a ‘nature poet,’ Frost remarked that he never wrote a poem that didn’t have a person in it”. In all of Robert Frost’s poems, nature appears as a powerful, dangerous, and cruel force, initially concealing its purpose and design. In “The Tuft of Flowers,” “Mowing,” and “After Apple-Picking,” there is evident delight in the beginning which results in a lesson of wisdom.
Though the poems authored by Robert Frost find their basis in nature, they take place during different seasons and are leant various meanings dependent on the tone and human narrator in each. The poem, “The Tuft of Flowers,” reflects transcendentalist ideas in which nature and man form part of a harmonious whole. For most of his poems, however, Robert Frost’s view on nature is to skeptically examine the quantity of true meaning in nature there really is in the human world.