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Robert Frost and Wilfred Owen – symbols and imagery

Poetry is most commonly known as expressing oneself through the art of writing. There are many techniques poets use to make their poem a success. Two of these techniques are imagery and symbols. Comprehension of symbols when they are by themselves is not easy; when put with their poem they come alive. Symbols allow us, as readers, to expand the meaning of the poem much further than words can take us. Along with symbols, imagery creates a whole world that takes us on the journey the writer intended. Two poets who create this world wonderfully are Robert Frost and Wilfred Owen.

Robert Frosts poems are quite simple, dealing with everyday situations and emotions, yet taking them to another level of exploration. He looks at aspects of nature and then converts them into symbols to use in his poems, thus making them completely relevant to our everyday lives and easy to make sense of. If we look at Tree at My Window, the tree is symbolising a constant throughout the days. You can easily picture the leaves of the tree blowing gently just outside the window, offering some comfort at troubled times.

The tree could represent a lover, friend or relative who will always be there for him and a barrier will never form between them, But never let there be a curtain drawn Between you and me. Frost looks at the similarities between himself and the tree and views fate as a person or god or Mother Nature. Another poet who comes to mind with similar emotional poems, is William Blake. A good example of his emotional exploration is, A Poison Tree, where he studies his anger towards his enemy, and views that anger as a poison tree.

In After Apple-Picking, there is another symbol derived from nature. In the beginning of the poem, Frost tells of a barrel that I didnt fill Beside it, and there maybe two or three apples I didnt pick upon some bough.. This could be understood as a part of life that Frost missed out on, some experience that passed him by. Later he says, Magnified apples appear and disappear. perhaps telling us of opportunities that come and go, big or small. I find the image of a barrel not quite full fits perfectly. A life not quite complete, but not really missing anything either.

The Road Not Taken writes, two roads diverging in a yellow wood and shows how Frost considers his choices in life , choices that people face everyday. He studies these two choices he is given and make a decision according to all the knowledge he has gained about them. This is a good philosophy for life; to study choices that you make so that they are the best choice for yourself and the others around you. Wilfred Owen also deals with issues of life, but in a different way. War, morality and emotion play a big part in his poems.

The imagery in Owens poem Futility takes us from the battlefields of war, to a farm in France and to a place where Earth was created. A young soldier is trying to save his ally by moving him into the sun, and questions why the sun or greater being cant bring this young soldier back to life. If they cant bring the innocent back to life then why bother creating it in the beginning if all that happens is destruction. Symbols in this poem are an integral part. Fields unsown, show future opportunities and experiences that are still to be had , but which now lay at rest, along with the young man, because of the war.

Owen clearly shows his thoughts of the meaning of life and the necessity of war in the line, O what made fatuous sunbeams toil To break earths sleep at all? Another strong opinion of Owens opinion about war is heard in Anthem for the Doomed Youth. In the first line, Owen compares young men dying, to cattle when he writes .. for these who die as cattle? I find this comparison a good one and it brings to my mind pictures of hundreds of men droning on with low spirit and energy levels.

Just as you see cattle slowly moving across fields so too can you imagine these young men across the fields fighting for survival. I find that these two poets and their poems are easy to understand. Their symbols can be missed, but once you understand the whole poem, with every technique used, you gain so much from them. I feel that Robert Frost and Wilfred Owen are great examples on how to use symbolism and imagery. They both capture what poetry is all about, and as a result they create wonderful poems, which not only provide us with some insight into different lifestyles, but also on how to view our own.

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