Thursday, April 19, 2012

Grabbing the Pole

I had to cover an English class today as my 12's were off on camp. A little mixup allowed me to go through the lesson planned and see what it was all about. Short stories. And poetry. Didn't really get into the poetry in school, but the one they had to analyse intrigued me: Robert Frost's "On a tree fallen across the road"
The tree the tempest with a crash of wood
Throws down in front of us is not to bar
Our passage to our journey's end for good,
But just to ask us who we think we are
Insisting always on our own way so.
She likes to halt us in our runner tracks,
And make us get down in a foot of snow
Debating what to do without an axe.

And yet she knows obstruction is in vain:
We will not be put off the final goal
We have it hidden in us to attain,
Not though we have to seize earth by the pole

And, tired of aimless circling in one place,
Steer straight off after something into space.

The 10's were to discuss how the form of the poem helped enhance the content, but unfortunately most were struggling with the content itself.  To me it's all about human endeavour, but that's really only the baseline. From there, three different paths open out for interpretation:

1) An exhortation to, not put off the final goal as we have all that we need within us to attain such things, gives us hope. We CAN conquer anything; the North Pole, even space.
2) Once you know that it's about human endeavour, the character of the tree's comments change: I don't want to block you, just stop you long enough to think about human endeavour. Why do we always insist on our own way? Is there anything that we are missing in our determined pursuit of our goals? As a lamenting tree, maybe it is the natural beauty to be found even in fallen timber that is glossed over. After a quick google it seems that others had picked up on this angle, but with Frost's penchant tfor including nature in his poems may make this a more obvious conclusion than it should.
3) In my own lopsided mind another interpretation sprung up; a warning. If we are solely focused on solving the problem in front of us, maybe we don't see the unanticipated consequences of that solution. Maybe if we literally siezed the Earth by the (north) pole, we may find that instead of the Earth blissfuly circling in place, we are flung out into space!

Now that needs a Draw Something inspired image via ProCreate: