Our teacher told us that most of the time, you’ll find symbolism and metaphor in poetry. Poems almost speak a different language and after reading, you translate it into something bigger and find how it potentially applies to the reader and to the world.
One week, we were studying The Most of It by Robert Frost. I remember at the start of a lesson, she gave a summary and tapped it onto the chalkboard: Man asks. Nature responds.
The poem, for those who haven’t read it (and I suggest you do, it’s brilliant!), details a man who seeks response to his questions only to have his own voice mockingly echo back off the far cliffs. He’s alone and in despair. A figure splashes on the far side of the lake before swimming toward him. He expects another person, perhaps someone with an answer, someone to join him, but instead, this massive buck emerges from the lake in a tremendous entrance before finding its way into the undergrowth, ignoring the man completely.
I remember asking what this meant, in terms of it being the answer to the mans pleas. My peers threw in their suggestions and we debated whether or not this was how God spoke, or if this was the universe speaking to him, or if the buck was communicating, telling him to get over it or something. We sought after the metaphor, the symbolism, who the man and buck represented, the deeper meaning.
When the bell rang and we all started to make our way out the classroom, the teacher changed the summary on the board to this: Man asks. Nature responds?
Perhaps there’s not a meaning for the buck emerging from the lake. Perhaps it doesn’t represent anything, and the beauty of the poem is the image itself, this grand beast in all its glory. There’s no denying the coincidence (the man asks big questions, and then something big happens) but that doesn’t necessarily mean a correlation between the two. It’s as silly as asking the meaning of life or the meaning of mountains. We know how they form, mostly know how they originate, but meaning is something entirely different, something we project onto it. The man is a man, the buck is a buck.
This poem has stuck with me for some time. I’ve spent a great deal thinking about it and the many ways of reading it. Robert Frost’s The Most of It is one of my favourite poems.
I’ve been working on a short story inspired by this piece and I will share it tomorrow. The story doesn’t involve a buck nor does it contain the beautiful imagery Frost portrays, but it’s how I’ve seen this poem. The short story is the most collective, concise manner I can communicate my weird, oddly ways of thinking.
Titled Proving Human, the name taken from the poem itself, the piece will be published tomorrow and I very much hope you enjoy it!