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The tone itself is never defined in this poem, yet clearly be it sad or happy, Frost is making a virtue of the dialectical interpenetration of the female voice with his own song: Eve supplies the mood or tone, without or beyond language, and Adam, that primal poet and archetypal namer, gets it into words, into sonnet form, into human song. Perhaps there is something of this recognition in Frost's journal note: "Life is something that rides steadily on something else that passes away as light on a gush of water." The metaphor of riding here suggests domination and parasitism, but the concretization of the metaphor as light on moving water takes that back, as it were. One might say that the water is like the tone of Elinor Frost's voice, the sadness that made its way into Frost's poetry, while the flashing light is the brilliance of Frost's language, the embodiment in words of her feeling. If in constructing this dialectic as the interconnection of heart (woman/wife/inspiration) and head (man/husband/poet) Frost seems to rely on a very old-fashioned, misogynist dichotomy, that has to be complicated I think by the very medium in which the writer works his thought. For while in both letter and poem the female figure supplies inarticulate or preverbal feeling to be married with the male language (the realm of the symbolic governed by the law of the father), this way of constructing the past really only reassures the male in his role. What if the sadness, which is named in the letter and identified as belonging to the poet's wife, but not named in the poem (but so many other Frost poems of birds do contain sad, or diminished songs), in fact came from the poet's heart? That Frost appropriates the old gender roles is a measure of his great need to protect himself from his own emotions.


From Andrew M. Lakritz. Modernism and the Other in Stevens, Frost and Moore. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996: 71.