English Literature: Robert Frost - Analysis of A Considerable Speck

Robert Frost - Analysis of A Considerable Speck

This video presents an analysis of Robert Frost's poem A Considerable Speck. This page is intended to give additional details of the analysis that are not contained in the video. It is meant to cover the finer details.

These last four lines have a third, humoress meaning, with Frost taking a poke at the writers of his time, when he writes,

I have a mind myself and recognize
Mind when I meet with it in any guise.
No one can know how glad I am to find
On any sheet the least display of mind.

Frost's poetry was more structured than most of his contemporaries, and there was undoubtably some friction because of that. His poetry was written with meter and rhyme, while virtually everyone else was writing in free verse. So, his writing was not fashionable.

Frost makes a point of this difference in his loquaciously titled poem How Hard Is It to Keep from Being King When It's in You and in the Situation, where the king's son and poet addresses everyone with the following lines about his poetry:

I'm not a free verse singer. He was wrong there.
I claim to be no better than I am.
I write real verse in numbers, as they say.
I'm talking not free verse but blank verse now.
Regular verse springs from the strain of rhythm
Upon a meter, strict or loose iambic.
From that strain comes the expression strains of music.
The tune is not that meter, not that rhythm,
But a resultant that arises from them.
Tell them Iamb, Jehovah said, and meant it.
Free verse leaves out the meter and makes up
For the deficiency by church intoning.

This section is perhaps the best description of Frost's feelings about poetry, and the line "Tell them Iamb, Jehovah said, and meant it" is a pun on the Exodus chapter 3, verses 13-14, where we read

Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I am who I am." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I am has sent me to you.'"

Frost wrote often of his differences with the prevailing thought of his time. He took up this theme in great detail in his poem The Lesson for Today, where he summarizes his life with the concluding line "I had a lover's quarrel with the world."

The inspiration for this poem may have come from theologians, but ultimately the inspiration came straight from the Bible. In Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 15, we read how all of humanity is like a like dust relative to God:

Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
behold, he takes up the isles like fine dust.

Frost's use sound is particularly rich in this poem. For example consider this early line in the poem:

And I so idly poised my pen in air

The repetition of the long i and strong p sounds give the staccato feel of pointing in the line, while the last stressed syllable, air, leaves the reading hanging on the last syllable. Later on in the poem, Frost uses a similar repetition of sounds later on to achieve a different effect:

It seemed too tiny to have room for feet

In this line, the three t sounds give the feeling of many the feet, while the fourth t is pushed off and hidden under the repeated f sounds. A few lines further in the poem, Frost uses different technique:

It faltered: I could see it hesitate

Here, Frost lenthens the third syllable create the faltering feeling, while stronger stresses lead into the relatively weak ones at the end of the line. Down further in the poem, Frost reverses the meter.

Cower down in desperation to accept

This line exchanges the iambic feet for trochaic feet to pull the reader backward. The reader feels exactly what the bug is doing here, especially after the prior iambic line. Next, some of the ugliest verse is used to symbolize Communism.

I have none of the tenderer-than-thou Collectivistic regimenting love With which the modern world is being swept.

In these three lines, Frost repeats the er and the th sounds at the end of the first line. Then he repeats the short e and a triple short i sound in collectivistic to give the lines the stale, heavy, and uniform feel of Communism. The third line repeats the w to create the sound of sweeping.