Robert Frost's Directive Essay

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Robert Frost's "Directive"

The speaker of "Directive" is the Robert Frost we know well. He gives us a scene that he has looked at in a way no one else does and seen things that no one else sees. The ghost town "made simple by the loss of detail" (2-3) is dazzlingly rich. If, as Frost habitually does, we were to conjure up a fully-fleshed intent behind this simple condition, perhaps we would guess that a scene of scraped land and "forty cellar holes" is more than enough grist for Frost's mill, and anything else would call for poetic fireworks that would overshadow his theme. This poem is an insightful allegory on the Grail symbol, made strange by Frost's characteristic subversive and introverted nature.

Frost offers to be our guide,
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This speaker seems a little less stable than that of "The Wood-Pile," having taken the introversion of "Acquainted with the Night" to the extreme of permanence apparently. He seems to have been hanging out here alone too long. The image of the young trees "think[ing] to much of having shaded out a few old pecker-fretted apple trees" is charming, but it inspires no more confidence than the promise of getting you lost ("Directive," 28). Next a whole world comes alive: someone is coming home from work on this road, in our guide's imagination, and he just happens to be able to think up the nature of this zone between two villages, usefully evoking the special character of the borderland. Frost is like some town nut, hanging out in the in-between spaces, lurking to watch the children play, and even stealing the "Grail" from them. The paranoia is a nice touch too, having to hide the magic treasure from them that would conspire to steal it.

But all this can be seen in a more positive light. Frost's "directive" is that to save yourself, you must lose yourself. It is another way of saying that you must give up everything, or forsake the world, not so crazy or singular an idea at all. The glacier-grooved ladder-like road is also like a ladder to heaven, if the Grail and New Testament references are to be taken seriously. If so, Frost is presenting salvation as a world turned upside down, again, not a

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