But that was until Joseph Brodsky opened my eyes to a completely different Frost, one who Brodsky quotes Lionel Trilling describe as a "terrifying poet". Joseph Brodsky was a Russian poet and essayist who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987. I have mentioned his collection of critical essays titled "On Grief and Reason" in a post before. The title essay is a discussion of two of Frost's well-known poems,"Come In" and "Home Burial". In this essay Brodsky persuasively shows Frost's remarkably dark vision and his contention that "nature for this poet is neither friend nor foe, nor is it the backdrop for human drama; it is this poet's terrifying self-portrait." I wish I could link to the entire essay as it is the best piece on Frost I have ever read but unfortunately it does not seem to be available on the web. I would encourage all those interested in Frost or poetry to find a printed copy of Brodsky's essay. It is well worth a read.
Here is the poem, "Come In", which appeared in the 1942 collection "A Witness Tree":
As I came to the edge of the woods,
Thrush music -- hark!
Now if it was dusk outside,
Inside it was dark.
Too dark in the woods for a bird
By sleight of wing
To better its perch for the night,
Though it still could sing.
The last of the light of the sun
That had died in the west
Still lived for one song more
In a thrush's breast.
Far in the pillared dark
Thrush music went --
Almost like a call to come in
To the dark and lament.
But no, I was out for stars;
I would not come in.
I meant not even if asked;
And I hadn't been.
And here are some fragments of commentary by Brodsky about this poem:
When a twentieth century poet starts a poem with finding himself at the edge of the woods there is a reasonable element of danger -or, at least a faint suggestion of it. The edge, in its very self, is sufficiently sharp.
In "Too dark in the woods for a bird," a bird, alias bard, scrutinizes "the woods" and finds them too dark. "Too" here echoes-no! harks back to - Dante's opening lines in The Divine Comedy: our bird/bard's assessment of that selva differs from the great Italian's. To put it plainly, the afterlife is darker for Frost than it is for Dante. The question is why, and the answer is either because he disbelieves in the whole thing or because his notion of himself makes him, in his mind, slated for damnation.
Still, should you choose to read "Come In" as a nature poem, you are perfectly welcome to it. I suggest, though, that you take a longer look at the title. The twenty lines of the poem constitute, as it were, the title's translation. And in this translation, I am afraid, the expression "come in" means "die".