Honors Poetry Explication 2

Robert Frost’s The Gift Outright is a classic example of his folksy, lyrical poetry based on nature. Rather than the typical format of describing the scene around him though, he reflects on who the scene belongs to. His choice to make the first line a sentence makes the first phrase seem factual and sets a serious tone for the rest of the poem. His opening sentence reads, “The land was ours before we were the land’s” reminded me of “for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” introducing the interconnectedness between human life and the earth. Although I would like to believe this poem is meant to be about taking care of the earth and natural world, I think that it is written from the perspective of an imperialist. The consistent use of “ours” conveys the possessive nature of imperialists who claim the land as their birthright, their “Gift Outright”. The middle section of the poem addresses the aggressive theme of possessiveness of the earth. His repetitive use of “possessing” conveys the all-consuming greed that resulted from imperialism. “Possessed by what we now no more possessed” conveys that rather than cherishing the land, they were swallowed by their greed for something that was never theirs. In this way, the expansion of land made them “weak”. The weakness juxtaposes the idea that expansion creates strength. The combination of this contradiction and his deliberate choice not to punctuate creates a natural pause in the poem. “We were withholding from the land of the living” continues his rhythmic pattern of iambic pentameter and begins a series of alliterations that emphasize the consequence of greed. His second use of alliteration comes with “salvation in surrender” saying that the settlers were saved by their realization that wealth and prosperity was achieved not through pushing through progress, but by letting the earth do its work. That the earth was beautiful in its “unstoried and unenhanced”, pure form and would prove prosperous in time. Here he ends the poem with a classic ode to the beauty of nature in its untouched form, satirizing the idea that an industrial version would be preferable.

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