Lead 4 – Frost’s “Never Again Would Bird’s Song be the Same”
With a close reading of the poem, students will identify the rhyme scheme and meter of this sonnet; interpret the speaker, situation, and meaning; and examine the effectiveness or difficulty of working within such constraints.
Lecture/Discussion, part 1
This poem is a Shakespearean sonnet—14 lines, three rhyming quatrains ending with rhyming couplet (abab cdcd efef gg). Brief explanation of the sonnet and other poetic forms and examples:
Couplet: William Blake’s “The Tyger”
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
Terza Rima: Robert Frost’s “Acquainted with the Night”
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
Blank Verse: William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”
Caesar: Let me have men about me that are fat, / Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o’ nights. / Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; / He thinks too much, such men are dangerous. (I, iii, 192-5).
Villanelle: Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle into this Good Night”
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Lecture/Discussion, part 2
On Frost’s “Never Again Would Birds’ Song be the Same”
Birds in the Garden of Eden—and since—were changed with the coming of Eve; her “eloquence so soft” was incorporated into their various songs: “her voice upon their voices crossed.”
Never Again Would Birds’ Song be the Same
He would declare and could himself believe
That the birds there in all the garden round
From having heard the daylong voice of Eve
Had added to their own an oversound,
Her tone of meaning but without the words.
Admittedly an eloquence so soft
Could only have had an influence on birds
When call or laughter carried it aloft.
Be that as may be, she was in their song.
Moreover her voice upon their voices crossed
Had now persisted in the woods so long
That probably it never would be lost.
Never again would birds’ song be the same.
And to do that to birds was why she came.
Speaker of the poem
Knowing, but not omniscient – “He would declare and could himself believe” – God-like perspective but does not “himself believe,” so not God; suggests speaker is First Man Adam waxing eloquent about his help-meet; declares meaning behind Eve’s existence; vague possibility that speaker is Satan, but flattering tongue would likely be aimed directly at object of poem Eve were that the case.
Poem is male-centered/patriarchal, and unusual for Frost in that this piece seems to admit existence of God. That Eve/ur-woman influenced all birdsong portrays woman as bringer of beauty, similar to the Victorian “angel in the house.” In “Frost and Modernism,” Robert Kern elaborates on this, saying “Adam is presented as the author of a myth about the human appropriation of nature, or the absorption, the transformation, of nature into language—an event which gives rise to the nostalgia of the poem’s title even as it marks the beginnings of a full human awareness of nature” (13). Kern also says “Frost is working with images to the ear as well as to the eye, so that the reader experiences a voice as much as (if not more than) a thing. . . [and] If images to the ear are things, then Frost is an imagist” (12).
Frost, Robert. “Never Again Would Bird’s Song Be The Same.” Poetry X. Ed. Jough Dempsey. 16 Jun 2003. Web. 24 Mar. 2011.
Kern, Robert. “Frost and Modernism.” American Literature, 60.1 (1988). 1-16. JSTOR. Web. 24 March 2011.