Poem Comparison


Compare and contrast two shorter Frost poems in relation to:


· Poetic themes


· Poetic form and techniques


· Frost’s diction


Neither Out Far nor In Deep and There Are Roughly Zones are two of Frost’s shorter poems that use different styles and techniques to look at similar themes. The former is something of a social commentary, focusing on conformity and man’s isolation from nature, while the latter is a narrative looking at man’s limits and lack of power over nature.


Neither Out Far Nor In Deep uses the setting of a beach as a way of characterising the people in the poem. The sand they are standing on represents the shallowness of their thought, as they ‘all turn and look one way’. However they also ‘turn their back on the land’ and ‘look at the sea all day’, showing that though they may resent this and would like to have the depth of knowledge found in the deeper water, their own sense of mass conformity and confinement stops them from making the effort. This desire is so strong that they may even be ignoring the truth that is in front of them, as they stay fixed on the sea ‘wherever the truth may be’. There Are Rougly Zones takes place in the very different landscape of a house during a storm. However the first line ‘we sit indoors and talk of the cold outside’ shows us that inside the house and outside in the garden may have the same metaphorical meanings as the sand and the sea in Neither out Far. The speaker continues to deliberate why man refuses to accept that ‘there are roughly zones whose laws must be obeyed’, and instead believes that ‘to no limits and bounds he can stay confined’. The planting of the peach tree in a northern climate is an example of this longing to have some power over nature by going against what is expected. Despite this wish for knowledge and depth, the people remain sitting inside, isolating themselves from nature and accepting that ‘there is nothing much we can do for the tree tonight’. This idea can be seen in the last stanza of Neither Out Far, as the speaker says that though they cannot see what they are looking for, ‘when was that ever a bar / to any watch they keep?’ suggesting that they will keep trying anyway. This is similar to what Frost is saying in Roughly Zones, as though there are areas of confinement, something ‘comes over a man’ that makes him keep trying to escape them.


The two poems use very different poetic forms and techniques to put across their similar points. Roughly Zones is written in the first person, shown by phrases including ‘we say’ and ‘we admit’. Neither Far Out is completely objective and therefore is written in the third person. It also uses a regular and simple rhyme scheme of ABAB throughout the four quatrains, whereas Roughly Zones has a more complicated rhyme scheme that begins with ABAB then loses its regularity in a much more relaxed pattern until it regains ABBA in the last four lines. The one rhyming couplet shown in lines 7 and 8, ‘mind’ and ‘confined’, is used to emphasise that phrase as the main theme of the poem. The lines are fairly equal at between ten and twelve syllables, primarily in iambic pentameter, and caesura and enjambment are common. The slight lack of a conventional form and rhyme scheme, for example it is not split into stanzas, suggests a patient, teasing out of the issue, rather than a clear-cut argument. Being a narrative poem, it is very descriptive and uses a wide variety of adjectives; ‘heaves’, ‘hard’, ‘fixed’, ’limitless’. Even the title of the poem is somewhat vague and gives a sense of mystery. Saying this, it is the apparently simplistic nature of Neither Far Out that gives it its effectiveness. The use of short, usually endstopped lines, of six or seven syllables, gives each line a strong, self-contained emphasis. This is stressed by the lack of caesura and use of enjambment only three times (lines 1, 5 and 15). There are only four adjectives in the whole poem – ‘one way’, ‘all day’, ‘wetter ground’ and ‘standing gull’ – and only