Imagery and tone both tell that he's taken this road before: until its last six lines, there's only one image in "Directive" that doesn't appear in, or bear on, some earlier Frost poem. The "children's house" is new; but the apple trees, small animals, and outcrop rock of " Directive " are vintage Frost, here distilled to their metaphorical essence. As his didactic title implies, Frost is familiar with what he's up to. But only here does he newly play guide to his own metaphors and, climbing back to his poetry's wellspring, openly bid a reader to drink at their height. But the poem gains stature if read as climaxing both the high inclination of, say, " Birches ," and the dark temptations of "Stopping by Woods. The poem is simple to get into. But to be worthy of its final ascent a reader must, by Frost's own example, learn to read the nature with which this poem surrounds him. Earlier Frost poems can teach a reader what to make of deceptively simple natural images, but "Directive" must first be read by submitting to its insistence on "getting lost. As it tests a reader's earned humanity, not just his book-learning, "Directive" is in its own way a "serial ordeal"; it can't be read, and wasn't written, as a young man's poem.
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This is a journey poem and as such suitably full of signposts, but you have to be careful with signposts in a Frost poem: they may be like the ones in wartime, turned to point in a wrong direction to confuse those who he feels have no business in the country. Getting lost seems indeed to be a key theme: lost, that is, in the sense of escaping from the confusion of our present, and perhaps from the prison of our own too burdensome identity, and presenting ourselves in a state of nameless innocence, like children entering what may not be the kingdom of heaven but is at least a time and place of greater spiritual clarity, back up the line and so nearer to the mysterious spring of our existence here on earth. Back out of all this now too much for us, Back in a time made simple by the loss Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather, There is a house that is no more a house Upon a farm that is no more a farm And in a town that is no more a town. You must not mind a certain coolness from him Still said to haunt this side of Panther Mountain. Nor need you mind the serial ordeal Of being watched from forty cellar holes As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins. Where were they all not twenty years ago? They think too much of having shaded out A few old pecker-fretted apple trees. The height of the adventure is the height Of country where two village cultures faded Into each other. Both of them are lost. Then make yourself at home.
He further tells the traveller to travel on the road leading to a farmhouse which was once inhabited by people, but is deserted now, and where no farming activity is carried on now. There is what was once a town, but what is now desolate place. The reference here is to the changed condition of New England which was a glorious land in the past, but whose glory has been lost now. If the traveller travels under the direction of a guide, he may find the road uneven and full of pits and holes like a quarry, and mounds like huge knees of a giant which are no longer kept covered.
Robert Frost's tour de force "Directive" has disgruntled and captivated readers for more than half a century. Like many of his best poems, it describes a walk in an unnamed wood and, in this case, to an ancient brook, which he calls our destination and destiny. The poet Randall Jarrell praised it as "one of the strangest and most characteristic, most dismaying and most gratifying, poems any poet has ever written. The story the poem tells is deceptively simple: We are led on a walk though the woods by a mischievous guide past the site of a former town. At a brook, beside a "house that is no more a house," the guide produces a broken goblet and encourages us to "drink and be whole again beyond confusion. What it was that had become "too much" for Frost, whether a personal grief or the "universal crisis" engendered by the war years, is hard to say. Whatever the cause of Frost's apprehension, his withdrawal from the world is total. His "directive" to readers for he is also our guide, who "only has at heart [our] getting lost" takes us on an interior journey into a remote countryside, where civilization has been effaced. Skip to Main Content Skip to Search. Dow Jones, a News Corp company.