Frost, Robert. "The Oven Bird".
Summary and Analysis
(from Od puritanismu k postmodernismu)
The sonnet may be seen as a personification of tensions and confusions of a modern poet. The solution of these problems, as offered by Frost, is however still confusing. The personification of the bird is typical for Romantic poetry, also the presence of rhymes would suggests setting off for the continuation of the tradition. But the symbols employed in the poem suggest the possibility of a failure of understanding and reveal the necessity of a new language of poetry.
There is no first person speaker, the oven bird is described from the third person point of view. The oven bird is called "a singer everyone has heard", which may suggest that the facts he communicates are generally known. He is also described as a bird "Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again", that is he may be seen as the one who brings new life for something old and dying. Although only mid-summer (21st June), the oven bird never ceases to see only decay around himself. The leaves are old, the flowers will not bloom again, the petals are falling, and the birds thinks of the fall (autumn).
The oven bird has some of the aspects of a prophet, especially in his very last announcement that "the highway dust is over all". One of the reasons of the decay of flowers may be the dust from the highway. Figuratively one of the reasons for the decay of poetry may be too much artificiality: too much from man, and too little from nature. This would also correspond with the way Frost chose for himself as a poet, the way of natural poetry.
The solution is rather hinted at or suggested than fully presented: "The question that he frames in all but words / Is what to make of a diminished thing". Suggests turning towards natural forms of poetry instead of elaborative words, which are not needed to express something, as the example of the bird who "knows in singing not to sing" shows.
AuthorFrost, Robert. (1874 - 1963).
Full Title"The Oven Bird".
First PublishedIn: Mountain Interval. 1916.
Frost, Robert. "The Oven Bird". (1916). In: The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym et al. NY: Norton, 1989.
Ruland, Richard, Malcolm Bradbury. Od puritanismu k postmodernismu. Praha: Mladá fronta, 1997.