Robert Frost’s “The Oven Bird” was first published in 1916 in Mountain Interval. The poem was written in sonnet form and is describing the song of the aforementioned bird.
The poem is largely metaphorical and uses this writing style to keep the reader questioning its meaning. The poem in its entirety clearly represents something more than just the blatant call of a bird, or the imagery contained in a natural setting, the poet is eluding toward life and death, the realization we will all face with the passing of time.
A realization or truth if you will, because age catches up with us all, no one can stay young forever. Through the use of metaphor, rhyme, iambics, imagery, and personification, Robert Frost wrote of the ideals we as humans will face in a way that only he could.
An oven bird is a small New England bird with a harsh, penetrating voice. He has also been called a teacher bird because his voice makes the sound of “tea-cher”.
Robert Frost chose this bird to “teach” the reader a realization found in life. The realization of time marching on regardless how hard we may cry, or how loud we protest, time waits for no man and continues to dwindle on. The symbol in this poem is not the bird but the poetry the work represents as a whole. The poet’s rhythm is constantly steadied by plain wording and pros statement, the paradox of song-not-song. The poem begins with, “There is a singer everyone has heard/Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird” (1-2), the speaker is eluding to the fact that time is a common song that all individuals will hear and yield to.
No one is out of the range of this teacher bird’s song. More lines than not have the speaker stating realizations made regarding time and its passage. From beginning to end, the speaker’s distaste of aging is felt profoundly; even the last line in the piece is asking the reader what to make of this realization.
“The Oven Bird”, presents as a poem written in sonnet form. This form and natural setting is largely representative of the typical Robert Frost style. Frost often writes of nature and concepts set therein. The poet uses the “bird” to represent himself and his attempt to justify maturity and the typical thought processes that accompany the aging process. We learn from an early age that we all will grow up and eventually die. Most of us never really think of death until we are through our teen years and into adulthood. Frost is alluding to this when he writes, “He says that leaves are old and that for flowers/Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten” (4-5). Is the poet really saying youth is better than age, yes he is. The overall symbolism of this piece is just that. Time is nonstop, it runs on a continuous path from birth until death changing every season. Even using metaphors, the speaker makes this analogy loud and clear to the reader.
The poetic devices Frost used in this poem were the rhyme scheme aabcbdcdeefgfg. The two others are personification and imagery. The poem uses quite a bit of imagery for example, “When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers/On sunny days a moment overcast”(7-8), the poet is giving the reader the image of what happen in the spring and summer months. The image is painted well even with only a few lines of work; the reader is able to visualize the even depicted in the poem. Personification is the last poetic device used in the piece. Frost is actually giving the “bird” human traits, where he refers to it as “him” and gives it the ability to speak through song, even if the song is a sad realization of things happening. Many theories and suggestive pros have been written analyzing the work in question as to what Frost could possibly mean when he completed the piece, The Poetry of Robert Frost: Constellations of Intention, written by Reuben A. Brower in 1963 states, “Tempo and feeling increase as the rhythm rides with surprising force through full stops and with what Edward Thomas beautifully called ‘a quiet eagerness of emotion.’ Readers who see in the poem a symbol of Frost as poet or a veiled ars poetica, should note that the symbol is not the bird but the poetic art, the ‘feat of words’ as a whole. But that further metaphor is only touched on: as in the best of Frost, lightness is all. The figure implied in ‘The Oven Bird’—of talking song and of unobtrusive metaphor embodied in rhythm and tone as much as in statement and image, of a growth from observation (Frost’s moment of ‘delight’) to felt truth—is not only a formal pattern, but also the forming of a revelation of which the meaning is the unfolding poetic event”. Powerful and direct, this look even through another set of eyes, cannot deny the metaphorical quality or the rawness Frost displayed when he wrote this piece of work.
In conclusion, “The Oven Bird”, is a realization that every individual must face when dealing with mortality. As we age, most people fear the passing of time and the loss of youth. Robert Frost writes of this phenomenon in his own unique way. Frost has the uncanny skill of grabbing the reader’s attention usually within the first few lines using rhyme and metaphor. Each of these have the reader questioning what a particular reference could mean and of the importance toward the overall theme. Frost is no different than any other human being. I don’t know a single person alive that has not contemplated death. Most people have a natural fear of growing old, Mr. Frost is no exception. Inspiration can be found in nature or even from your living room at home, we all draw ideas and realizations about life from one thing or another. I applaud Robert Frost and his creativity in art and life in general. We all will age and none escape death, but it doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. The last two lines of the poem states, “The question that he frames in all but words/Is what to make of a diminished thing” (14), Frost has come to this realization. Life is what we make of it.