Robert Frost’s poetry is full of actions taken on obscure impulse. A man reins in his horse on “the darkest evening of the year” to watch the woods fill up with snow. Why does he interrupt his journey? “The woods are lovely, dark and deep.” Another man hesitates where “two roads diverged in a yellow wood” and takes “the one less traveled by.” These poems are so familiar that it is almost painful to quote them. Others less well known are no less driven by impulse. “Into My Own,” the sonnet that opens Frost’s first book of poems, evokes a distant prospect of “dark trees”: “I should not be withheld but that some day/Into their vastness I should steal away.” Every true poem, Frost wrote in “The Figure a Poem Makes,” the lovely little manifesto that served as the preface to his Collected Poems of 1939, is the child of impulse: “It begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life–not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay against confusion.”
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