Discuss how Frost presents? and explores rural pursuits in A Leaf-Treader – how typical is this in regard to the rest of the selection
In ???A Leaf-Treader??™, Frost presents rural pursuits as a difficult task or burden, from which a sense of relief can be achieved. Phrases like ???all day??? and ???autumn tired??? imply this onerous chore, yet ultimately the narrator ends up being ???safely??? secure in the knowledge that he has done his duty, although the job is not yet complete as he must ???keep on top of another year of snow???. This contrasts with ???After Apple Picking??™ where the narrator feels guilty as there is a ???barrel that [he] didn??™t fill???. In this poem this guilt transforms into a sense of resignation as he says ???but I am done with apple-picking now???, whereas in ???A Leaf-Treader??™ the narrator shows more determination as he combats the sinister, aggressive leaves with ???but it was no reason I had to go because they had to go???. Work involving leaves is a prominent feature of Frost??™s works, and is perhaps best exemplified in ???Gathering Leaves??™, a poem which contradicts the pessimistic tone of ???A Leaf-Treader??™ by producing a more upbeat mood where the narrator is enjoying the activity for its own sake. For instance the simile ???bags full of leaves are light as balloons??? suggests a state of enjoyment and pleasure, although this is at odds with the fact that the narrator is unable to transform the ???harvest??? into something more useful. The critic Mordecai Marcus is of the opinion that ???Frost playfully treats the combined frustration and joy of a necessary cleansing???, and so in this light Frost presents rural pursuits as something elusive, yet simultaneously rewarding.
Interestingly though, in ???Gathering Leaves??™ the leaves appear to exasperate the narrator as they ???elude my embrace, flowing over my arms and into my face???, and this idea of the leaves being against Frost is additionally present in ???A Leaf-Treader??™. Here, the leaves are portrayed as sinister and ominous, as they conspire – ???whisper under their breath???, ???with a will to carry me with them to death???. They continue to endeavour to manipulate him in the poem??™s third stanza, but the narrator is able to resist them (???but it was no reason I had to go because they had to go???). This links with ???Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening??™ where the narrator seems to be captivated by the appealing, entrancing capacity of the ???lovely, dark and deep??? woods, but like the narrator in ???A Leaf-Treader??™, he is able to resist the temptation and instead continues on his journey (???but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep???).
Perhaps the most typical aspect of Frost??™s poetry regarding rural pursuits is his use of personification to create links between nature and humanity. In ???A Leaf-Treader??™, he writes that the leaves ???spoke???, and even words like ???whispering??? and ???touched??? can be linked to human characteristics. In this example the personification serves to form a bridge between man and nature, which compares with other Frost poems such as ???Tree At My Window??™, ???The Sound of Trees??™ and ???In Hardwood Groves??™. Crucially however, in ???The Sound of Trees??™, the personification of the trees seems to widen the division between man and nature as they intimidate the speaker enough to force him to leave or escape – ???I shall make the reckless choice / Some day when they are in voice??? ??“ and the rhyme here reflects the idea that nature is responsible for man??™s actions. Thus Frost presents a sense of alienation through nature, which contrasts with the contemporary poet T.S. Eliot who, especially in the ???unreal city??? of ???The Wasteland??™, presents alienation through urban landscape.
In ???Mending Wall??™, another poem directly referencing a rural pursuit, Frost also presents a sense of alienation through humanity and its strained communication (which can also be seen in ???Home Burial??™). In this poem the narrator is completely unsuccessful in his attempts to engage in a conversation with his neighbour, whose only words during the entire poem are ???good fences make good neighbours???, a phrase so traditional and rustic that it almost becomes a cliche, and thus the narrator calls him an ???old-stone savage???, and mocks him with talk of ???elves???. This poem is full of irony, starting off with the pun on Frost??™s name at the beginning, but most importantly is the fact that the narrator is mending the wall in a desire for harmony with his neighbour, but by doing this he is developing the broken barrier which actually establishes this harmony. His neighbour??™s proverb increases this sense as it implies that sufficient distance between one another is the recipe for friendship, and finally the duality of the poem??™s title (where the word ???wall??? can be construed as the subject as well as the object) further adds to this effect as the characters??™ relationships are not being mended, but in fact are rather being driven apart. Therefore in this poem, rural pursuits are presented as ultimately destructive, and in the same way, in ???A Leaf-Treader??™ the leaves are conveyed as being the potential source of break-down, although in this instance the narrator is capable of tolerating them.