Fire and Ice is a popular poem written in 1923 by Robert Frost. It is a very well-known poem and is used in many high schools and colleges today. Many students along with various critics read this poem as Frost’s idea as to how the world is going to end. People also take this in a Biblical sense, because the passage that God states the next time he destroys the world, it will be in the fire. He blatantly states in the first lines, “Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice”, which leads many critics to believe the simplicity of this poem was to be taken as simple and to the point.
However, the poem was written in the roaring twenties, which is why I believe Frost had a deeper meaning attached than how the world was going to end. Opposing most critics with their view of this idea, I believe Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice” is about love. Fire being the love itself along with passion, ice is the lack of love, rather than a view on the end of the world.
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Katherine Kearns states that although you have to make a decision between the language, it still seems as if Frost is trying to allude to the end of the world (Cambridge University). Frost often writes in a very simple form, which is why critics are constantly led to believe Frost had no double meaning out of the poem. The form of ‘Fire and Ice’ is again, simple in the writing, leaving it easy to see the surface meaning and not look any deeper. The form and simple rhyme scheme do not give readers the idea that the meaning would be so philosophical.
Through a deeper reading of the poem, I think Frost is trying to discover the distinction between love and hate through symbolism. Fire is love or burning desire. The ice symbolizes hatred or a cold heart. When Frost says, “From what I’ve tasted of desire, I hold with those who favour fire”, I think he is stating that he has felt the kind of love, known as fire, and is more likely to burn from the desire rather than freeze from a frozen heart. The hatred like ice is always the same. Constantly cold and hard like a bad winter. However, the love, or fire, is continuously burning and the passion and desire only get bigger. Love is consuming while hate is cold and stops everything.
The metaphor of fire and ice is very powerful. It is easy to take this poem in the simplest form, because of the reality of the idea of the world being destroyed in fire or ice. When taken as a metaphor, the simple words suddenly mean something very profound. Yvette Sangiorgio states, “Both of these extremes destroy the soul of humanity and the individual, and the metaphors of fire and ice fit” (Sangiorgio par. 3). Through this, she is now comparing the world to the human soul. Fire and ice control much of the rhyming scheme in this poem. Thus making the word hate, stand out. Although ‘great’ rhymes with hate, it seems as if this word is out of place with the rest of the poem.
Frost’s ‘Fire and Ice’ is written in fine lines. He ends this poem in iambic diameter when the general pattern is of iambic tetrameter (Serio par. 1). The word lyric ‘I’ is somewhat forced onto readers and leaves an autobiographical point. Many critics think that through these two ideas, Frost was modelling his poem after Dante’s Inferno (Serio par. 6). The structure and the theme of both poems are considerably similar.
The poem, written is the twenties, is also a good indicator that it had a sublevel meaning. This era was one in which love was a popular feeling. If Frost had fallen in love or been consumed by the burning fire of desire, he would have had strong feelings of love. The same goes for if he was shut out by his lover, leaving him cold and hard to the world. Other critics such as Sally Pobojewski, believe that the era the poem was written had nothing to do with the initial meaning of the poem (LSAmagazine 28-29). The twenties were such an influential time period, that I think the meaning of the poem is almost guaranteed to reflect on the era.
Looking through not only the surface meaning, but a close reading of the poem, along with taking in the outside reading, it has become easy to put it all together. Robert Frost was trying to achieve a double meaning throughout the entire poem, “Fire and Ice”. He does in fact achieve this by the word choices he made. Also, the metaphor and rhymes he makes are unmistakable as to lead one to a deeper meaning. Reading the poem with a completely open mind will help you to see the various aspects many critics view on this poem.
However, when I read the poem I knew immediately Frost was talking about love. In some sense, everyone has felt the effects of burning love or lack of love, taken over by the feeling of coldness. Digging for a deeper meaning of the poem, it is evident Frost was not only talking about the end of the world but also the end of a person. The effects of love and hate are enough to put an end to a person, as are the effects of fire and ice to put an end to the world.
Kearns, Katherine, “Fire and Ice”. On Fire and Ice. 1994. 17 September 2005.
Pobojewski, Sally. “This Is the Way the World Ends.” LSAmagazine 23.1 (Fall 1999):
Sangiorgio, Yvette. “Fire and Ice” Fire and Ice- Robert Frost. 12 May 2001. 17
September 2005. http://www.cs.rice.edu/
Serio, John N. “Fire and Ice”. On Fire and Ice. 1994. 17 September 2005.
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