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RobertFrost: Faith and Art PhilipL. Gerber, ed. Critical Essays on Robe1t Frost. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1982. w+xpp. DorothJudd Hall. Robert Frost: Contours of Belief .\thens:Ohio University Press, 1984. 148 + xxi pp. EdwardConnery Lathem and Hyde Cox, eds. P,oselottings of Robert Frost: Selections from William G.Heath HisNotebooks and Miscellaneous Manuscripts. Lunenburg,Vermont: Northeast-Kingdom Publishers, 1982. 145+ xviii pp. In an age of disbelief, it is for the poet to supply the satisfactions of belief, in his measure and in his style. (Wallace Stevens) Inhis1935"Letter to The Amherst Student," Robert Frost spoke reassuringly about mankind's place in a world that sometimes seems mad or out of control."There is something we can always be doing," Frost wrote, "without referenceto how good or how bad the age is." He reminded his readers that manis a maker. Man not only delights in self-expression; he craves it. At any givenmoment in history, there is a background of chaos and confusion. Againstthis background, however, man can show form: "When in doubt thereis alwaysform for us to go on with. Anyone who has achieved the least formto be sure of it, is lost to the larger excruciations. I think it must stroke faiththe right way." The best forms of all, he added, are those the individual makes by himself, "all our individual enterprise and needing nobodfs co-operation;a basket, a letter, a garden, a room, an idea, a picture, a poem. Forthese we haven't to get a team together before we can play."1 The occasion of Frost's letter was his sixtieth birthday, and clearly his intention was to offer some personal reflections-"What Sixty Said," as it were-on the general question of man's place in the universe. But his reflectionshave a resonance beyond the merely personal. His comments on formare in fact the crux of his poetics as well as of his spiritual beliefs. What ismore, the letter makes clear how closely intertwined matters of art and faithwere for Frost. "The artist in me cries out for design," exclaims Job in Frost'sA Masque of Reason. 2 For Frost, the artist's craving for design has CanadianReview of American Studies, Volume 16, Number 3, Fall 1985,345-351 346 William G.Heath religious overtones. Man's ability to bring order out of chaos, to create forms, "must stroke faith the right way." His belief in a reciprocal relationship between art and faith can be summed up in the words of Madeleine I.:Engle in her little book, Walking on Water: "The discipline of creation, be itto paint, compose, write is an effort toward wholeness. "3 The close relationship between artistic creation and religious faithin Frost's poetry is the subject of Dorothy Judd Hall's Robert Frost: Contoursof Belief. Hall contends that the question of Frost's belief or unbelief isintegral to a consideration of the poetry. If she does not actually call him a religious poet, she sees him as a poet with a religious sense of his activity and callingas a poet. Her book is a concerted attempt to rescue Frost from critics who have emphasized his darker side and his religious skepticism. In particular, she wants to deliver Frost out of the Yvor Winters camp which labels hima "spiritual drifter." She makes clear that her intention is not to deliver him into the hands of any band of believers; but she wishes to see Frost, notas skeptical, but as "deeply religious" and as a believer (p. xviii). Her book has both strengths and weaknesses. Its greatest contributionis in clarifying just how Frost's calling as a poet is religious. She demonstrates that, for Frost, the impulse to create was a religious impulse. He regarded poetry as a quest for wholeness, with the basic path leading through metaphor. She writes: "To gather metaphors is to ask for little and hope for much; itis aspiratory, a reach for 'something like a star' ("Choose Something Likea Star") 'To stay our minds on and be staid' even if the stay is only 'momentary,' as Frost says in 'The Figure a Poem Makes"' (p. 63). In her final chapter, Hall states emphatically that "for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 345-351
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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