Robert Frost is by no means the only poet in whom a hunger for recognition comes into conflict with a wariness, an inner reticence, a distaste for self-revelation. But I think in him the conflict was particularly acute. On the one hand he could be quite shameless in his pursuit of favourable reviews and his presentation to the public of a folksy and largely misleading image. On the other hand we have cryptic comments scattered throughout the work, like the line in ‘Paul’s Wife’ where Paul does not wish his fantasy wife (for which read muse figure) to be spoken of ‘in any way the world knows how to speak’. In this poem it is not made explicit what the ‘things forbidden’ are that he has managed to preserve for himself but I take them to be his poems, or those things that his poems keep alive, and he is rightly confident enough in his own powers as a poet to feel that he has succeeded.
I Could Give All To Time
To Time it never seems that he is brave
To set himself against the peaks of snow
To lay them level with the running wave,
Nor is he overjoyed when they lie low,
But only grave, contemplative and grave.
What now is inland shall be ocean isle,
Then eddies playing round a sunken reef
Like the curl at the corner of a smile;
And I could share Time’s lack of joy or grief
At such a planetary change of style.
I could give all to Time except – except
What I myself have held. But why declare
The things forbidden that while the Customs slept
I have crossed to Safety with? For I am There,
And what I would not part with I have kept.