Robert Frost wrote a poem – twice. The early version of the poem, “In White,” created a simple scene filled with anomalies. For some reason, years later the work beckoned for further attention. The poet complied and skillfully enhanced the work, rendering a finished poem that exceeds the scope of the original. Both versions of the Frost’s poem send a nuanced message to the thoughtful reader. While vague and open to interpretation, that message invites debate, an introspective feast. The poem “Design” demonstrates polished superiority through Frost’s mastery of imagery, amplified by devices, and unburdened language.
Initially, an explication provides an understanding of the internal workings of the finished poem, to identify the differences between the two. Frost’s poem, “Design” begins in a most uncomplicated way: “I found a dimpled spider, fat and white, / On a white heal-all, holding up a moth / Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth—” The spider, described as such, denotes jolly innocence, an unlikely association. Introducing the first of several ironies, the heal-all preserves life and yet the connection to death is evident. The flower provides a stage for the spider, menacing in spite of its pale disguise. Frost’s white color scheme persists into the moth simile, poor dead thing. Satin, typically equated with rich finery, finds a meaning much less elegant with the adjective, “rigid.” Each line zooms closer to the scene at hand, no doubt something is just not right. Line four continues the mood with, “Assorted characters of death and blight,” and adds to the feeling of impending doom. Death and blight signify a veering away from the norm. Each represents something untoward. The heal-all flower sits de...
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...iles. As such, the reader derives a deeper understanding of the action, “like lifting a veil.”
In summary, the explication of “Design” served to process both poems by examining one, then identifying and comparing the changes. Such a maneuver provided a clearer perspective of Frost’s initial rendering and subsequent finished work. Thus, exposing their subtle differences resulted in a way to compare the work and draw a subjective conclusion regarding the more effective poem. However, one must remain mindful that without the lesser first “draft,” the second would have had no life. Indeed, an exercise in refinement, the poet revised this piece with a delicate hand, shaping precise images and giving voice to each word, producing a superior message which posed more questions than solid answers about whether life (or death) happens by coincidence, or by “Design.”
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