We have experience the theme of barriers through poems like ‘Mending Wall’ where the wall is built directly to keep things out rather than to keep animals in. It shows the ignorance of neighbours and how a shared task like wall building ironically results in a greater separation between neighbours.
The barrier is used in ‘The Cow in Apple Time’ similarly however the idea of temptation and the deepest desires of living things are connected to this theme. The cow has been fenced but on this day the cow has been “inspired” to rebel and escape its barriers, “To make no more of a wall than an open gate”. The cow treats the wall as if it was invisible as it ignores the fact that it is being restricted; the wall no longer is seen as a restriction because it is an “open gate” to the cow and an easily triumph over the barrier.
The desire in this poem is that of the apple being the temptation and reason for the rebellious behaviour of the cow. The image of the apple constantly is the temptation through biblical references of Eve eating the forbidden fruit hence reinforcing that the apple is an image of attraction. Also the alliteration in sound of “cider syrup” almost forces us to remember it making it much more appealing.
A cow’s life can be seen as very regular as they do not adapt very well to changes as they must be milked, fed and cleaned at the same times each day. It is important that they stick to a schedule otherwise their udders will dry up therefore disabling them to provide milk to their young or the farmers.
The importance of a schedule in the cow’s life is reinforced by the rhyming pattern Frost uses in this poem. It is of great relevance as it emphasises how devastating a sudden difference in life can be. The rhyming pattern is regular through rhyming couplets up to the last three lines where we have a rhyming ‘triplet’. The significance of this is to echo that there has been a great change for the worse, as through these few moments of luxury, ultimately, “Her udder shrivels and the milk goes dry.” This difference in the cow’s life has been spoilt as it has destroyed the gift to produce such milk.
It is arguable to say that this short story is an extended metaphor for human nature and the problems of change. If we see a temptation in life we will more than likely take it without thinking of the consequences. The image of the apple also makes it appropriate to Frost as he discusses the consequence of luxury in life. Rather than write ‘great’ poetry he could have lived a wild life drinking alcohol regularly to make his life vivacious and exciting. However the consequences of this would be that he will not have achieved anything and not have expressed his views universally to the world. Therefore the poem shows us that through luxuries and temptations in life there are always problems in choosing them.
This belief is similar of that in the poem ‘Birches’ where he looks back on life and argues whether he should have lived a young wild life or gone through education and that he is better off in choosing the latter.
The poem ‘There Are Roughly Zones’ uses the barrier image to a similar effect in respect to the barriers in which we must stay in. However, rather than the barrier being a physical property it is shown as an abstract noun; barriers are rules that we should follow.
The poem is anecdotal as Frost describes an attempt to grow a peach tree. Weather is rough, cold and unforgiving to nature. But the house will survive through the weather as it “has long been tried”. Then in line 5 it says, “We’ll know, we say, that this was the night it died.” The line is very interesting has frost has chosen to rearrange the structure of the sentence by penetrating the line with the subordinate clause of “we say” highlighting the fact that they made the decision to grow the peach in the rough zone. However the next subordinate clause is more authoritive in “we admit” to show that they admit they should never have attempted to grow the peach tree in the rough zone.
The use of the pronoun “we” indicates the fact that men will not accept that they are solely responsible for their actions; therefore, the blame is shared across all of the men.
The poem states that it is difficult to teach men to follow instructions and stay confined to rules, “to no limits or bounds can he stay confined”. Men are always trying to find ways of breaking the barriers and to further “extend the reach”. However men cannot control nature as, like men, it is “forever so hard to teach”. We cannot manipulate nature to do as we wish however the men in this poem seem to think that they can be omnipotent. This is shown as the men feel “betrayed” by nature making is personified to be like a human; under this impression we would think we could bend the rules of nature through personification however this is not possible.
We know that “there are roughly zones” to where you should grow a peach tree and that is in hot exotic locations. The image of fruit is important in the poem as a peach tree has barriers to where it can be grown.
The rhyme pattern is interesting as it is quite irregular as there is no consistency. However, there is a rhyming couplet as it says, “What comes over man, is it soul or mind- / That to no and bounds he can stay confined”. The importance of this change in rhyming pattern is to make the sentence bolder and more powerful so that the rhetorical question stays in the mind of the reader. It leaves the reader with a question as Frost tries to share his views on human nature.
The image of barriers is vital in Frost’s poetry because it shows us how we will always try to break them; the cow running away and eating plenty of apples and the men failing to grow a peach tree in harsh whether conditions. Both poems state that if we bend the boundaries or barriers we take a risk and regularly will eventually fail. However, it is optimistic to say that part of human nature is to keep taking risks and if we fail we always try again so the determination and ambition in nature is and optimistic point of Frost’s poetry.