A Soldier, Robert Frost: Summary & Analysis

In "A Soldier" by Robert Frost, the poet presents a reflective exploration of the nature of human endeavor and the enduring impact of an individual's actions. Through vivid and thought-provoking imagery, Frost examines the legacy left behind by a fallen soldier and contemplates the interplay between physical and spiritual dimensions.

A Soldier by Robert Frost

He is that fallen lance that lies as hurled,
That lies unlifted now, come dew, come rust,
But still lies pointed as it plowed the dust.
If we who sight along it round the world,
See nothing worthy to have been its mark,
It is because like men we look too near,
Forgetting that as fitted to the sphere,
Our missiles always make too short an arc.
They fall, they rip the grass, they intersect
The curve of earth, and striking, break their own;
They make us cringe for metal-point on stone.
But this we know, the obstacle that checked
And tripped the body, shot the spirit on
Further than target ever showed or shone.

Critical Analysis

"A Soldier" delves into the nature of human actions and the legacy they leave behind. The poem contemplates the fate of a fallen soldier, represented by the image of a lance that lies on the ground, pointed and unmoved. Frost examines the significance of the soldier's efforts, both in the physical world and in the realm of human achievement.

The poem begins with the lance symbolizing the soldier's action and purpose. The image of the fallen lance, still pointed as it plowed the dust, serves as a metaphor for the soldier's determination and the enduring mark left by his deeds.

Frost explores the idea that when people scrutinize the lance too closely, they may fail to perceive its true significance. The "arc" made by missiles serves as a metaphor for the limited perspective of human observers, who often overlook the broader context and impact of an action. The poet argues that human judgments are constrained by a narrow viewpoint and should take into account the larger sphere of influence.

The poem addresses the limitations of perception and acknowledges that actions may fall short of their intended target, intersecting with the curve of earth and breaking upon impact. However, the true significance of the soldier's effort transcends these physical limitations. The "obstacle that checked" and "tripped the body" refers to the circumstances that led to the soldier's fall, but also propelled his spirit to greater heights, "Further than target ever showed or shone." The soldier's legacy and impact extend beyond the immediate result of his actions.

"A Soldier" invites readers to consider the profound interplay between physical achievement and the intangible influence of an individual's spirit and determination. It underscores the complexity of evaluating human endeavors and challenges the tendency to judge solely based on visible outcomes.

Themes of the Poem

  • Human Endeavor: The poem explores the nature of human actions, their intended targets, and their broader impact on the world.
  • Legacy and Significance: The poem reflects on the lasting legacy of an individual's efforts and the enduring influence of their actions.
  • Perspective and Perception: Frost addresses the limitations of human perspective and the tendency to overlook the larger context when evaluating actions.

Stylistic Analysis

  • Imagery: The image of the fallen lance and the analogy to missiles and arcs create vivid visual imagery that enhances the poem's themes.
  • Metaphor: The fallen lance serves as a metaphor for the soldier's action and legacy, allowing for a deeper exploration of their significance.

Attitudes/Feelings

  • Reflection and Contemplation: The poem's tone is reflective, encouraging readers to contemplate the layers of meaning behind human actions and their outcomes.

Language

  • Elevated Language: The language used in the poem adds to its sense of contemplation and depth, emphasizing the significance of the themes explored.
  • Symbolism: The lance and the concept of the arc symbolize broader themes of human achievement, legacy, and perspective.

Sound Devices

  • Rhythm and Rhyme: The poem follows a consistent rhythm and rhyme scheme, contributing to its musical quality and inviting readers to reflect on its content.

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