“The question that he frames in all but words / Is what to make of a diminished thing.” Many modern poets find themselves pondering this very question. How does one respond to the “diminished” and crude world? Robert Frost makes use of the ovenbird to accent the poem’s tone and feeling towards this unforgiving world. But, what characteristics of the ovenbird make it an opportune choice for this somber task? How is the ovenbird embodied in the poem? Lastly, who is the ovenbird; is it Frost himself? .
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The ovenbird, a “loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird”, is a meaningful choice by Robert Frost. This bird is not the melodious, spring bird with which everyone associates. Instead of a song, the ovenbird “makes trunks sound”, he says, he knows and he frames; but he does not sing. Singing would direct away from the theme of a “diminished thing” and console the reader, rather than prepare him for the cruelties of the world, of summer and upcoming fall. As a mid-summer bird, the ovenbird serves as a gloomy reminder that spring has past, summer is present, and “that other fall we name the fall” is soon approaching. Frost clearly states to what extent summer is diminished from spring, “Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.” Such descriptions as overcasts covering sunny days and descriptions of the upcoming fall as the “petal-fall” further depict the tone and feeling of melancholy associated with the call of the ovenbird. .
The tone and feeling of melancholy feed into the “embodiment” of the ovenbird in the poem. The loud, “odd-talking song” is played out in the tone, as well as stated directly. Previously mentioned, Frost utilizes phrases such as “he says” or “he frames” to emphasize the unnatural sound of the ovenbird’s call. Another tool, which is used to represent the ovenbird and its song, exists in the rhythm of the poem. When the poem is read aloud, one finds that the poem does not flow well.