It was a couple of months back when my elder daughter gave me a piece of paper and asked me to go through this poem by Robert Frost. I attempted several times to leverage the deep meaning hidden in this poem but to no avail. Finally, today morning when I saw it again I felt its time has come.
“Fire and Ice” is a popular poem by American poet Robert Frost (1874-1963). It was written and published in 1920, shortly after WWI, and weighs up the probability of two differing apocalyptic scenarios represented by the elements of the poem’s title. Throughout history, there has always been a seeming fascination with how the world will end. In recent years, these discussions have centred around the nuclear disaster, immense climate change, and general cynicism. This poem is known for its simplicity and biting message, as well as its call to stop and think, offering a different perspective on the end of everything.
I was very fascinated by my daughter’s explanation and the way she had annotated that poem with notes. In fact, in my first attempt, I did not quite get the essence of the poem. Frost being Frost, I had to dig deep and then found Hemingway on the way. It was a relief when I saw my favourite quote of Hemingway appearing again, ” the world breaks everyone and some are stronger at the broken places” to give solace in these times of global despair.
My wife told me yesterday night of a picture which she had seen on Twitter which was very touching. It was a photo of Italian army trucks carrying the corpses of the people who had died due to the coronavirus. I had seen this picture before and I had my moments of grief particularly as I had the opportunity to stay in Italy for a year. The caption of that message was very disturbing and it made me think about how a pandemic is changing people’s life.
I asked my wife, in what way is it changing our lives? She said, ” Earlier if the cook doesn’t come for a day, I would become very irritated.” That evening post our PM’s 29 minutes broadcast she called both our maids and asked them to take care and not to come till further notice. She told me that this is opening her eyes to new perspectives around the world. This is the time for gratitude and compassion.
We are in the middle of a medical arm-aged-don. The aged populace is more vulnerable and it becomes our duty to first take precautionary measures for ourselves and then assist and support them. I was speaking to my mother who stays with my grandmother in my home town. We do talk now once in two days discussing the situation and how she needs to take care when she goes out of the house. These are testing times for families as the best care comes in the way of reaching out and communicating as travelling is not safe. The clarion call we heard on Thursday night was about resolve and restraint.
The apocalypse has always been a phenomenon to capture the minds of people and is an important concept in this poem, Fire and Ice. Frost’s use of “fire” and “ice,” however, is largely a metaphoric decision that opens the poem up to different kinds of interpretation
The analysis of the poem led me to look at Fire and Ice in the current context in a different way. Not so long ago we had the Australian Bush fire which wrecked the flora and fauna and gave us a Global warming lesson. “Fire” will continue to challenge us and we as humanity are in search of a solution for global warming and it is no small wonder therefore how our future generation is so cognizant of the same. We can learn about resolve from Greta.
Frost’s use of Ice has connotations of coldness and indifference, and so a possible reading here is that the end of the world could be brought about by inaction rather than some singular major event. In the current context, this is about inaction on our part thanks to coronavirus. “Inaction” in today’s terms means complacency that nothing will happen to us. I do agree that we have to be in-active in public places through social distancing but we need to be “in action” to take measures that can put an end to the spread of this virus.
It was very heartening to see how Doctors and Nurses around the world are working round the clock and treating patients. Having stayed during my teenage days in my hometown surrounded by hospitals, I could sense what is happening there at this point in time.
This is a time for us to reimagine what we can do for others. The best way to manifest this behaviour is to self-exile yourself and spread the messages. Fire is about ” Resolve” and Ice is about “Restraint”. If we are healthy, so will the world be
Let us reimagine this way 2
Fire ( your Resolve ) + ice ( your Restraint ) = Relief ( Our Love )