Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Silken Tent by Robert Frost

In his Frost Biography, Jay Parini writes, "One of the finest poems written (or revised) somewhere in this period was "The Silken Tent," which he gave to Kay [Morrison] as though it was written for her, although Lesley later claimed to have typed a version of this poem while her mother was still alive."  Frost revised and reworked poems for years until they were ready; the original inspiration may have been his wife Elinor, but his gift to Kay makes a statement as to his feelings for the married Kay.  Parini highlights the notion of "tied" but not "tied down" and their liberating limits.  The one sentence Elizabethan sonnet suggests restrictions of form; meanwhile, the tent represents both poetry and love. In regards to the end, Parini concludes, "The figure of the wind tightening the "silken ties" and making "the slightest bondage" visible itself embodies the paradox of freedom and control."  (Parini 320-323).

The Silken Tent

She is as in a field a silken tent

At midday when the sunny summer breeze
Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,
So that in guys it gently sways at ease,
And its supporting central cedar pole,
That is its pinnacle to heavenward
And signifies the sureness of the soul,
Seems to owe naught to any single cord,
But strictly held by none, is loosely bound
By countless silken ties of love and thought
To every thing on earth the compass round,
And only by one's going slightly taut
In the capriciousness of summer air
Is of the slightest bondage made aware. 

For me, that one can read this sonnet and be unaware on first read that it is but one sentence - that impressed me when I realized it.   It flows from line to line shifting tone yet "taut" when the paradoxical twist that ties, or boundaries, offer connection while losing a sense of independence.  There is freedom in anonymity, yet no significance or meaning; therefore, love is not possible. 

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