Fire and Ice by Robert Frost
Composed in 1919, this poem was published in Harper’s Magazine in December, 1920, and New Hampshire, in 1923. Fire and Ice is a short lyric of barely 9 lines, yet is full of meaning.
Fire and Ice Theme
The theme of the poem is the destructiveness of the passions of love and hate. Both these passions are made to look more terrible by understatement. In Thompson’s words,
“The analogy, here implied, establishes a comparison between the heat of the love or passion and the cold of the hate. Coupled with this is the hint of the destructive power of these two extremes of human passion, cataclysmic power. But there is also a further suggestion: these two extremes are made so to encompass life as to be gathering up of all that may exist between them; all that may be swept away by them.”
Possibly the poem holds out the poet’s belief that opposed extremes most elemental in the long drama of mankind and desire and reason, heart and mind. Symbolically interpreting the poem, fire stands for the heat of love and passion, while ice for the cold of hate. The last line confirms the poet’s belief in the two passions possessing enormous destructive power. These passions are inevitable in the drama of human life.
Fire and Ice Line by Line Analysis
Some say– Marks the repetitive tone of the poem in “Some say” its repetition expresses a mood of merciless aloofness.
From what I’ve…favour fire– So far as the poet has experienced shout desire, he is to believe that extreme intensity of desire can take the most violent form and it may lead to destruction. In this take the most violent form and it may 1 matter the poet expresses his agreement with those who think that fire intensity of desire) will bring about the destruction of the world.
But if it… twice– The world will surely not perish twice: hence the use of it.
I think…hate– The poet thinks that he has enough experience of the cold of hate. Ice would suffice– Ice, like fire, is also powerful enough to cause the end of the world,
Fire and Ice Summary
Some say that the world will end in fire, while some others say that it will end in ice. But from what the poet has known of desire, he agrees with those who hold that the world is to be consumed by the Great Fire (i.e., fire of desire). But supposing that the world is likely to end twice, and speaking out of his own experience of the cold of ice, he also agrees with those who hold that the world will end in ice.
Fire and Ice Analysis
Though the poem is short-sized, it is full of meaning on different planes. The poem has been described as “a poem of dry eyed acceptance of both passions in their most destructive form”, the two passion being love and hate, which we find detailed herein. Ezra Pound once remarked that there are only two passions worth celebrating in art: love and hate. .
Fire and Ice sums up the process of world-destruction. It is very close-knit, a glaring example of the style of condensation. Ideas have been packed up into the texture of this poem. In Thompson’s words, “the poem Fire and Ice is a masterpiece of condensation.” The poem is wrapped up in an epigram speculating about the end of the world. Speaking of the structure of the poem, Thompson observes as follows:
“Structurally, such a compact unit, nicely balanced, strikes with the clean accuracy of a poised fist. The backward thrust of “Fire” at the end of the fourth line seems to intensify the thought; the paired rhymes in the second half to lead such a natural pause after “great,” that the octosyllabic line is permitted to break to give the seemingly internal rhyme after force and permit the laconic understatement of the last three words.”
The “laconic understatement” is necessary to make the writing factual and scientific. It is also in keeping with the hard tone of the subject matter. It adds greatly to the cumulative effect of the poem making it a real piece of fact and fancy. There is a fine economy of words in it. Mark the number of words used in the poem:
“Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice.
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice Is also great
And would suffice.”
This is the entire poem. The last two lines have only three words in all, while the second line has four words. What a miraculous poetic piece of few words packed with the profundity of meaning!
As Brower thinks, Fire and Ice is that poem of Robert Frost which liberates him from the charge of being a ‘puritan.’ According to this great critic of Frost, no poem could show better the poet’s relationship to Emersonian wisdom. In this poem, Frost makes provision for opposite views, as may be deduced from a reading of the poem. He shows himself in agreement with those who believe that the world will end in fire; he is also in agreement with those who believe that the world will end in ice. And this is perhaps the accumulated wisdom of the ages that has taught him to say ‘ye’ to all that approaches him.
On the other hand, this is the quality that stands him in good stead in calling him a ‘modern’ poet. The ‘melancholy dualism’ is one of the marked features of modernity. Moreover, it is wise to keep oneself reserved and report everything with the help of such objective phrases as “Some say.” The poet does not want to load his beliefs or views upon his readers. He rather vaguely suggests them to entertain the views of others, even if they are diverse and dissimilar.
Fire and Ice Questions and Answers
- What role is played by fire and ice in Frost’s poem?
Ans. Robert Frost has used the symbols of fire and ice in his poem to convey some important lessons. Truly speaking fire stands for ceaseless passion and emotion while ice indicates the jealousy and hatred, in born qualities of mankind. The poet suggests that these two are equally powerful. Either of them can bring an end to civilization and wipe out the mankind fully.
- How does the poet expect about the destruction of this universe?
Ans. Some people think that fire can burn out this world while others think ice has the ability to do it. But it is true that both the opinions are right. But the poet wants to see the end of this globe in fire. At the same time, he also opines that ice is no less powerful in doing the same deed. Even if, the world is to be spoiled two times, in that case also, ice is equally powerful.
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