If you listen to the video, read by Frost, it is possible to detect a hint of understatement in his voice. Perhaps a subject of such seriousness needs to be treated with a certain insouciance? It has that traditional iambic beat running through the mostly tetrameter lines - save for three dimeter - which Frost employed a lot and it's this rhythm that could be said to undermine the essential seriousness of the subject - the end of the world.
Note that the longer lines can be read a little quicker than the short, which means a different tempo for the reader at lines 2, 8 and 9.
From those two alliterative opening lines the reader is drawn into the rhetorical argument - fire or ice for the end of the world? These lines are based on mere hearsay Some say. Delving deeper, if Frost took inspiration from Dante's Inferno, then it's necessary to relate these nine lines of the poem to the nine circles of hell mentioned in Dante's book and to also link the Greek philosopher Aristotle's ethical ideas about human nature, which Dante's book reflects.
Aristotle basically said that to live a positive life the passions had to be controlled by reason, and that humans were the only ones capable of rational thought. In contrast to the animals. So in the poem fire is desire which is passion, ice is hate which is reason. Those who strayed away from the positive life through reason were judged the worst offenders, ending up in a lake of ice.
Frost's poem neatly expresses this ethical scenario in a nutshell.
It's a sort of chilli pepper in a fridge. Fire and Ice is a nine line single stanza rhyming poem with a strong metrical base of iambic tetrameter and dimeter. This clever twist on the terza rima rhyme means that the initial opening fire gradually fades as the poem progresses, with ice taking over. Overall the poem is a mix of iambic tetrameter and iambic dimeter, the long lines having eight syllables and four stresses, the shorter four syllables and two stresses.
This gives the poem a rising feel as each word at line end is stressed. So note the spondees that open the first two lines giving a spurt of energy with a double stress to the alliteration.
And line seven scans a little differently as the reader has to naturally pause at the end of destruction, before the word ice continues the meaning into the final two lines via enjambment. Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites. Thank you, this certainly is an illuminating and edifying elaboration of the beautiful poem. Haven't found a more elaborate and precise analysis of the poem.
It's one of my favourites. Good work.
Thank you for bringing the true meaning of this poem out for readers. I've read this before but never realizing the passion of the two words. A short Frost poem yes about the end of the world, but there's a whole world of meaning in there. Thank you, appreciate your visit.
A helpful analysis of this poem. I had a bit of a tough time understanding the exact meaning of fire and ice. But, after reading your analysis I've learned that fire is desire which is passion, ice is hate which is reason.
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Fire and Ice. Critical companion to Robert Frost: a literary reference to his life and work.
Robert Frost: A Biography. Replica Books.
Quoted in "On 'Fire and Ice'". The Explicator.
Partly quoted in "On 'Fire and Ice'". Young Adult Book Reviewer. Retrieved Robert Frost. A Masque of Reason.