Write a comparative analysis of ‘An old man’s winter night’ by Robert Frost and ‘Lore’ by R. S. Thomas. Highlight each poet’s distinct attitude towards old age. Comment on the style through which the poets express how they feel about old age. Both Frost and Thomas draw upon the theme of old age in their poems. However in ‘Lore’ the theme of old age is portrayed as a positive thing and the persona defies the stereotype.
Whereas in ‘An old man’s winter night’ we are presented with the stereotype about old age and old age is portrayed in a more negative light. In today’s society old age is often seen as a negative thing. Old people are being made to feel useless as they lose there independence. However some of them defy this stereotype and are still doing everyday activities with ease. ‘Lore’ and ‘An old man’s winter night’ are relevant to us because they are about old age and how it is both positive and negative. In the poem ‘Lore’ Job Davies is still farming and enjoying life even though he’s eighty-five. Job Davies, eighty-five/Winters old, and still alive” Whereas in ‘An old man’s winter night’ the old man is conveyed as frail, scared and he obviously feels useless to society which follows the natural stereotype of old age. Frost and Thomas both appreciate the beauty and harshness of nature to a certain extent. They both realise that it can be mans worst enemy. Frost draws on the typical stereotype of old age and often used physical isolation to reflect mans emotional isolation. Whereas, Thomas who was an Anglican clergyman worked with elderly people and he goes against the typical stereotype.
He had an understanding of old people’s hopes and fears. He incorporated that into his poems. The biggest difference is that Thomas views nature as a rejuvenating source for humans if they embrace it. Nature plays a part in both of the poems. However it is portrayed in two very different ways. ‘Lore’ is set in the welsh countryside, which is where most of Thomas’s poems were set. His daytime setting “dawn” reflects the message of the poem, and how it is a new beginning and brings a sense of hope. Also the persona knows his surroundings. This adds to him being more enthusiastic about his work and how he feels that age is just a number.
However in ‘An old man’s winter night’ there is a huge difference in the setting as there is a sense of death, fear and the end due to the old house and the night time darkness. In contrast to ‘Lore’ the persona feels threatened and terrified by his surroundings and by this also feels useless, which follows the typical stereotype about old age. ‘Lore’ and ‘An old man’s winter night’ to an extent are reflective poems and throughout them their tone changes. In ‘An old man’s winter night’ the persona is very fearful, “and scared the outer night/which has sounds familiar, like the roar/of trees… This suggests that the sounds of nature are apparently familiar to the old man but yet they still seem to threaten him. In old age he has become more vulnerable. Throughout the poem the old man comes off as being very lonely, “That gathers on the pane in empty rooms. ” This emptiness is symbolic for the loneliness in the old man’s life. Whereas in ‘Lore’ the tone is the complete opposite of ‘An old man’s winter night’ In the first and second stanzas the tone is informal, enthusiastic and defiant, “Miserable?
Kick my arse! ” Job is showing that it doesn’t matter about age and thus adopts a defiant tone. In the last two stanzas the tone changes from being defiant to reflective, “Live large, man, and dream small. ” This suggests that Job has immersed himself in nature and wants others to do the same, also this gives him sustenance. The viewpoints differ in the both poems as they are two very different poems. In ‘Lore’ the narration is in first person. This means that Job is directly addressing the reader throughout the poem.
His rhetorical questions challenge the reader, “What’s living but courage? ” This adds to the defiant tone. The persona in the poem does not lack confidence, “The great perch of my laugh. ” This light hearted allusion to a chirpy bird suggests height and power. The use of 1st person reinforces Job’s feistiness. On the other hand, ‘An old man’s winter night’ has an omniscient narrator which means that it is being told from an all-seeing point of view, in contrast to ‘Lore’. Compared to Job the old man in this poem lacks confidence, “He consigned to the moon… This suggests that the persona is not confident and seems to feel useless. Someone else must tell the story for him. Both poets’ attitudes to old age differ. In ‘Lore’ Thomas uses Job to portray that old age is not a negative thing and that it can be thought of as a new beginning, particularly if one draws on the sustenance offered by nature. However in ‘An old man’s winter night’ Frost thinks there is a fraught relationship between man and nature because in the poem the old man seems to fear nature, “and scared the outer night… This is symbolic of the man’s fear of nature. ‘Lore’ has a regular rhyme scheme, whereas ‘An old man’s winter night’ has no specific rhyme scheme. The rhyming pattern in ‘Lore’ emphasises the rhythm of Jobs work, as when you read the poem its pace is upbeat and fast, just like Job. Whereas in ‘An old man’s winter night’ there is only one stanza. This represents the old man’s separation from the rest of the world and nature. The poem is also a narrative poem which in contrast to ‘Lore’ is told in a third person view.
This also adds to the sense of loneliness and separation from the rest of the world. ‘Lore’ and ‘An old man’s winter night’ both use enjambment, but to different effects. They also use parenthesis in their poems. However in ‘Lore’ the rhyme scheme emphasises Jobs rhythm of work. He also has a jump in his step while he is telling us about his life and work. On the other hand ‘An old man’s winter night’ has no set rhyme scheme which makes the character of the old man seem more realistic. It is also symbolic of the old man’s loneliness and separation from the rest of the world.
Thomas and Frost both incorporate the image of old men and nature/outside world. They also associate winter with death and portray nature as a harsh mistress. The rhetorical questions in ‘Lore’ are challenges to the reader, and this adds the feel of defiance. The image of “bearded” not only leads us to think of old age and old men but also shows the extent of Jobs immersion in nature. Thomas uses the images of “porridge” and “tea” which are both traditional hearty foods which help to add to the image of the old farmer.
Colloquialisms make the character of Job seem more realistic. Also the image of dawn shows that age can be the start of something new and not something that should be looked down upon. However in ‘An old man’s winter night’ images of the night time shows that the poet considers old age to be the end. Onomatopoeic verbs like “creaking” emphasise the emptiness of old age. Light is used as a symbol, “a light he was to no-one but himself” this conveys he is no use to anyone and that it follows the typical stereotype of age.
Frost uses alliteration in his poem, “beating on a box” emphasises the echoing emptiness of the old man’s house, his loneliness and his separation from the natural world. In conclusion I would have to say that I preferred ‘Lore’ as it was a more enjoyable poem to read compared to ‘An old man’s winter night’ I felt that this poem was too confusing with its language and imagery. I also found that ‘Lore’ defies the typical stereotype and I like how it does this and that is why I prefer this poem. Gareth Hamill