‘A Prayer in Spring’ by Robert Frost is a four stanza poem that is separated and two sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a consistent rhyme scheme that conforms to a pattern of AABB CCDD EEFF GGEE. The simple and straightforward pattern contributes to the overall rhythm of “A Prayer in Spring,’ as will be elaborated on in the rest of the introduction.
The meter is structured very consistently as well. The majority of the lines are written in iambic pentameter. This means that each line contains five sets of two beats, know as iambs. The first is unstressed and the second stressed. It sounds something like da-DUM, da-DUM. The constant beat that iambic pentameter lends to a poem works perfectly in ‘A Prayer for Spring.’ It contributes to the other all calm and meditative tone. It also provides the correct “prayer-like” beat to Frost’s words, especially when read out loud.
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Summary of A Prayer in Spring
The poem begins with the speaker asking for peace and happiness through nature, but, isn’t sure if he’s going to get it. He feels as though he needs to ask God if it is possible, this request takes the form of a prayer (as the title alludes to). Otherwise, he’s going to be worried about the “uncertain harvest,” and that’s not what he wants to do. Frost’s speaker is asking on the behalf of everyone around him, and perhaps all of humankind.
He goes on to ask that the world is given “pleasure in the orchid white”.These are the flowers that bloom before the fruit. Everyone should be able to see them and appreciate them without thinking about the fruits to come. He also mentions bees and birds, particularly hummingbirds. These are other elements of the landscape he wants to take pleasure in. Although there is a lot about the world that he is unsure of, the elements which only God understands, he knows that spring is accessible to everyone. He’d like it to be a peaceful, clear-headed time that everyone can enjoy.
Poetic Techniques in A Prayer in Spring
Frost uses a number of poetic techniques within ‘A Prayer in Spring.’ One of the most easily spotted is anaphora. This is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. Frost uses the word “And” at the beginning of four of the twelve lines,” “Oh” starts two, and “The” starts three. In line one of the first and second stanza, Frost reuses the phrase “Oh, give us pleasure in the…” It ends in different ways, but the repetition helps evoke the feeling of prayer.
Another kind of repetition also occurs in the text, alliteration. This is present when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. For example, “simply” and “springing” in line four of stanza one and “happy” (used twice) in line three of stanza two.
Analysis of A Prayer in Spring
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
In the first stanza of ‘A Prayer in Spring’ the speaker begins by asking for something simple. He wants “us” to take pleasure “in the flowers” today. At its simplest level, this line is a straightforward summary of the main theme of this piece. Frost’s speaker is seeking peace and happiness through nature, but, isn’t sure if he’s going to get it.
He feels as though he needs to ask God if he and those around him can have it. The second line and the third line layout the opposite, an example of what Frost’s speaker does not want to think about today. That is the “uncertain harvest” ahead. There is nothing he can do about the future fall harvest and he’d like to be able to put it out of his head.
While it is perfectly okay to read this poem as a simple meditation on natural spaces, one might want to look deeper. Rather than simply speaking on flowers and harvest, the “prayer” that Frost is laying out in his four stanzas could be in reference to any kind of future. His speaker is hoping for good tidings rather than disappointing conclusions. He does not even want to worry about the future. This state of mind is one that should be accessible to almost any reader.
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
The second part of the third line and the fourth line ask the listener (God), to “keep us here”. A reader should take note of the fact that Frost uses the word “us” rather than “I”. It is not entirely clear who the “us” is. But, when one considers the fact that this poem takes the form of a prayer, then it makes a little bit more sense. The “us” is genuinely all of humankind.
The speaker is hoping that everyone is able to exist “simply in the spring of the year”. This “prayer in spring” is exactly what it sounds like. It is a prayer set forth in the middle of the spring season in which the speaker hopes for good present, and the ability to cast away his worries about the future. These would come about in the fall and winter.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
The second stanza of ‘A Prayer in Spring’ also begins with the word “Oh”. This time though the speaker is asking that the world is given “pleasure in the orchid white”. A reader should take note of the fact that this line is structured in the same way as the first line of stanza one. Both are asking that Frost’s speaker and those around him are given something in pleasure.
In the first line, he is speaking about budding flowers in the orchard. Later, these will grow into fruits that will hopefully be gathered in the fall. But, as he stated previously, he is trying not to look to the future. He wants to be happy with the “happy bees, / The swarm dilating round the perfect trees”. It is a single moment he is seeking. No matter if the fruits become ripe or not, he is determined to find pleasure in this day.
The second line is quite interesting as the speaker refers to the white flowers as “ghosts by night”. They appear very differently at night, but he can still take pleasure in them. During the daytime, they are like “nothing else”. They are what they are, they are not fruits or even prospective fruits.
And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
The third stanza of ‘A Prayer in Spring’ begins differently than the first and second. Here, the speaker jumps right into describing another aspect of his surroundings. There is a “darting bird” in the scene. Initially, it seems as though this could be any small, quickly moving bird. But, in line three the bird’s “bill” is referred to as a “needle”. This seems to imply that the speaker is looking at a hummingbird. It is heard above the bees and is another simple delight of the scene.
For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.
The fourth stanza explains why the speaker cares so much about sharing these joys with those around him. He feels that the beautiful things of spring are“love”. There is nothing else that is like them. The pleasures of the season are available for everyone to sense and enjoy.
There’s a lot about the world that the speaker and those around him do not understand. These things are “reserved for God above”. They are used by him for his own will. But spring and the flowers, birds, and bees are able to bring a very simple pleasure into human lives which are easily understood.