‘Spring Pools’ by Robert Frost describes the passage of time through the image of a pool of water melting as trees bud at the beginning of summer.
The poem begins with the speaker noting how the pools of water on the forest floor, just like the flowers next to them, are soon to disappear. These pools are no longer as steady as they used to be. The pools “chill and shiver” as the newly budding trees soak up their contents. As soon as the leaves start to spread the summer wood will be born, the spring will die, and the topography of the forest will change.
Poetic Techniques in Spring Pools
‘Spring Pools’ by Robert Frost is a two stanza poem that is separated into sets of six lines, known as sestets. The lines follow a rhyme scheme of AABCBC DDEFEF. Frost also uses half and internal rhyme in ‘Spring Pools’. The former is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line, or multiple lines of verse. For example, “nature” and “summer” in the second line of the second stanza.
The latter, internal rhyme, is also present in the poem. This is a kind of rhyme that is not constrained to the end of the lines, but can appear anywhere. There is a strong example of this technique in the fifth line of the second stanza with “flowery” and “watery”, then, again in the sixth line with “only”.
You can read the full poem here.
Other Poetic Techniques
Frost also makes use of a number of other poetic techniques. These include repetition and alliteration. The latter occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. There is an example in the third line of the second stanza with “them think twice”. Repetition and alliteration work together in the fifth line of the second stanza with “waters” and “watery”.
Repetition can be seen through the use and reuse of specific words in the poem, as well as more broadly in the theme of life, death and rebirth. The word “flower” is used in one form or another four times in the short, twelve-line poem. Another example occurs with the word “dark”. It is used to describe the color of the foliage in the first stanza and the way the trees are able to “darken”.
The “dark” and the way it can influence an environment is brought up several times in ‘Spring Pools’. The two instances mentioned above, as well as through a general sense of darkening, the power of the trees to create shade, and then through the larger allusion to death.
Analysis of Spring Pools
These pools that, though in forests, still reflect
And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver,
In the first lines of ‘Spring Pools,’ the speaker begins by describing the “pools” referenced in the title. Through a drawn-out, multiline sentence, Frost’s speaker tells the reader that soon, the “pools” will be gone. They, like the flowers around them, are going to disappear. But at this particular moment, he’s able to look at them and enjoy how they,
[…] still reflect
The total sky almost without defect,
They are clear, nearly perfect, and are acting as mirrors to further the reach, and depth, of the sky. But, the season is changing. Now, they “chill and shiver” just like the “flowers beside them”. It appears that the sun is being blocked out, as will be revealed in the next stanza, but the growing foliage.
Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone,
But up by roots to bring dark foliage on.
Frost’s speaker goes on, stating that the pools of water aren’t going to dissolve because of the sudden creation of a brook or river to sweep them away. Instead, they’re going to meet their end,
[…] by roots to bring dark foliage on.
This is a roundabout way of saying their end is going to come from the earth. It is because of plants, which are much larger than the flowers beside the pools of water, that they’re going to disappear.
In the second stanza, the speaker gives the reader a little more information about why the water is going to disappear. Immediately, the poem turns away from the water and to “The trees”. They have a power that is disruptive to the ecosystem as it is currently situated. Right now, the “buds” are “pent-up” or closed. But, when they open, the woods will move from being spring woods to “summer woods”. The leaves will expand and in their larger form, cover more of the sky. The “nature” below the canopy will “darken”.
Frost has crafted an interesting dynamic in the final lines of ‘Spring Pools’ as the speaker, who has no power to change the comings and goings of the seasons, or influence the trees, acts as if he does.
Think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
He issues a warning to the trees, telling them that it might be best that they didn’t “sweep away /These flowery waters and these watery flowers”. This is an example of antimetabole. It occurs when a poet repeats a series of words within phrases or sentences but reverses the order to change the meaning.
The poem concludes with the speaker expressing regret that the trees might take away the snowmelt that only recently (or so it seems to him) appeared. On a small scale, the melting of puddles of water doesn’t seem very important. Although, when considered as a metaphor for life and death, it is more complex and impactful. Frost is in truth mourning the inevitable passage of time. Through his speaker attempting, in vain, to push back against it.