‘The Freedom of the Moon’ by Robert Frost is a two stanza poem that is separated into sets of six lines, or sestets. These lines follow a rhyme scheme of ABABCC, alternating end sounds between the verses. There are also moments of half or slant rhyme within the lines. These are 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, the words “brought” and “dropped” in lines four and five of the second stanza.
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Summary of The Freedom of the Moon
The poem begins with the speaker telling the reader that he has tried a number of different ways of looking and thinking about the moon. First, he tried looking at it “tilted in the air”. At that point, it appeared like a “jewel in your hair” up above the “ tree-and-farmhouse cluster”. The lines of the poem are rich with vibrant imagery. They paint an interesting picture of the moon, but they also speak to something else, the freedom of humankind.
In the second stanza, the speaker goes into greater detail about how he has the power to move the moon and position it how he wants. He can move slowly and take his time in his considerations. The speaker takes the moon out of a “crate” of trees in which it was trapped. He can force it out, free it, and take it into the sky. The poem’s conclusion is open-ended, with the speaker and reader left to “wonder” at the images the moon creates in a body of water.
You can read the full poem here.
Frost makes use of a number of poetic techniques within ‘The Freedom of the Moon,’ such as alliteration, enjambment, and anaphora. The latter is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. This occurs in the first stanza with the use and reuse of “I’ve tried…” Additionally, the word “And” begins two lines in the second stanza.
Another important technique that is commonly used in poetry is enjambment. This occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. It forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. There are multiple examples in ‘The Freedom of the Moon’ but a prominent one is between lines five and six of the first stanza. A reader has to jump down to the sixth line in order to find out what is being combined.
Alliteration is also present in the poem. It occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. One example is “start” and “shining” in the sixth line of the first stanza. Then in the second stanza, “crate” and “crooked” as well as “glossy” and “greater”.
Analysis of The Freedom of the Moon
I’ve tried the new moon tilted in the air
Above a hazy tree-and-farmhouse cluster
Alone, or in one ornament combining
With one first-water start almost shining.
In the first three lines, known as a tercet, the speaker considers the moon and the different ways it can be analyzed. First, he states that he looked at the moon “tilted in the air”. It appeared like a jewel in a woman’s hair,
Above a hazy tree-and-farmhouse cluster
This “cluster” is the hair, and the bright moon stands out in its midst. From these lines, it becomes clear that the speaker is addressing someone specific, a woman, likely someone he loves. It is interesting to consider the fact that the moon is at once “tilted” as if in a crescent, but is also “new”. This changes the meaning of the word “new”. Perhaps it was his consideration of the moon that was new, rather than the phase it was in.
He goes on in the next tercet to say that he has also “tried it” when it was thinner. It was just a “little breadth of luster.” Its luster was still there, but it was just a sliver.
I put it shining anywhere I please.
By walking slowly on some evening later,
And dropped it in, and seen the image wallow,
The color run, all sorts of wonder follow.
The speaker, and therefore humankind’s freedom, is displayed to its utmost in the first line of the second stanza. He describes how he can put it “anywhere” he pleases. This is done while it is “shining”. All of these lines are somewhat hard to interpret, but the underlying meaning is clear, the speaker has personal power he can control. Frost chose to exhibit this power and freedom through the metaphorical task of moving the moon.
The speaker increases his power by speaking about his ability to walk. He can move slowly and take his time in his considerations. He also adds that he can “pull… [the moon] from a crate of crooked trees.” It was resting in the tress as if boxed up and trapped. He can force it out, free it, and take it into the sky. In these lines, he describes how he,
[…] brought it over glossy water, greater,
And dropped it in,
This speaks to his ability to control himself and the world. He moves the moon over the water and looks at its reflection there. It appears in a changed state in the reflection and the water itself also appears transformed. It is “glossy” and the “image” appears to “wallow” or roll and twist. This is especially prominent when he drops it in.
The poem’s conclusion is open-ended. The moon is in the water, and its colors run. From there, he is allowed to “wonder” at it. There is no limit to what he can do, think or be.