October 4, 2009
An Analysis of Frost’s “Choose Something Like a Star” and Keats’ “Bright Star”
Upon a close reading, comparing and contrasting Robert Frost’s “Choose Something Like a Star” and John Keats’ “Bright Star,” has displayed the obvious similarities and differences of the two, but also the subtle implications of deeper similarities based on the lives of the two poets. Both, for their different reasons, based their poems on the steadfastness of a star. There is intimacy present in “Bright Star” versus the public concern in “Choose Something Like a Star.” There is envy of the star in Keats’ poem, where Frost appreciates what “little aid” it does offer us. “Bright Star” is based on the romantic properties of the star, where “Choose Something Like a Star” is primarily, at least initially, concerned with the scientific aspects of it.
Both poets seem very interested in the permanence of the star, using words like “steadfast” to display the simple continuity of the star. In the end of both poems, the stars eternality is what is taken away as important. Although their reasons for admiring the continuity of a star differ, both appreciated how desirable steadiness is. Both Keats and Frost experienced the deaths of close family members, making their specific observations about the eternal star personal.
Keats is interested in immortality, like the star, in order to be forever with his love. However, he is presented with a paradox. Although the star never dies, it is “ …In lone splendour hung aloft the night,” which would make it impossible for Keats to be a star and be with his lover. His poem is punctuated as a single sentence, making it seem as though he has a lot to say without much time, which indicates that he realizes the impossibility of his hopes for eternal life. Another reference to the speed at which human life is lived is the use of the word “ripe,” which has connotations of something perishable. His use of words such as soft, pillow’d, swoon, and breast make the poem sensual. His use of words such as Eremite, ablution, and priestlike make the poem religious. Today it would be unusual for a poet to write about the two in one poem, but in 1819 when the poem was written, the two often went hand in hand.
Frost starts his poem off by lamenting about the obscurity of the star, telling it “Some mystery becomes the proud./But to be wholly taciturn/In your reserve is not allowed,” then asks the star to “Tell us what elements you blend,” obviously curious about the scientific makeup of stars. He beseeches the star to open up and stop hiding its secrets, “Say something! And it says “I burn,”” not the answer he was looking for.
At the conclusion of the poem, Frost realizes that although his original goal has not been met, there is something to be learned from this star. He makes a reference to Keats’ “Bright Star,” saying “And steadfast as Keats’ Eremite,” again, alluding to the solitude and permanence of the star. There is something significant in the steadfastness of a star, he hopes that the world can learn something from its nature and its power to serve as an anchor of permanence and placidity in today’s turbulent world.
Keats is envious of the long undisturbed life the star will have, wanting that for himself. He does not want to see the beautiful views that stars watch, he only cares about eternal life, and the star, so that he may always be with his love. He says “And so live ever–or else swoon to death,” implying that if he cannot live forever, he will live in the present enjoying his ecstasy.
For both poems, the true focus seems to be of the star, specifically it’s steadiness. The reasons for this focus differ, and the purposes of the poems differ. The versatility of the virtues of a steadfast star can be interpreted many ways, and both of these ways turned into memorable poems.