In this lecture at the Browne and Nichols School on May 10, 1915, Frost discusses his theory of the ‘sound of sense’ and even breaks down “The Pasture” line by line. Check it out for #NationalPoetryMonth #NPM16. Look at your own poems or the poems of others—do you see the distinct ‘tones’ in their lines which Frost identified in his own?
When I began to teach, and long after I began to write, I didn’t know what the matter was with me and my writing and with other people’s writing. I recall distinctly the joy with which I had the first satisfaction of getting an expression adequate for my thought. I was so delighted that I had to cry. It was the second stanza of the little poem on the Butterfly, written in my eighteenth year. And the Sound in the mouths of men I found to be the basis of all effective expression,—not merely words or phrases, but sentences,—living things flying round,—the vital parts of speech. And my poems are to be read in the appreciative tones of this live speech. For example, there are five tones in this first stanza,
I’m going out to clean the pasture spring; (light, informing tone)
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away (“only” tone—reservation)
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may): (supplementary, possibility)
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too. (free tone, assuring)
Frost, R. (1995). Collected poems, prose & plays. New York: Library of America.