Introduction to Poetry Billy Collins I ask them to take a poemand hold it up to the lightlike a color slide or press an ear against its hive. I say drop a mouse into a poemand watch him probe his way out, or walk inside the poem's roomand feel the walls for a light switch. I want them to water skiacross the surface of a poemwaving at the author's name on the shore. But all they want to dois tie the poem to a chair with ropeand torture a confession out of it. They begin beating it with a hoseto find out what it really means.
Fire and Ice Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I've tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice. Robert Frost
Fire Fire, when uncontrolled, viciously consumes all around it, wanting more and more as it grows. In a relationship, this fire can be set off in an instant. Desire, or jealousy, can occur in a relationship, and consequently can consume an individual until there is nothing left to burn. Ice Ice is also used in the title and twice in the poem. Similarly, hate forces the other person away, driving the life out of a relationship. When left uncontrolled, these darker emotions can bring about the end of a relationship. Imagery
The poet uses words that mean or suggest passion/consumption, knowledge/experience and death/destruction. Passion and consumption are suggested by the words “fire,” “desire,” and “taste.” The words “some say” represent knowledge of a group of people; while the first person “I know” suggests personal experience. “End,” “fire,” “ice,” “perish” and “destruction” all denote death and destruction. Connotations and Denotations
Symbolism “Fire” is directly equated with desire, the kind that kindles antagonism and conflict. “Ice” represents hate. “The world” as a symbol for a relationship. All of these symbols help to tie together the poem by making desire and hate feelings felt in a relationship.
Understatement and Paradox Understatements to add to the tone. The poem ends with the line “And would suffice” which oversimplifies the meaning that has been created. By using this line, the poet emphasizes the harm of desire and hate in a relationship. Lastly, paradox is used in the line: “But if I had to perish twice”. While a person is unable to die two times, the line is used figuratively to demonstrate that desire is equally as harmful as hate.
Sound Devices Alliteration is found with the repetition of the “s” sound. Alliteration is also used in “favor fire” (Line 4). The repetition of the “f” sound places importance upon fire, and suggests the great harm that desire can cause.
Sound Devices Fire and Ice Some say the world will end in fire, ASome say in ice. B From what I've tasted of desire A I hold with those who favor fire. A But if it had to perish twice, B I think I know enough of hate C To say that for destruction ice B Is also great C And would suffice. B The use of this rhyme scheme is important because it emphasizes the words that are rhymed. In addition, the use of alternating end rhyme is similar to the rhyme scheme in nursery rhymes. This is important because it further adds to the effect of knowledge and experience.
Attitude Casual tone masks the serious question it poses. Nursery rhyme, simplistic feel. Shift “But”…Agrees that Ice is an equally destructive/powerful force as fire.
Title Is this poem suggesting that the end of the world will either be by fire or ice? Or is Frost expressing his own opinions about the darker feelings felt in a relationship? Inspiration Dante's Inferno - "Fire and Ice" was inspired by a passage in Canto 32 of Dante's Inferno, in which the worst offenders of hell, the traitors, are submerged, while in a fiery hell, up to their necks in ice: "a lake so bound with ice, / It did not look like water, but like a glass ... right clear / I saw, where sinners are preserved in ice Astronomer Harlow Shapley - Shapley's response is that either the sun will explode and incinerate the Earth, or the Earth will somehow escape this fate only to end up slowly freezing in deep space
Theme Although the poem does seem to pose a scientific question of how the world may end, a darker meaning of the poem reveals that flaws of the human heart are capable of leading to the destruction of the world at any time Through a discussion of the end of the world, likening the elemental force of fire with the emotion of desire, and ice with hate, the simple truth about feelings in a relationship are revealed.