Frost's poetic technique derives from the most basic factors in literature, the factors that characterize the first great literary age of European culture, drama, and metaphor; and beyond that, it has shown remarkable results in practice.

    -From the Conclusion of An Analysis of the Poetic Method of Robert Frost


My gratitude to the author for taking all the pains over work of mine and not wishing on my evaluation of his results. I am assured on the best authority his results are very good. No man is supposed to look at himself in the glass except to shave.

    -Robert Frost, Ripton, Vermont, August, 1940. (Inscription in the Shain Library's copy of An Analysis of the Poetic Method of Robert Frost)



Of the poets whose work influenced William Meredith, Robert Frost was perhaps the most significant. As a senior at Princeton University, Meredith wrote a thesis on Frost and his poetry. Although Robert Frost is a major figure in twentieth century American Literature, William Meredith's 1940 thesis is one of the first essays to analyze Frost's poetry.

Meredith is not concerned with providing a close reading or a critical analysis of Frost's work but rather an examination of the way in which Frost's opinions on poetry in general are manifested in his work. In the first chapter, "Frost's Poetry: Its Debts and Influences," Meredith examines Frost's statements on creativity and writing in comparison to his own life.

The second chapter, "Poetry as Drama," examines Frost's poetry in light of his statement that "'Everything is as good as it is dramatic." Meredith concludes that "vividly presented actions and settings, then, and the construction of poems so as to indicate a recognizable character as a speaker, work together to give Frost's poetry, in non-dramatic forms, a dramatic springing." This observation, as well as Meredith's discussion of the different characterizations that Frost affects in his poems, is likely an influence on Meredith's subsequent poetry, especially the speaker in his "war poems" and his creation of Hazard.

In the third chapter, Meredith examines Frost's statement that "'Poetry is distinguished from crude enthusiasm...by having been tamped by intellect. Intellect acts as a prism, splitting up crude enthusiasm into all its component colors...the filtering process is achieved by metaphor'". Meredith suggests that Frost places the burden of interpretation on the reader while simultaneously indicating his intended meaning.

The final chapter, "Poetry as Belief," examines Frost's opinion that "...poetry must arise from belief rather than cunning" and that "'...the person who gets close enough to poetry, he is going to know more about the word belief than anybody else knows..." The influence of these statements on Meredith's later work is suggested by the manner in which Meredith views poetry as a means of posing "questions...having to do with morale in a period of decline."

The thesis was completed four years before Meredith's first collection of poems, Love Letter From an Impossible Land. It provides a unique opportunity to understand not only the influence of one great American poet on another, but also William Meredith's initial perceptions of poetry and its role in society.