The concise, laconic, perfect and perfectly savage Fire and Ice, the antithesis of the long-winded New Hampshire, belongs with the apocalyptic Once by the Pacific. The alternatives in the title represent passion and hatred, two ways of destroying the world. The poem was inspired by a passage in Canto 32 of Dante's Inferno, in which the betrayers of their own kind are plunged, while in a fiery hell, up to their necks in ice: a lake so bound with ice, / It did not took like water, but like a glass... right clear / I saw, where sinners are preserved in ice. The last, understated word in Frost's poem, suffice, clinches the meaning (like difference in The Road Not Taken) by rhyming with the two lines that end in ice and enclosing that thematic word within itself
Frost is a great American poet. The best? I wouldn't know how to choose between Hart Crane, Robert Lowell, Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, Ezra Pound and Frost, even counting Eliot as the Englishman he wanted to be.
Some in America prefer Whitman or Dickinson, but to me, Frost is our best. Whitman had nothing to fight with Frost's turn of phrase, nor how Frost knew how to end a poem powerfully; Whitman was a crappy poet who became famous with his journal. Dickinson was a master at rhyming but lacked Frost's depth.
The Road Not Taken
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Tree At My Window
Fire and Ice
Nothing Gold Can Stay
The Ax Helve
...are all great poems. One man won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry four times. That man is Robert Frost, America's greatest poet. He rhymes (Whitman did not) , he is deep (Dickinson was not) , he coins phrases (good fences make good neighbors; nature's first green is gold; I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference... etc.) . Our best, period. Poetry should be both fun and profound... not boring and profound or entertaining and shallow. His mastery of profundity and rhyming/turn of phrase make Frost da best.
I've read many opinions of what this poem means. I think the one I like best is this one, which I lifted from Wikipedia:
It seems fair to say that this poem is about the human tendency to look back and attribute blame to minor events in one's life, or to make more meaning of things than they may deserve.
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