Robert Frost is known for creating short yet impactful poems. The brilliance of the poet is shown in his ability to deliver huge messages in just a few lines. The poem Fire and Ice is one such example. This short poem is just 9 lines long, yet he manages to destroy the world with it. Fire and Ice symbolism has a lot to convey and we’ll be looking at that in detail. While most people take Fire and Ice symbolism as the tug between hate and desire, in reality, it is a parallel drawn between love and hate and how both can destroy the world.
If we take the literal meaning of fire and ice, both are opposite yet both are capable of destroying. Fire and Ice also symbolize Love and Hate very accurately. But one may ask that Frost has mentioned the term desire to represent fire. So where does love come from? The explanation awaits later in the article. Take a look at the poem.
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.
Fire and Ice symbolism
Before we get to see what Fire and Ice symbolism is, we must know what symbolism means. Symbolism is often used in poems to make them abstract. When some symbols are used to represent other ideas, it is called symbolism. Here, the fire has been used as a symbol to represent desire, and ice has been used for hatred. But the symbolism of Fire and Ice goes beyond just words. There is symbolism even in the delivery of the lines.
What does fire symbolize
What are the qualities of fire? It burns things, consumes everything that comes in its way and is very difficult to take control of. It starts with a small spark and keeps getting bigger and bigger, spreading in all directions. Now take these qualities and try using them for desire. You’ll see how well it fits.
Desire also starts as a small spark. You get the impulse of needing something. You want it anyway. Slowly it grows, spreading all over your mind and heart. It takes such a violent form that soon you realize it has consumed everything you had. Now you need whatever your desire is asking for. We have seen many people getting consumed by the fire of desire.
And what does this desire bring? Not just the destruction of oneself, but sometimes the destruction of the world. We have seen many megalomaniacs who have nearly caused the end of the world while causing the deaths of innumerable lives. It is the desire to go rogue, gone out of control that makes these people lose their minds and commit such heinous crimes.
What does Ice symbolize
The other element of this pair is ice and it symbolizes hatred. Pure, cold, and uncaring hasted. Ice is often used to show a lack of motion and emotion. Someone freezing is a reference to ice. Here motion means the flow of emotions in a person. A person like ice has no emotion coursing through their veins. They lack humanity, the warmth of care. This is all because of the hate they store inside.
It is well known-how hate can destroy the world. Hate is the lack of love and this means they become uncaring of the world’s suffering, watching the world burn with complete complacency. This is what hatred does, which makes you cold and uncaring. Hence like Fire and Ice are opposite yet both share the ability to destroy the world, desire and hate are the same pair with the same qualities. But the symbolism in Fire and Ice is not limited to just words, but how the message has been conveyed.
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The deeper meaning of Fire and Ice
It was pretty clear that fire represents desire and ice represents hate, but that’s not where the symbolism ends. The way the poet speaks about the two emotions changes according to the emotion. Desire brings fire to the speech while ice brings the uncaring nature. Let me explain.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
Notice the lines and see the desire in the way the poet speaks about the fire. Look at the rage that burns. He holds with those who want to watch the world burn, but that is not enough. He wants to see more, he wants the world to perish twice. This is the raging desire that blinds the person. This is Frost at his finest. And this is how he symbolizes the ravaging nature of fire. But it doesn’t stop here.
When the poet conveys the emotion of hate, you can sense the uncaring nature of his tone. Take a look at these lines;
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
You can see that he is saying that he has seen enough of hate and he would be fine to see the world end with ice or hatred. Can you see the difference in the intensity of the statement and the nature of stating it? The poet is talking about the destruction of the world, the entire world. But the way he is talking about it is so uncaring. It’s like just let it happens, he couldn’t care less. See the seeping hatred when he says that destruction from ice would also suffice. The end of the world by ice would “suffice”. This is the power of hatred. This is the symbolism that transcends words. It goes into the way the words are being said. This is what makes Frost a great poet.