First there was the snowstorm. Then the. Now more snow is predicted tonight. Today, with the rare sunshine, my new camera and I walked around the property. It is a beautiful, enchanted landscape, but the trees and bushes are bowed under the weight of it.
The weather makes me think of Fire and Ice, the Robert Frost poem.
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” 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.”
In an anecdote he recounted in 1960 in a “Science and the Arts” presentation, prominent astronomer Harlow Shapley claims to have inspired “Fire and Ice”. Shapley describes an encounter he had with Robert Frost a year before the poem was published in which Frost, noting that Shapley was the astronomer of his day, asks him how the world will end. 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. Shapley then describes his surprise at seeing “Fire and Ice”, which seems to ponder the question of which of these two outcomes will occur, published a year later, and cites it as an example of how science can influence the creation of art, or clarify its meaning. Although the poem does seem to pose a scientific question of how the world may end, most critics agree that this serves to mask the darker meaning of the poem, that flaws of the human heart are capable of leading to the destruction of the world at any time.