But he had gone his way, the grass all mown, And I must be, as he had been—alone, “As all must be,” I said within my heart, “Whether they work together or apart.” But as I said it, swift there passed me by On noiseless wing a bewildered butterfly[.]
The speaker in Frost’s “The Tuft of Flowers” describes his isolation as he comes to turn the grass that was mowed by another man earlier in the morning. The speaker tries to accept his isolation but seems to be looking for companionship and turns to nature for comfort. While he is steeped in his thoughts of isolation, a butterfly passes by and distracts him from his feelings of loneliness. Later, readers learn that the butterfly leads the speaker to notice the tuft of flowers left by the mower, with whom the speaker finds kinship as the poem continues.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder If I could put a notion in his head: “Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it Where there are cows? But here there are no cows. Before I built a wall I’d ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offense.[”]
In Frost’s poem “Mending Wall,” the speaker questions the notion of wall-building while facilitating the very practice with his actions. In these lines, the speaker describes his “mischief” as he questions, almost challenges, his neighbor’s statement about walls making better neighbors. Through this questioning, the speaker presents his obvious conflict between maintaining separation while desiring companionship.
My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree Toward heaven still, And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill Beside it, and there may be two or three Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough. But I am done with apple-picking now.
The speaker in “After Apple-Picking” reveals his character as he reflects on life through the metaphor of apple picking. In these first lines, the speaker explains that even though there are apples waiting to be picked, or experiences yet to be lived, he feels ready to take a break from apple picking, or working toward some goal, for a while. His metaphor reveals that even though he feels tired, his ladder points toward “heaven still,” implying that although he has grown older and perhaps even tired of working, his life is not yet over.
Out walking in the frozen swamp one gray day, I paused and said, “I will turn back from here. No, I will go on farther—and we shall see.” The hard snow held me, save where now and then One foot went through. The view was all in lines Straight up and down of tall slim trees Too much alike to mark or name a place by So as to say for certain I was here Or somewhere else: I was just far from home.
In Frost’s poem “The Wood-Pile,” the speaker wanders from home through a peaceful and silent wood to contemplate life. Here, the speaker describes how he decides to go farther into the frozen swamp, far from home, almost intentionally getting lost in this gray, cold scene. He appears to be pushing the limits of his walk as well as of his thoughts. On this walk, the speaker searches for truths regarding the more unknown aspects of life.
I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
In the poem “The Road Not Taken,” the speaker reflects on his choices in life, giving readers a glimpse at his character. In these lines, the speaker admits that he will probably look back on his choices and wonder how they changed his life, perhaps even contemplating how things would have turned out had he chosen the other route. However, he also recognizes that choices are part of life’s journey—in fact, they shape one’s life—and as he chose the path that felt right to him, he knows there is no reason for regret or doubt.
When I see birches bend to left and right Across the lines of straighter darker trees, I like to think some boy’s been swinging them. But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay As ice storms do[.]
The speaker in “Birches” opens the poem by siding with his youthful imagination over reason. Even though the speaker admits that he knows that ice storms cause the birch trees to bend, he prefers to imagine that a boy playfully swinging on their branches caused the bending instead. Perhaps ice storms represent the cold, brutal truths of life, and the speaker would rather forget about such realities for a time. Through these lines, the speaker reflects on the swing of life between youthful imagination and mature reason.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches. And so I dream of going back to be. It’s when I’m weary of considerations, And life is too much like a pathless wood Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs Broken across it, and one eye is weeping From a twig’s having lashed across it open. I’d like to get away from earth awhile And then come back to it and begin over.
In this section of the poem “Birches,” the speaker declares his desire to be a “swinger of birches,” escaping life for a while but always returning. The speaker uses the metaphor of walking through a pathless wood to explain life. He reveals how he would like to escape and swing above the ground when walking through the woods feels painful or life feels overwhelming but also feel brave enough to come back down to the ground and return to reality. The speaker likes the idea of balancing his life and his burdens between imagination and reality or between heaven and earth.
From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if I had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice.
In the short poem “Fire and Ice,” the speaker explores the question of how the world might end and only discovers an ambiguous truth. Through this contemplation, the speaker reveals his experience with life’s strongest emotions: desire, anger, and hate. The speaker clearly recognizes that fire, like desire, and ice, like hate, would both be adequate in creating destruction. Readers may infer that the speaker views hate as an emotion easier to bear than burning desire, for he chooses ice if he “had to perish twice.”
Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village, though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow.
In “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the speaker describes his brief escape to nature. In these lines, the speaker describes pausing a moment during his travels to bask in the setting’s isolation and to appreciate the quiet, solitary nature around him. The speaker notes that the owner of the woods won’t know he’s stopped here, implying that even in this natural setting, the rules and boundaries of men still affect his thoughts. Since the owner lives away in the village, however, the speaker feels he does no harm in stopping to enjoy the peace and quiet.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.
In the last few lines of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the speaker reflects on his human experience by escaping to nature’s isolation but also choosing to return to his responsibilities. Through this final passage, the speaker emphasizes nature’s powerful lure as the woods offer peace and solitude, yet he also acknowledges that he has more to accomplish and has not yet reached the end of his journey of life.
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