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The Poems of Robert Frost | Quotes

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1.

I shan't be gone long.—You come too.


Narrator, The Pasture

The speaker must go out to attend to the pasture spring and to a little calf. He is hesitant to leave, though, because he doesn't want to part from the one who is staying home. The lines tell of his determination to finish the chores in a hurry and of his greater wish to have that person go with him. Going alone means solitude and a chance to gain experience, wisdom, and knowledge. This is why he may "wait to watch the water [of the spring] clear." Even given the benefits of solitude, however, the company of a beloved other is still better.

2.

The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.


Narrator, Mowing

The farmhand, in working the land, finds the integrity of nature revealed to him. This integrity is the true reality, which cannot be found by idle hands.

3.

Swift there passed me by / On noiseless wing a bewildered butterfly, / Seeking memories grown dim o'er night.


Narrator, The Tuft of Flowers

This turn in the poem establishes the butterfly as the vehicle of the poem's extended metaphor. Butterflies do not have memories, at least as we can know them. Therefore, the butterfly's flight seems to represent the course of the speaker's thought and indeed leads to the final couplet and a human resolution.

4.

Home is the place where, when you have to go there, / They have to take you in.


Warren, The Death of the Hired Man

Silas, the hired man, has returned to Warren's farm to die. Warren doesn't want him there. Silas has a brother and should go there: he would have to take him in; he's family. This is the sort of homespun truth that demonstrates Frost's sense that the successful poem enables you to remember something you have forgotten but have always known.

5.

I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight / I got from looking through a pane of glass / I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough.


Narrator, After Apple Picking

The pane is ice, not glass, and the distorted view through the ice pane represents what we can see of the present reality of our lives. As it melts, it is willfully dropped, but the view leaves memories of what is now the past. These recollections of the past are conceived differently from when the apple picker first sees them.

6.

And leave it there ... / To warm the frozen swamp as best it could / With the slow smokeless burning of decay.


Narrator, The Wood-Pile

The speaker comes upon an abandoned cord of maple, carefully cut and stacked. But the woodcutter who cut and stacked it so he would be warmed by it as it burned has left it unused and far from a fireplace. Now it will "burn" only as it decays.

7.

I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.


Narrator, The Road Not Taken

The speaker, coming to a place where two roads diverge, observes there is no visible difference between the two roads. He has chosen the one he thinks is less well-used and believes it has made a difference in his life's journey. This poem is not about choices but about how we create our life narratives after the fact.

8.

(And taken with it all the Hyla breed / That shouted in the mist a month ago, / Like ghost of sleigh-bells in a ghost of snow).


Narrator, Hyla Brook

In this sonnet to memory, the description of the memory of the shouts of frogs, a springtime phenomenon, is described in a compelling winter simile. This is a fine example of Frost's notion that a poem must have a "wild" and unexpected tune.

9.

From what I've tasted of desire / I hold with those who favor fire.


Narrator, Fire and Ice

The speaker says some people believe the world will end in fire while others think it will end in ice. The speaker considers the matter and decides that if the world were to end in fire, desire would likely be the cause of all that burning.

10.

Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair / Before them over their heads.


Narrator, Birches

The white trunks of birch trees bent against the vertical "straighter darker trees" remind the speaker of the exhilaration of youthful independence and lust.

11.

I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep.


Narrator, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

The speaker has stopped in a wood to watch the snow fall. He is content to watch and listen, but he remembers he has responsibilities. The last line is repeated. The first announcement of "miles to go before I sleep" seems almost a reminder to himself that, yes, he must go on although he prefers to linger. The repetition represents resolution: he must move on and travel those miles to fulfill his obligations.

12.

I have been one acquainted with the night.


Narrator, Acquainted with the Night

The speaker wanders the streets at night. He walks in rain, on sad streets, and beyond the city lights. He is lonely and unnoticed. The walker has experienced nothingness. That is what he has learned by his acquaintance with the night.

13.

That day, giving a loose to my soul, / I spent on the unimportant wood.


Narrator, Two Tramps in Mud Time

The wood splitter reigns in his passions and lives a life of self-control. It builds up in him, and he goes to the woodpile with axe in hand to blow off steam by chopping wood.

14.

Say something to us we can learn / By heart and when alone repeat.


Narrator, Take Something Like a Star

The speaker addresses a solitary star, pleading for meaning, for something to carry people through the dark times and the confusing times. He wants something, anything, "to stay our minds on."

15.

Such as we were we gave ourselves outright / (The deed of gift was many deeds of war).


Narrator, The Gift Outright

The speaker declares that Americans gave themselves to the land outright. It cost them dearly because their commitment to the land was a total commitment, one that called for "many deeds of war." Although many sacrifices were made, the reward was the America people have today.

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