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The Poems of Robert Frost | Symbols


The following symbols are not symbols per se. Instead they are representations of revelations that emerge as the elements of the poems—diction, meter, mood, narrative—come together. In "Birches," for instance, the birch trees do not represent trees or nature so much as human nature at a particular developmental moment. The speaker sees in the familiar white bark of birch trees bent by an ice storm, the bending bodies of girls. The leaves trailing the ground recall the long hair the girls are swinging as they dry it outdoors. In this poem, the diction and the narrative recall the thrill of adolescent sexuality. The poem does not create a symbol, a one-to-one equivalence. Instead, it reminds the reader of a particularly potent moment in life.


In "Mending Wall," the rocks, while recalling the landscape for locals, are all about the stony nature of two men set in their ways. The rocks are at one moment a joke and at another, a building material designed to close gaps. Finally, the rocks represent the petrified convictions of two points of view. The poem shows distance that can't be closed between one man who believes himself to be modern and his stubbornly old-fashioned neighbor.


In "Tuft of Flowers," the "resting flower of yesterday's delight" (a withered flower) and "a leaping tongue of bloom" (a tuft of flowers) become emblems of the dead and the living. It is difficult to read this poem and not think of Frost's many losses. As the field hand clears the field, it would seem that his head clears. The two sorts of flowers coalesce in "sheer morning gladness." They represent a mourner's recovery from loss and grief, a re-entry into a world of human sensation and connection. The relief from mourning is generated in this poem through the narrative and the language that moves us from images of silence and drought to bird song and blooms.

Stacked Firewood

In "The Wood-Pile," stacked maple logs, bound in clematis vines, hold a mystery. Line by line, the reader discovers the change of mood as the speaker worries about getting lost in the woods, takes heart as he follows a little bird, and finally is engaged in speculation about the woodpile. A stack of dead wood becomes a vivid artifact―a record of a lost time and lost skills, a bringing together of past and present in a simple image. The woodpile is not a fixed symbol but an image that represents a variety of feelings in an instant in time.

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