The Poems of Robert Frost | Study Guide

Robert Frost

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The Poems of Robert Frost | Take Something Like a Star | Summary

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Summary

The speaker addresses a star, "the fairest one in sight." He acknowledges that the star has the right to be occasionally obscured by a cloud, but it cannot find that obscurity in night because night "brings out your light." The speaker then tells the star that it is fair for the star to retain some mystery, but he pleads with it to "Say something to us we can learn." The star answers simply, "I burn." Still, the speaker wants specifics. "Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade," he pleads. "Use language we can comprehend." In the end, the star does tell the speaker something, and then "It asks a little of us here." It wants people to seek a little height when times are difficult and filled with too much praise or blame. The star urges people to look up to "something like a star / To say our minds on and be staid."

Analysis

"Take Something Like a Star" first appeared under the title "Choose Something Like a Star" in Come In and Other Poems (1943). It was published under the present title in the Afterword to Complete Poems (1949). As is usual with Frost, some elements of the poem are left deliberately ambiguous. It's not entirely certain what the star represents. Some readers might look at the first line, which begins "O Star," and consider that the star represents God. After all, in spiritual writing, a prayer to God often begins with "O." So, the star might represent God or some god. In this case, the poem becomes religious; the speaker is seeking guidance from some all-knowing god.

There are other interpretations as well. The star may represent wisdom or knowledge. Later in the poem, the speaker continues to plead for something, anything "that we can learn / By heart and when alone repeat." The star answers simply, "I burn." It's a simple truth, but the speaker wants more: "say what degree of heat. Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade." Here, Frost is introducing science, so it may be that the star represents knowledge.

Throughout the speaker's pleading, the star gives up little, but it does tell the speaker "something in the end." The "something" is not obvious, but the speaker sees it as important. It is also apparent that the star wants something in return. "It asks of us a certain height." The mob, people in general, may give us too much praise or blame. When that happens, the star urges us to look upward, outward, to "something like a star / To stay our minds on and be staid." The speaker suggests that sometimes the world becomes overwhelming. Our passions run too hot or too cold, and events cause us to think too much or too poorly of ourselves. In those situations, he advises, we should stand back, look up at some distant object, and allow ourselves to gain some perspective.

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