The Poetry of Robert Frost
When I see birches bend to left and right And not one but hung limp, not one was left
Across the lines of straighter darker trees, For him to conquer. He learned all there was
I like to think some boy's been swinging them. To learn about not launching out too soon
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay And so not carrying the tree away
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning To the top branches, climbing carefully
After a rain. They click upon themselves With the same pains you use to fill a cup
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel. Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust-- So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away And so I dream of going back to be.
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen. It's when I'm weary of considerations,
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load, And life is too much like a pathless wood
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
So low for long, they never right themselves: Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
You may see their trunks arching in the woods From a twig's having lashed across it open.
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground I'd like to get away from earth awhile
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair And then come back to it and begin over.
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun. May no fate willfully misunderstand me
But I was going to say when Truth broke in And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I should prefer to have some boy bend them I don't know where it's likely to go better.
As he went out and in to fetch the cows-- I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball, And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Whose only play was what he found himself, Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
Summer or winter, and could play alone. But dipped its top and set me down again.
One by one he subdued his father's trees That would be good both going and coming back.
By riding them down over and over again One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
The following lines appear in Robert Frost’s poem. Read the poem in its entirety, and then answer the questions that follow about the
simile contained in these lines.
You may see their trunks arching in the woods,
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
1. What is this simile referring to within the context of the poem?
2. How is this description different from saying that the trees were bent?
3. How is this description different from saying that the trees were girls drying their hair in the sun?
4. What makes this an effective simile and why?
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know. ____ He gives his harness bells a shake ____
His house is in the village though; ____ To ask if there is some mistake. ____
He will not see me stopping here ____ The only other sound's the sweep ____
To watch his woods fill up with snow. ____ Of easy wind and downy flake. ____
My little horse must think it queer ____ The woods are lovely, dark and deep. ____
To stop without a farmhouse near ____ But I have promises to keep, ____
Between the woods and frozen lake ____ And miles to go before I sleep, ____
The darkest evening of the year. ____ And miles to go before I sleep. ____
1. Indicate the rhyme scheme to the right of the poem (this one is slightly tricky).
2. Underline two words that provide an example of alliteration.
3. Write out an example of personification.
4. ______ These woods are most likely owned by: a) a wild and stormy night.
b) a cold and cloudless night.
a) the speaker in the poem. c) a brief mid-winter thaw.
b) an acquaintance of the speaker. d) a gentle snow.
c) someone unknown to the speaker.
d) the speaker’s best friend.
8. ____ The last three lines suggests the poet is:
5. ____ The horse is apparently: a) going to stay in the woods for the night.
b) going to start on his journey again.
a) surprised the speaker has stopped. c) unsure where to go because he is lost.
b) relieved the speaker has stopped. d) afraid to make a decision.
c) angry the speaker has stopped.
d) unwilling to stop itself.
9. There is a tension in the poem about whether the speaker
should stay or move on. What is it that tempts him (her) to
6. ____The speaker interprets the horse’s shaking bells as: stay?
a) a signal to spend the night.
b) a signal to turn around. 10. ____ The line, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep”:
c) a signal to keep on going.
d) a signal to turn around a) sums up what attracted the poet to stop.
b) is the opposite of what the speaker has said until now.
c) is unrelated to what the speaker has said until now.
7. ____ Which of the following weather reports would have d) is an explanation for the rest of the stanza.
been the most accurate?
11. (bonus question) Some critics have suggested that by repeating “Miles to go before I sleep”, the poet meant us to read the line both
literally and as a metaphor. What could it mean other than he still has a long way to go that night?
Something there is that doesn't love a wall, He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, My apple trees will never get across
And spills the upper boulders in the sun, And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
The work of hunters is another thing: Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
I have come after them and made repair If I could put a notion in his head:
Where they have left not one stone on a stone, 'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, Where there are cows?
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean, But here there are no cows.
No one has seen them made or heard them made, Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
But at spring mending-time we find them there. What I was walling in or walling out,
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill; And to whom I was like to give offence.
And on a day we meet to walk the line Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
And set the wall between us once again. That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
We keep the wall between us as we go. But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
To each the boulders that have fallen to each. He said it for himself. I see him there
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
We have to use a spell to make them balance: In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!' He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
We wear our fingers rough with handling them. Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game, He will not go behind his father's saying,
One on a side. It comes to little more: And he likes having thought of it so well
There where it is we do not need the wall: He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."
“Mending Wall” contains two apparently conflicting statements about walls: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” and “Good
fences make good neighbors.” Does Robert Frost want us to take sides on this issue? Does he have a clear position on the issue
himself? Work with your team to answer the questions below. Look for evidence in the poem to support your answers.
1. Does the wall between the neighbors’ farms serve a practical purpose? What evidence in the poem supports your view?
2a. Who initiates the annual fence repair project between the farms?
2b. Do the speaker’s actions in the poem match his words? Why or why not?
3. Toward the end of the poem, the speaker seems irritated with his neighbor. Why do you think he feels this way? Use evidence from
the poem to support your answer.
4. What does the poem’s title suggest to you? Notice it is not called “Mending the Wall.” Can a wall be “mending”?
5. Does the wall in the poem divide the two men or bring them together? Or both? Explain.
6. Which statement do you think “Mending Wall” best supports: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” or “Good neighbors
make good fences”? Does it support both? Or neither?