Out walking in the frozen swamp one grey 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 down. 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.
A small bird flew before me. He was careful
To put a tree between us when he lighted,
And say no word to tell me who he was
Who was so foolish as to think what he thought.
He thought that I was after him for a feather—
The white one in his tail; like one who takes
Everything said as personal to himself.
One flight out sideways would have undeceived him.
And then there was a pile of wood for which
I forgot him and let his little fear
Carry him off the way I might have gone,
Without so much as wishing him good-night.
He went behind it to make his last stand.
It was a cord of maple, cut and split
And piled—and measured, four by four by eight.
And not another like it could I see.
No runner tracks in this year’s snow looped near it.
And it was older sure than this year’s cutting,
Or even last year’s or the year’s before.
The wood was grey and the bark warping off it
And the pile somewhat sunken. Clematis
Had wound strings round and round it like a bundle.
What held it though on one side was a tree
Still growing, and on one a stake and prop,
These latter about to fall. I thought that only
Someone who lived in turning to fresh tasks
Could so forget his handiwork on which
He spent himself, the labour of his axe,
And leave it there far from a useful fireplace
To warm the frozen swamp as best it could
With the slow smokeless burning of decay.
About Robert Frost
Robert Frost was born in San Francisco in 1874. Following the death of his father when Frost was 11, his family moved to Massachusetts. He began writing poetry in high school and went on to study at Dartmouth and Harvard though he did not finish college at either. His first published poem, My Butterfly, appeared in New York’s The Independent in 1894.
Frost worked as a teacher, cobbler, newspaper editor and farmer, ultimately selling his unsuccessful farm and moving to England in 1912 where he published his first collection. He returned to the U.S. in 1915 and by the 1920s had published several collections and had become one of the most popular poets in the country. Deeply rooted in place, his poems often embodied rural New England. He would ultimately win four Pulitzer prizes for his poetry. His best known poems include The Road Not Taken, Mending Wall, and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.
He went on to serve as a college professor at various institutions and later was called upon to recite a poem at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. Robert Frost died in 1963.