Tag Archives: frost

The Woodpile

This poem works on many layers and discusses many things in one place. Those easily offended or perpetually paranoid, those who are so busy with new projects that they could leave behind significant work untended as something else grasps their attention, and how perhaps that is not an entirely good thing to change focus so much, so fast, so often.

The Wood Pile

by Robert Frost

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 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.

The Road Not Taken

I first stumbled into the Robert Frost poem because it formed the basis for one of my favorite short Science Fiction stories. The story had posited “what if” faster-than-light travel was actually something most races stumbled into at roughly medieval levels of technology, and we simply never figured it out?

Most cultures went a-hunting across the starry seas, while we developed electronics, missiles, and fighter jets. And then one day, they landed.

Much to their surprise.

A later story in the series posits that we too sat on our laurels of superior technology, and are caught nearly totally unprepared when another race repeats our performance.

One other thing this poem echoes for me: Every decision is final. Consequences, intended or not, are final. You can take the effort to undo, to trace back your steps, but this requires even more work. In the meantime, “way leads on to way”, and there are many, many  more choices to make each day.

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference