Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Nothing that has meaning is easy.

Dust of Snow by Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

I've been pondering this poem off and on for quite some time now. At first, it seemed so simple, yet now it seems so complex. I'm not even sure why I find it so appealing, but I do.

Still trying to have confidence in the meaning, but nothing that has meaning is easy.

Your thoughts? (Keep 'em coming.)



At 11 May, 2006 10:01, Blogger James said...

Frost was a master. Thinking through the poem...

"The way a crow"
Why a crow? Not a Dove or a Cardinal or a Blue Jay. A crow, one of the most annoying of birds with its pesky presence and loud "caw." And Frost says, "The WAY a crow," not simply, "A crow."

"Shook down on me the dust of snow"
Snow. Icy cold precipitation. A shock to the senses when it comes down suddenly from a tree or an overhang, rather than falling gently from the sky during a normal snowfall, when it touches the skin. Is the poet awakened from an introspective emotional slumber?

"From a hemlock tree."
Not a Maple or an Oak, but a Hemlock, known for what? Death.
Is the poet awakened from an introspective emotional slumber and made to consider that he is still in the land of the living? That life is a gift to be enjoyed?

I think so, for he continues,
"Has given my heart A change of mood And saved some part Of a day I had rued."
A day which was a "bad" one being despised is changed suddenly into a day that has been redeemed.

While I do not think Frost intended it, I see the kindness and mercy in the providence of God in this poem.

At 11 May, 2006 10:16, Blogger Oilcan said...

Two roads diverged in a yellow . . . . I'm out.

At 11 May, 2006 18:03, Blogger GUNNY said...

Those are the lines along which I was cogitating as well, James.

A crow? The crow is a very ominous animal in literature, combined with the hemlock, bringing to mind Socrates and his decision to drink the hemlock that led to his death brings to mind death, or perhaps impending death.

So, I was at first thinking that those things reminded him of the fleeting nature of life so that his mood changed to where he wanted to save or salvage what was left of the day.

So, I was seeing some "redeeming the time for the days are evil" slooge.

So, in that scenario, would the change of mood be from one of being uninvolved as one goes trough the motions of the day to being aware of the precious gift that life is so that one decides to make the most of that precious gift by working toward things of consequence.

That's what I'm seeing, but I don't want to be reading too much into it.

At 11 May, 2006 23:45, Blogger M. Jay Bennett said...

I'm going with the gospel of redemption. Through the revelation of the offensiveness of sin in the death of Christ (the crow, falling, the snow, the hemlock tree) the man has experienced a change of heart. His life (the day he once rued) has been saved.

Was Frost a Christian?

If not then, I'd guess he's leaning toward existentialism, which would go something like: experiences alone, even pain, are what give meaning to life.

At 15 May, 2006 09:32, Blogger James said...

To my knowledge, Frost was not a Christian. His mother was a Swedenborgian, and had him baptized into that group, but he abandoned it (and 'religion' in general) as an adult.

At 17 May, 2006 10:32, Blogger Joshua Butcher said...

Here are some of my observations:

Some basic imagery typology might be helpful in assessing the mood of the poem. Crows were messengers from the gods in ancient greek mythology, and have also been considers harbingers of evil, bad luck, or some sort of doom and gloom. Hemlock has obvious typological relations to the poison that is produced from it, and perhaps even moreso becaus of Shakespeare's use, it has connections to suicide over lost love. Snow is cold and a signifier of winter, which symbolizes death or depression, or barrenness.

The second stanza is couched in pathos--heart, mood, rued are emotional terms here. The atmosphere of winter, typically silent, may emphasize a solitude and reflective stance of the narrator of the poem, and it is not difficult to imagine that the "rued day" was in mind before the crow and dust of snow. I can imagine the narrator walking alone lost in the memory of an unfaithful moment (a lost love?) when the cold dusting of snow shocks him out of his memory, perhaps saving a part of it from being lost in bitterness. The introspection that leads to much regret can often be forestalled or rescued by the happenstance entry of an outside moment of accident, clumsiness, poignancy, etc.

It may also be that the crow, as a messenger, is inviting the narrator to let his memory be covered clean with a dusting of white snow to cool the heat of (searing?) pain, or to remind him by its cold feeling that there is no longer warmth in the memory, thus saving it from becoming something impossibly pined for and thus embittering.

Those are some of the impressions I get from the poem, though they may be different for others.

Edit: I was looking at it again, and the "rued day" could also be the present on in which the narrator is experiencing. It is possible he is "ruing today" until the event of the crow and the snow. If such is the case, a few of my interpretations falter, but I think the overall mood is maintained, and the observations about the effect of the snow can still apply.


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