Introduction to Robert Lee Frost

Robert Lee Frost was a great America Poet who was born on March 26, 1874 in San Francisco, Ca and who later died on January 29, 1963 in Boston, Ma. He used rural settings in his poetry and often took a social and philosophical approach to his writings. He coined many poems and also wrote a few plays including "The Masque of reason." He had many achievements through his life that included over 40 honorary degrees from colleges such as Oxford and Harvard. His greatest achievements, though, were the four Pulitzer Prizes he had won for his work. He was a great poet who is often quoted and never forgotten.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Wood-Pile

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.


  1. At first glance, Robert Frost’s "The Wood-Pile" may seem pretty simple on the surface. The reader may get the impression that the poem is literally about a pile of wood. However, when one dissects its true meaning, they realize it is actually very complex. The speaker walks down a path and becomes apprehensive and decides he will turn around. However, he decides to continue on. When he continues, he comes upon a wood pile. It is not an ordinary woodpile; it is woodpile made of maple. This is odd because maple is not the type of wood that is normally burned. Maple is expensive and often is used for carpentry. It is stacked in neat four by four by eight piles. He has never seen any wood pile like this wood pile. The speaker also notices that there are no recent tracks in the snow, so the pile is older than the year’s cutting, and may even be from the year before last’s cutting.

    The speaker is a peculiar character. One may question what the reason was for the walk; why would he take a walk in the freezing winter snow. He is adventurous and shows that he has a fear, yet love for nature. When walking, he decides he will turn around; that is his fear of the unknown. He does not know what is ahead of him and is somewhat afraid. However, he was curious and looking for an adventure, so he decided to continue on. One can tell that he has a love for nature because he highlights the fine details of nature. He spends some time focusing on a bird that flies by him during his walk. Like the person that cut the wood, he also knows nothing about the bird. It seems as if he takes an interest in the unknown and tries to figure them out. He draws out a dramatic scene about the bird’s wants and fears. He assumes the bird is flying ahead of him to separate the two of them because it is scared. He assumes the bird thinks he wants one of its feathers.

    He notices that the wood pile was left untouched, and the axe used to cut the pile was still there too. He does not understand why the person who cut the pile would just leave it. The cutter obviously took pride in the pile at one point because he stacked it so beautifully, and it is a beautiful pile indeed. He is also sure that the cutter worked long and hard on cutting the pile of wood. Instead of the wood being used for its intended purpose, burning, it was left in the woods to decay and be consumed by the snow. His only explanation is the person who cut the wood likes taking on new task. He was tired and bored with the woodpile, so he left it to pursue another task. It seems as if he wants to do something with the pile, but he does not know what. He does not want to be like the person who cut the pile and leave the wonderful pieces of hard work there. In a way, he feels useless. He did not determine who cut the pile, why they cut the pile, and what to do with the pile.

    The speaker is like the person who cut the wood. At first, the speaker was consumed with the bird. However, he saw the wood pile and was more interested, so he went to inquire about it. This is the same thing that the wood cutter did. He is mind goes from one topic to another, living in somewhat of a fantasy. He has an interest in uncovering mysteries of the unknown.

    1. I think the main thoughts of the speaker revolve around purpose, and to a lesser extent, identity. The Wood Pile is very incongruous in a bleak setting, yet the idea of "warm the frozen swamp" is a futile task. It's so far away from a "useful fireplace" too, further emphasising the bewilderment and wonder of the speaker as to why the Wood-Pile was left there.
      As the setting is so repetitive, "Too much alike to name a place by," the speaker finds himself stranded and surrounded in monotony. The bird's "white feather" serves to make it stand out and give it an identity, whereas the speaker seeks some identity and uniqueness in a place which is the opposite to this idea.