Sunday Night Journal, June 10, 2018
Sunday Night Journal, June 17, 2018

52 Poems, Week 24: An Old Man's Winter Night (Robert Frost)

AN OLD MAN'S WINTER NIGHT

All out-of-doors looked darkly in at him
Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars,
That gathers on the pane in empty rooms.
What kept his eyes from giving back the gaze
Was the lamp tilted near them in his hand.
What kept him from remembering what it was
That brought him to that creaking room was age.
He stood with barrels round him—at a loss.
And having scared the cellar under him
In clomping here, he scared it once again
In clomping off—and scared the outer night,
Which has its sounds, familiar, like the roar
Of trees and cracks of branches, common things,
But nothing so like beating on a box.
A light he was to no one but himself
Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what,
A quiet light, and then not even that.
He consigned the moon—such as she was,
So late-arising—to the broken moon,
As better than the sun in any case
For such a charge, his snow upon the roof,
His icicles along the wall to keep;
And slept. The log that shifted with a jolt
Once in the stove, disturbed him and he shifted,
And eased his heavy breathing, but still slept.
One aged man—one man—can't keep a house,
A farm, a countryside, or if he can,
It's thus he does it of a winter night.

*

Apart from being, as one of my grandchildren put it, "sort of old," and being very familiar with the phenomenon of walking into a room and being unable to remember why I went there, this is not a scene I've ever experienced. But this poem makes me feel that I have.

--Mac is the proprietor of this blog.

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars,
That gathers on the pane in empty rooms.

I love that image. We get that on the big window in my kitchen door a lot. I think it's the only window in the house that isn't double-paned.

That is a great poem.

Gretchen had a poem about an old man today, too.

AMDG

I particularly liked that image, too.

Good Chesterton poem, too, though I don't quite get the bit about the weeds.

One blogger says this: when young seeking to be a leader and associating with the strong and defiant even when in error (when the weeds were showing) " when young seeking to be a leader and associating with the strong and defiant even when in error (when the weeds were showing) …"

AMDG

I remember first reading that poem a few years back and being quite struck by it. It captures the mood perfectly.

This is disquieting, to say the least:

A light he was to no one but himself
Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what,
A quiet light, and then not even that.

I'm not entirely sure what that means. But I think it's just a description of his falling asleep alone.

This being Frost, I figured he must be going for something more like the man’s being a tiny light all alone in the universe with no connection to anyone or anything else, and then nothing. And he represents each of us. But I much prefer your reading.

Hmm. I never would have thought of that, but although I think my view is the starting place, those resonances may have been intended.

I just thought it meant that his light had gotten dim, which goes along with the, I think, waning moon. He can't keep a house, he doesn't have enough light (or life) for anyone else.

AMDG

That, too. It could mean both the general waning of his life and a specific falling asleep. Yes, a "late-arising" moon is waning.

The comments to this entry are closed.