The Wood-pile

1Out walking in the frozen swamp one grey day
2I paused and said, "I will turn back from here.
3No, I will go on farther--and we shall see."
4The hard snow held me, save where now and then
6Straight up and down of tall slim trees
7Too much alike to mark or name a place by
8So as to say for certain I was here
9Or somewhere else: I was just far from home.
10A small bird flew before me. He was careful
11To put a tree between us when he lighted,
12And say no word to tell me who he was
13Who was so foolish as to think what he thought.
14He thought that I was after him for a feather--
15The white one in his tail; like one who takes
16Everything said as personal to himself.
17One flight out sideways would have undeceived him.
18And then there was a pile of wood for which
19I forgot him and let his little fear
20Carry him off the way I might have gone,
21Without so much as wishing him good-night.
22He went behind it to make his last stand.
23It was a cord of maple, cut and split
24And piled--and measured, four by four by eight.
25And not another like it could I see.
26No runner tracks in this year's snow looped near it.
27And it was older sure than this year's cutting,
28Or even last year's or the year's before.
29The wood was grey and the bark warping off it
31Had wound strings round and round it like a bundle.
32What held it though on one side was a tree
33Still growing, and on one a stake and prop,
34These latter about to fall. I thought that only
35Someone who lived in turning to fresh tasks
36Could so forget his handiwork on which
37He spent himself, the labour of his axe,
38And leave it there far from a useful fireplace
39To warm the frozen swamp as best it could
40With the slow smokeless burning of decay.

Notes

5] went down: went through (in Robert Frost, Collected Poems, Prose, & Plays [Library of America, 1995], p. 100, a later, revised text). Back to Line
30] Clematis: buttercup, a climbing vine, often with lovely flowers. Back to Line
Original Text: 
Robert Frost, North of Boston, 2nd edn. (New York: Henry Holt, 1915), pp. 133-35. PS 3511 R94N6 ROBA.
Publication Start Year: 
1914
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.
Rhyme: