"Out, Out--"

Original Text: 
Robert Frost, Mountain Interval (New York: Henry Holt, 1921), pp. 50-51. PS 3511 R94 M6 ROBA.
2And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
3Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
4And from there those that lifted eyes could count
5Five mountain ranges one behind the other
6Under the sunset far into Vermont.
7And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
8As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
9And nothing happened: day was all but done.
10Call it a day, I wish they might have said
11To please the boy by giving him the half hour
12That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
13His sister stood beside them in her apron
14To tell them "Supper." At the word, the saw,
15As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
16Leaped out at the boy's hand, or seemed to leap--
17He must have given the hand. However it was,
18Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
19The boy's first outcry was a rueful laugh,
20As he swung toward them holding up the hand
21Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
22The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all--
23Since he was old enough to know, big boy
24Doing a man's work, though a child at heart--
25He saw all spoiled. "Don't let him cut my hand off--
26The doctor, when he comes. Don't let him, sister!"
27So. But the hand was gone already.
28The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
29He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
30And then--the watcher at his pulse took fright.
31No one believed. They listened at his heart.
32Little--less--nothing!--and that ended it.
33No more to build on there. And they, since they
34Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.


1] The title is from Shakespeare's Macbeth, V.v.15-28. Macbeth says, on learning of the death of Lady Macbeth, his wife:
She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
See The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974), p. 1337. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.