'Black Cottage, The' by Robert Lee Frost

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We chanced in passing by that afternoon
To catch it in a sort of special picture
Among tar-banded ancient cherry trees,
Set well back from the road in rank lodged grass,
The little cottage we were speaking of,
A front with just a door between two windows,
Fresh painted by the shower a velvet black.
We paused, the minister and I, to look.
He made as if to hold it at arm's length
Or put the leaves aside that framed it in.
"Pretty," he said. "Come in. No one will care."
The path was a vague parting in the grass
That led us to a weathered window-sill.
We pressed our faces to the pane. "You see," he said,
"Everything's as she left it when she died.
Her sons won't sell the house or the things in it.
They say they mean to come and summer here
Where they were boys. They haven't come this year.
They live so far away--one is out west--
It will be hard for them to keep their word.
Anyway they won't have the place disturbed."
A buttoned hair-cloth lounge spread scrolling arms
Under a crayon portrait on the wall
Done sadly from an old daguerreotype.
"That was the father as he went to war.
She always, when she talked about war,
Sooner or later came and leaned, half knelt
Against the lounge beside it, though I doubt
If such unlifelike lines kept power to stir
Anything in her after all the years.
He fell at Gettysburg or Fredericksburg,
I ought to know--it makes a difference which:
Fredericksburg wasn't Gettysburg, of course.
But what I'm getting to is how forsaken
A little cottage this has always seemed;
Since she went more than ever, but before--
I don't mean altogether by the lives
That had gone out of it, the father first,
Then the two sons, till she was left alone.
(Nothing could draw her after those two sons.
She valued the considerate neglect
She had at some cost taught them after years.)
I mean by the world's having passed it by--
As we almost got by this afternoon.
It always seems to me a sort of mark
To measure how far fifty years have brought us.
Why not sit down if you are in no haste?
These doorsteps seldom have a visitor.
The warping boards pull out their own old nails
With none to tread and put them in their place.
She had her own idea of things, the old lady.
And she liked talk. She had seen Garrison
And Whittier, and had her story of them.
One wasn't long in learning that she thought
Whatever else the Civil War was for
It wasn't just to keep the States together,
Nor just to free the slaves, though it did both.
She wouldn't have believed those ends enough
To have given outright for them all she gave.
Her giving somehow touched the principle
That all men are created free and equal.
And to hear her quaint phrases--so removed
From the world's view to-day of all those things.
That's a hard mystery of Jefferson's.
What did he mean? Of course the easy way
Is to decide it simply isn't true.
It may not be. I heard a fellow say so.
But never mind, the Welshman got it planted
Where it will trouble us a thousand years.
Each age will have to reconsider it.
You couldn't tell her what the West was saying,
And what the South to her serene belief.
She had some art of hearing and yet not
Hearing the latter wisdom of the world.
White was the only race she ever knew.
Black she had scarcely seen, and yellow never.
But how could they be made so very unlike
By the same hand working in the same stuff?
She had supposed the war decided that.
What are you going to do with such a person?
Strange how such innocence gets its own way.
I shouldn't be surprised if in this world
It were the force that would at last prevail.
Do you know but for her there was a time
When to please younger members of the church,
Or rather say non-members in the church,
Whom we all have to think of nowadays,
I would have changed the Creed a very little?
Not that she ever had to ask me not to;
It never got so far as that; but the bare thought
Of her old tremulous bonnet in the pew,
And of her half asleep was too much for me.
Why, I might wake her up and startle her.
It was the words 'descended into Hades'
That seemed too pagan to our liberal youth.
You know they suffered from a general onslaught.
And well, if they weren't true why keep right on
Saying them like the heathen? We could drop them.
Only--there was the bonnet in the pew.
Such a phrase couldn't have meant much to her.
But suppose she had missed it from the Creed
As a child misses the unsaid Good-night,
And falls asleep with heartache--how should I feel?
I'm just as glad she made me keep hands off,
For, dear me, why abandon a belief
Merely because it ceases to be true.
Cling to it long enough, and not a doubt
It will turn true again, for so it goes.
Most of the change we think we see in life
Is due to truths being in and out of favour.
As I sit here, and oftentimes, I wish
I could be monarch of a desert land
I could devote and dedicate forever
To the truths we keep coming back and back to.
So desert it would have to be, so walled
By mountain ranges half in summer snow,
No one would covet it or think it worth
The pains of conquering to force change on.
Scattered oases where men dwelt, but mostly
Sand dunes held loosely in tamarisk
Blown over and over themselves in idleness.
Sand grains should sugar in the natal dew
The babe born to the desert, the sand storm
Retard mid-waste my cowering caravans--
"There are bees in this wall." He struck the clapboards,
Fierce heads looked out; small bodies pivoted.
We rose to go. Sunset blazed on the windows.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Black Cottage by Robert Frost: A Masterpiece of Poetry

Have you ever read a piece of literature that seems to transport you to another time and place? That's exactly what Robert Frost's poem "Black Cottage" does. In this masterpiece of poetry, Frost takes us on a journey to a dark and desolate world, where we encounter the beauty of nature and the human struggle to survive.

The Setting

The poem is set in a small cottage in the middle of nowhere. The cottage is old and abandoned, and it's surrounded by a forest. The forest is described as "thick and black" and "dark and deep," creating a sense of isolation and danger. Frost uses the setting as a metaphor for the human condition, highlighting the fragility and peril of human existence.

The Characters

There are two characters in the poem: the narrator and the cottage. The narrator is never identified, and we don't know anything about him. He seems to be a passerby who stumbles upon the cottage and is intrigued by its history. The cottage, on the other hand, is the main character of the poem. It's described in great detail, and we get a sense of its history and character.

The Cottage

The cottage is the focal point of the poem, and Frost gives it a personality of its own. The cottage is described as "battered" and "old," with a thatched roof and a leaning chimney. It's abandoned and seems to have been forgotten by the rest of the world. The cottage is a symbol of the human condition, representing the fragility and decay of human existence.

The Theme

The theme of the poem is the transience of life and the human struggle to survive. Frost uses the cottage as a symbol of human existence, highlighting the fact that everything in life is temporary and subject to decay. The narrator is drawn to the cottage because it's a reminder of the fragility of life and the inevitability of death.

The Imagery

One of the most striking features of "Black Cottage" is its vivid imagery. Frost uses language to create a powerful picture of the cottage and its surroundings. His use of metaphor and simile helps to create a sense of foreboding and danger. For example, he describes the forest as "thick and black as ink" and "dark and deep as hell." This imagery creates a sense of isolation and danger, highlighting the fragility of human existence.

The Tone

The tone of the poem is somber and reflective. Frost uses language to create a sense of melancholy and sadness. He creates a picture of a world that's dark and desolate, where everything is temporary and subject to decay. The tone of the poem is a reminder of the fragility of life and the inevitability of death.

The Conclusion

In conclusion, "Black Cottage" is a masterpiece of poetry. It's a powerful reminder of the fragility and transience of human existence. Frost uses language to create a vivid picture of a dark and desolate world, where everything is temporary and subject to decay. The poem is a reminder that life is precious, and we must cherish every moment we have.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Robert Lee Frost is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his poem "The Black Cottage" is a prime example of his mastery of the craft. This poem is a beautiful and haunting meditation on the nature of memory, loss, and the passage of time. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of "The Black Cottage" and examine how Frost uses these elements to create a powerful and evocative work of art.

The poem begins with a description of a small, abandoned cottage in the woods. The speaker describes the cottage as "black" and "forlorn," and notes that it is "hidden away" from the rest of the world. This imagery sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is suffused with a sense of melancholy and isolation.

As the speaker approaches the cottage, he is struck by a sense of familiarity. He notes that the cottage "seems familiar" and that he "must have seen it before." This sense of recognition is a key theme of the poem, as the speaker grapples with the memories and emotions that the cottage evokes.

The speaker then begins to describe the interior of the cottage, which is filled with "old-fashioned things" and "faded prints." These details create a sense of nostalgia and longing, as the speaker is transported back in time to a bygone era. The use of the word "faded" is particularly poignant, as it suggests that the memories and emotions associated with the cottage are themselves fading away.

As the speaker continues to explore the cottage, he comes across a "rusty key" that unlocks a "secret drawer." Inside the drawer, he finds a "faded letter" that is addressed to him. This discovery is a turning point in the poem, as the speaker is forced to confront the memories and emotions that the cottage represents.

The letter is from a woman who the speaker once loved, and who has since passed away. The woman writes about their time together in the cottage, and expresses her love and longing for the speaker. This letter is a powerful reminder of the speaker's past, and of the love and loss that he has experienced.

The final stanza of the poem is a meditation on the nature of memory and the passage of time. The speaker notes that "the past is not a package one can lay away," and that memories are "not wholly of the past." This suggests that memories are not static, but are constantly evolving and changing over time. The speaker also notes that memories are "not a thing to face," but rather something that must be embraced and accepted.

Overall, "The Black Cottage" is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the themes of memory, loss, and the passage of time. Frost's use of imagery and language creates a haunting and melancholy atmosphere, and his exploration of the nature of memory is both poignant and thought-provoking. This poem is a testament to Frost's mastery of the craft, and a reminder of the enduring power of poetry to move and inspire us.

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