Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


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 lines 
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.

Credit


This poem is in the public domain.

Author


Robert Frost

One of the most celebrated figures in American poetry, Robert Frost was the author of numerous poetry collections, including including New Hampshire (Henry Holt and Company, 1923). Born in San Francisco in 1874, he lived and taught for many years in Massachusetts and Vermont. He died in Boston in 1963.

Date Published: 2016-03-08

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/wood-pile