The witch that came (the withered hag)
To wash the steps with pail and rag,
Was once the beauty Abishag,

The picture pride of Hollywood.
Too many fall from great and good
For you to doubt the likelihood.

Die early and avoid the fate.
Or if predestined to die late,
Make up your mind to die in state.

Make the whole stock exchange your own!
If need be occupy a throne,
Where nobody can call you crone.

Some have relied on what they knew;
Others on simply being true.
What worked for them might work for you.

No memory of having starred
Atones for later disregard,
Or keeps the end from being hard.

Better to go down dignified
With boughten friendship at your side
Than none at all. Provide, provide!

Analysis, meaning and summary of the poem by

8 Comments

  1. Bob says:

    here in Australia, we love this poem and the kangaroos in my backyard loved
    it
    too!! cool huh!! no but really this was an excellent poem!!

  2. Sal says:

    here in Canada, we love this poem and the mounties in my backyard loved it
    too!! cool huh!! no but really this was an excellent poem!!

  3. Jonathan Byram says:

    This poem is addressing the futility of vain accomplishments, particularly concerning a woman’s fading beauty. The speaker calls for early termination of life as a better fate than ending life in humiliation as a “withered hag” washing steps. I can’t totally decide if this is done in sarcasm as a warning against vain aspirations or not. In many of Frosts poems he is very unhappy with the world and generally doesn’t express advocation for eternal aspirations (“Stopping by Woods…”, “Acquainted with the Night”, “Design”, “Birches”). It wouldn’t be out of the question for this poem to be a sincere statement of how Frost sees things or saw things at one time.

  4. Joseph says:

    two words… great poem

  5. Anthony says:

    Decide, Decide

    When Robert Frost wrote the poem “Provide, Provide” I think what he meant to say was decide, decide. Your probably asking yourself: decide what? To decide what type of life you wish to die. Throughout life you are given many choices. The decisions that you make during the course of your life will change the way you live your final minutes. Whether, you want to spend your closing hour at peace or with disappointment in yourself. Robert Frost is saying that you have to provide yourself with the life you want to die with by making sure you make the right decisions early on. If you think dieing with a lot of money is more important than family and friends, than you should make sure that happens for you. And vice versa if you want to die knowing that you lived a life filled friendships and love. Whichever path you choose to take, make sure it’s the one you want to live with and die with.

    In the poem Provide, Provide, Robert Frost shows a few examples of what kind of life you may live. You can be born a beautiful woman and die a haggish witch. You can rule the economy and be the richest person in the world but end your life with fake friends by your side. You can become a kind or queen and viewed by your people as a majestic g-d but die as a no one all alone. In the third stanza Frost writes: “Make up your mind to die in state.” Meaning you should take control of your destiny and the mental state in which you die.

    The fifth stanza Frost writes: “What worked for them might work for you.” Meaning you can look at people before you, to take example if that’s the way you want to live and die. But once again everything comes down to the decisions you make which shape your life. If you think that the meaning of life is to be rich and famous, than make the decisions and put your efforts into making that come about. If all you wish for is to live life for your family than you should stay loyal and true to yourself. Throughout the poem Frost is providing you with the philosophy or how to be happy. He’s not saying that you have to be this or that just to be your true self.

    Frost ends his poem with what I believe is a sarcastic stanza: “Better to go down dignified With boughten friendship at your side Than none at all. Provide, provide!”
    Frost is saying, that you try in life to provide yourself with the life you want, but if you find out that in the end you have failed, you may end up providing yourself with a fake version of how you wanted to end. Frost’s poem Provide, Provide makes you think of what kind of life you wish to provide yourself, by making the right decisions in life. Maybe you don’t want to be a Hollywood star. Maybe you just want to be a stay at home mom devoting your life your family. Everyone’s life is different and no life should be criticized for the decisions which one makes.

  6. CP says:

    Abishag-inward
    ……..and good
    For you to doubt the likelihood
    crone-crony
    true-typical
    boughten-bought with decency

    This poem is about responsiveness.

    (2) respond to

  7. Mtukufu says:

    Reading of the poem I’m thinking frost is talking about a woman like Dame Elizabeth Taylor, think of the husbands, hollywood and Abishag.

  8. Ted Compton says:

    It’s a mere quibble, but I think it’s “swing for the bleachers.”

    Frost liked to add (or at least once claimed so within my hearing) to his readings of this poem the final line, “Or somebody else will provide for you.”

    I tend to read the poem as Frost’s somewhat sarcastic comment on the fickleness of fat and the rat race of riches, the telling phrase being:

    “Others on simply being true.
    What worked for them might work for you.”

    Or, of course, perhaps not.

    t

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem better? If they are accepted, they will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.