Over back where they speak of life as staying
(‘You couldn’t call it living, for it ain’t’),
There was an old, old house renewed with paint,
And in it a piano loudly playing.
Out in the plowed ground in the cold a digger,
Among unearthed potatoes standing still,
Was counting winter dinners, one a hill,
With half an ear to the piano’s vigor.
All that piano and new paint back there,
Was it some money suddenly come into?
Or some extravagance young love had been to?
Or old love on an impulse not to care–
Not to sink under being man and wife,
But get some color and music out of life?
Life is just ‘staying’ for people who stand still on the earth, counting the winter dinners and giving half an ear to the piano’s strength. The poet does not want people to end up their lives just finishing their marital lives. He wants all to find the true colors and music out of their lives, and ‘live’ their lives.
Depending on one’s view, this poem is either a declaration of human folly or a triumph of the human spirit. Either the couple is denying the circumstances of their life or they are celebrating life and joy in the midst of otherwise dibilitating forces of stagnation and hunger. They are refusing to sink under the forces that reduce them to being victims of their circumstances. Perhaps one’s take on Frost’s meaning will depend on whether they are the farmer in the field or the aged one’s in the house.