The old dog barks backwards without getting up.
I can remember when he was a pup.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Robert Frost's poem The Span Of Life


  1. Michael says:

    This poem may be short, but its depth is beyond many of the longest poems. It describes life, but makes it important to each reader rather than telling an EXACT story.

  2. Terry Maguire says:

    I first encountered this poem as a college freshman 45 years ago. At first, I thought it was about dogs. But as I have grown older, I realize that it is really about people. Now as I read it, the ups and the downs of my life flash past me like ocean waves. And I see myself as an old dog who is capable of remembering, but unable to change, any part of the past. I now weep every time I read this poem.

  3. Hans Christer says:

    Thanks to Bill P. and Charlotte,.. I got my English assignment right by your comments,.. 😀

  4. Charlotte says:

    the poem is really an exposition of sound’s effect on poetry–in the phrase “barks backwards,” all of the syllables are not only stressed, but are hard to say. this is intential as the cacophony is meant to slow the rhythm and break it down, thus paralleling how the old dog has slowed down. moreover, the part describing the pup is euphonious as it appeals to the ear and easily slips off the tongue, reflecting how the pup is fast and full of life. frost does a stunning job of reflecting the meaning of the work through the actual sound of the words.

  5. brahim says:

    The first time i got to know Frost was in one of my poetry lectures in colledge ,the spirit of his poems is imprinted forever in my mind.In fact this poem reminded me of the notion of time around which all his poems revolve.The poem is a deep contemplation upon this amasing creature that turns our dreams into ashes and because of it we can never go two paths till the end ,it is only way .

  6. P. Timothy Ervin says:

    The poem is very much about the span of life–the title plainly tells us this–but what makes this poem a classic is the sound of the two lines. Read them aloud and listen. Not only is Frost describing the two ages of the dog (young and old), he has also captured the sound of those two periods of life with the slow, grumbling of the first line juxtaposed with the fast, flitting sound of the second. It is literally impossible to read the first line quickly, and yet the second races from the lips without a break. Paramount Frost.

  7. Clare says:

    First of all I think that what joge said has nothing to do with this poem. I mean why would he write a poem about poop and title it “the span of life”? That just doesnt make sense. I agree with Lance in that this poem is talking about how short the span of life is and how the dogs owner was remembering how it wasnt a long time ago, when the dog was a pup.

  8. Anonymous says:

    that poem is retarded it has two lines!!!

  9. Lance says:

    I beleive that what Frost is trying to get across in this poem really has nothing to do with what the dog is doing. If looked at closer the owner is looking back through time remembering when the dog was a pup and how short ago it was, perhaps coincidentally the poem is so short because Frost is trying to show how short life is and how fast it goes by.

  10. Karen says:

    Barking Backwards-
    I have never seen a young dog bark at anything without facing it or at least facing the direction from which he perceived the sound or his sight to be coming from.
    This is an aging dog, keen enough to hear, but it is just not worth the effort to get up, therefore, he turns his head and is “barking backwards”. Sadness in the remembering when he was a pup, that energy gone forever.

  11. Tom says:

    This poem tells a lot even though it is reletively short. It does not say anything about a dog “pooping” according to what joge commented. The poem tells a lot about how we should think about life and treasure it, for it is as beautiful as a pup growing up.

  12. joge says:

    barking backwards is the dog letting out a stinker… the
    narrator remembers when the dog used to go outside to poop. So, the span of life, at least a dog’s and probably a man’s, is measured by our ability get up and let one go where it belongs. Or maybe the dog just doesn’t give a crap anymore showing. It’s like an add for doggie Depends.

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