Out alone in the winter rain,
Intent on giving and taking pain.
But never was I far out of sight
Of a certain upper-window light.
The light was what it was all about:
I would not go in till the light went out;
It would not go out till I came in.
Well, we should wee which one would win,
We should see which one would be first to yield.
The world was black invisible field.
The rain by rights was snow for cold.
The wind was another layer of mold.
But the strangest thing: in the thick old thatch,
Where summer birds had been given hatch,
had fed in chorus, and lived to fledge,
Some still were living in hermitage.
And as I passed along the eaves,
So low I brushed the straw with my sleeves,
I flushed birds out of hole after hole,
Into the darkness. It grieved my soul,
It started a grief within a grief,
To think their case was beyond relief–
They could not go flying about in search
Of their nest again, nor find a perch.
They must brood where they fell in mulch and mire,
Trusting feathers and inward fire
Till daylight made it safe for a flyer.
My greater grief was by so much reduced
As I though of them without nest or roost.
That was how that grief started to melt.
They tell me the cottage where we dwelt,
Its wind-torn thatch goes now unmended;
Its life of hundred of years has ended
By letting the rain I knew outdoors
In on to the upper chamber floors.

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3 Comments

  1. c,lederhouse says:

    this poem is obviosly about a thatch roof that is rotting away and tells its story about events that happened during its 100 yr life and its concern for the birds that have been born in the thatch.

  2. David H says:

    I’ve been looking over this poem for school, and i have my own take on what the meaning is. I have no idea if the subject is Frost or some made-up charater, im assuming the latter. I think the character is planning to break into the cottage that now belongs to someone else, taking into account his fear of the light and why he is “So low I brushed the straw with my sleeves” as if he was hiding around. I think that he may be planning to enter through the unmended roof, for whatever reason. I don’t know if he is going to do anything, but he is “Intent on giving and taking pain”. Im thinking he was unfairly displaced from the cottage, at least in his own mind, as he sympathises/relates to the birds he scares from the holes. This also supports the entering through the roof theory, as he is now on it or climbing on it in order to scare the birds nesting in the roof. Im not sure if whatever’s “life of hundred of years has ended” refers to the life of the roof or the entire cottage, it could be both. Well, send me a letter if you have something to say this year, dont bother me in like 5 years or so, please.

  3. MIke H says:

    I read somewhere that this poem begins with the discrition of an argument that the poet is having with his spouse. This has never been my take. I always believed ‘The light’ that the poet refers to is the hole in the roof he describes at the end. The hole in the cottage where he was raised which now allows for the rain to fall in a most undesired place, the upper chamber floors (his boyhood sanctuary). He is upset at seeing this old place of fond memories in such a state of disrepair. Does anyone else see it this way?

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