When I was young my teachers were the old.
I gave up fire for form till I was cold.
I suffered like a metal being cast.
I went to school to age to learn the past.

Now when I am old my teachers are the young.
What can’t be molded must be cracked and sprung.
I strain at lessons fit to start a suture.
I go to school to youth to learn the future.

Analysis, meaning and summary of the poem by

6 Comments

  1. Andy Nissley says:

    This poem should be read to all ages. It is just as good as “The Road Not Taken.”

  2. Masaki Fujimoto says:

    There are three poems which were added to the last part of Robert Frost’s fifth volume, West Running-Brook when the Collected Poems was published in 1930. “What Fifty Said” cited above is one of the three, which was thought to be written in 1925 when the poet was 50 years old, but then he misunderstood his age, that is, he estimated it to be one year younger than he was. Anyone who is over fifty might have a chance to make a story about his or her age. Of course I do not meat the poet was dishonest about his birth year. This was deeply caused by his premature judgment and misgiving concerning the marriage of his parents which is indicated by another one of the three additional poems, “The Lovely Shall Be Choosers.” It is later in life that he noticed there had been something wrong with his age. Anyhow, I would like to say that the problem of this kind is not so important when we appreciate the poem itself, “What Fifty Said.” Needless to say, what the poet expresses in it is to elaborate his place to stand as a poet, an educator, and a human being when he reached a decisive turning point in life at the mature age of fifty or so. This problem may lead directly to the reason of existence of West-Running Brook itself which has not been so highly evaluated by most critics.

    The decline and exhaustion of imaginative powers are serious problems especially for those who are engaged in artistic activities through which they are getting close to the mystic dimensions beyond everyday life. Some poets have depended on hallucinogenic substances or alcohol to elevate their creative mind up to the height of beatitude. Some have been attempting to attain their artistic designs in deferent ways from the use of drugs. Though it doesn’t matter whomever we like, most of them are forced to face the degeneration of their visionary mind sooner or later as their physical or mental strength is declining. And they have been making a constant effort to overcome their limitation and open a new gate to the higher stage of mastery.
    The world Robert Frost showed to us in West-Running Brook might be considered as a fruitful result he groped in the spiritual darkness.

  3. Chris says:

    this poem was horrible!!!

  4. Rao says:

    Wonderful poem. I love it; I dont want to write but more than happy I can read and understand it in my own way!!

  5. Tabitha says:

    this poem was wonderful. i loved it. i wish i was talented enough to write a poem like this.

  6. Scott says:

    Its not what fifty said
    Consumed to be learned
    Its how fifty read
    Are there any American voices
    To make Fifty dread
    Falling down half of a hundred
    To make a poet some bread
    What light to reason shone on path
    To learn Fifty math

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