The Boston Evening Transcript

THE READERS of the Boston Evening Transcript
Sway in the wind like a field of ripe corn.

When evening quickens faintly in the street,
Wakening the appetites of life in some
And to others bringing the Boston Evening Transcript,
I mount the steps and ring the bell, turning
Wearily, as one would turn to nod good-bye to Rochefoucauld,
If the street were time and he at the end of the street,
And I say, “Cousin Harriet, here is the Boston Evening Transcript.

Analysis, meaning and summary of T.S. Eliot's poem The Boston Evening Transcript

1 Comment

  1. Simon Yam says:

    For those who actually read my response, I’d assume there were two general reactions. One= I now feel stupid. Two= See your response, Alex. Clearly, you are a close reader, though I admit, it isn’t hard to pick up on my sarcasm. Nonetheless, the fact that you are interested in my interpretation is further proof of the fact that some just want to get along, while others recognize that the only way to really get along is to get to the bottom of things and live our lives based on what we believe at our core. So, I don’t apologize for my passion, though I do wish my irony was like Frost’s…Hidden beneath a thick veneer or trees, stars, snow, and pretty paths. That said, this one is for you Alex:

    The first person speaker is in the present telling a story about his past (the “decision”). He tells this story in the first three stanzas. Then, in the final stanza, the speaker predicts his future, in which he will look back at the “decision” and tell the story once again (“I shall be telling this with a sigh”). My thesis is that the speaker, in the present, recognizes that he, both in the past in and the future had and will have a fallen view of the “decision.” So, though the poem actually only has past and future tenses, we might assume the speaker in the telling the story of the entire poem is the authority, for he is the only one speaking directly to us. After we get to know this speaker we see that he is actually quite forlorn, and suddenly we can hear Frost’s tone of pathos for the speaker. This is where his voice and ideas really become apparent (On a side note, there are times when, after hours of intense study of Frost poem, I suddenly feel as though he is beside me, finally laughing with me rather than at me. It’s not until this happens to me that I know I can put the poem down.) So, according to the speaker, in the future he will say, “I-/I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” First, the repetition of “I” gives a tone of pride with a hint of bombast. As you have pointed out, Alex, this is not generally a likeable quality. That is strike one for the speaker as he imagines himself in the future. Strike two is the fact that there clearly is not a “road less traveled by.” The speaker, in the present, recalls, in stanza two that when he made the “decision” he “took the other, as just as fair,” meaning that both “roads” were pretty much the same. To further this, he says that they were both “worn…really about the same,” and they “equally lay/ in leaves no step had trodden black.” In the past the roads were pretty much the same, but in the future they will be remembered as being quite different. The rememberance will be that their was “one less traveled by,” insinuating that the future version of the speaker will imply to others (“telling this”) that he was an individual in the past, his own man, he made tough decisions that most others did not, “And that has made all the difference.” All of this leads me to believe that the speaker, in the present, recognizes his own flaws and how they will come out in his old age (“ages and ages hence”). He will regret his past decisions and attempt to hide this regret by bragging about decisions that weren’t that difficult in the first place. Perhaps he will not even be aware of this. He will be in denial about his sadness, ironically caused by his sentimental view of his life. I believe Frost is sayinging that behind a sentimental view of our lives there is a disconnect between the way we view ourselves and the reality of who we really are.
    Apparently, the speaker has always had this problem. In the past, he was “sorry [he] could not travel both.” This is absurd a conundrum as being sorry we are not who we wish we were. Once a choice is made, there really was no choice. So to think too long about which “leave” covered road to take is not going to help just as much as lying to ourselves about our past is not going to help.
    Now, when the past converges with the future, from the end of the third stanza to the beginning of the fourth, there is a moment of truth for the speaker. The only thing that the speaker seems really sure about in the poem is when he says, “Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.” Yes, just as the past meets the future, the present, in other words, the speaker “knows” something. “Way leads onto way,” there is one road we take, there was no choice to begin with, and so we needn’t dwell on it. But, as quickly as the “knowing” comes, so does the doubting of both the past self and the imagined future self.
    Here is the ultimate irony: the speaker, telling his story of his past and future, is also not in the moment. He is feeling badly about his past absurdity and worrying about his future absurdity. Now, even he has the same flaw as his past and future self. How absurd! This is the point when I look next to me and Frost is smiling at the poem. Picture him looking down at the speaker, shaking his head at this sad case. The speaker isn’t an authority on anything at all, he is just a character in a poem, and he is quite fallen and depressing.
    Ultimately, I don’t think Frost despises this speaker, he just pities him a bit. For ultimately, the speaker is not dwelling on any “road less traveled by,” he is more focused on “THE ROAD NOT TAKEN.” This is the one that we all tend to dwell on.
    As for Frost, he did not take “the one less traveled,” he took “the road less travelled by.” In other words, he travelled in the middle of the road, not on the side of it, or “by” it. To travel “by” a road is pass it without really noticing it. It is to drive while under the influence of sentimentality, while regretting the past and worrying about the future. It is to not enjoy the moment, to miss the small details around you and avoid thinking about how they add up. It is to avoid living, to not be fully engaged, and to miss the whole point, while just seeing what we want to see, never feeling quite right about it, and missing the transendence of what is right in front of us.
    According to most of the interpretations about this poem, the road that Frost is on is the real THE ROAD NOT TAKEN.

    Thanks for motivating me to write this, Alex. I’ll see you on the road and we’ll stop for coffee, and perhaps we’ll read another Frost poem together. I’m currently working on “Neither Out Far Nor In Deep.”

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