Out of the mud two strangers came
And caught me splitting wood in the yard,
And one of them put me off my aim
By hailing cheerily “Hit them hard!”
I knew pretty well why he had dropped behind
And let the other go on a way.
I knew pretty well what he had in mind:
He wanted to take my job for pay.

Good blocks of oak it was I split,
As large around as the chopping block;
And every piece I squarely hit
Fell splinterless as a cloven rock.
The blows that a life of self-control
Spares to strike for the common good,
That day, giving a loose to my soul,
I spent on the unimportant wood.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.

A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
And turns to the wind to unruffle a plume,
His song so pitched as not to excite
A single flower as yet to bloom.
It is snowing a flake; and he half knew
Winter was only playing possum.
Except in color he isn’t blue,
But he wouldn’t advise a thing to blossom.

The water for which we may have to look
In summertime with a witching wand,
In every wheelrut’s now a brook,
In every print of a hoof a pond.
Be glad of water, but don’t forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.

The time when most I loved my task
The two must make me love it more
By coming with what they came to ask.
You’d think I never had felt before
The weight of an ax-head poised aloft,
The grip of earth on outspread feet,
The life of muscles rocking soft
And smooth and moist in vernal heat.

Out of the wood two hulking tramps
(From sleeping God knows where last night,
But not long since in the lumber camps).
They thought all chopping was theirs of right.
Men of the woods and lumberjacks,
They judged me by their appropriate tool.
Except as a fellow handled an ax
They had no way of knowing a fool.

Nothing on either side was said.
They knew they had but to stay their stay

And all their logic would fill my head:
As that I had no right to play
With what was another man’s work for gain.
My right might be love but theirs was need.
And where the two exist in twain
Theirs was the better right–agreed.

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future’s sakes.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Robert Frost's poem Two Tramps In Mud Time


  1. louis says:

    umm i think most of frost’s poems have references to death in them,
    aftewr reading a biography on him for english Alevel i have found out just apart everyone close to him died,
    his son shot himself with a shotgun,
    hes a bit wierd

  2. simon jones says:

    his poems prove that the mans mental frailties can be seen at the end of this poem pretty disstressing

  3. Georgie says:

    I am studying most of Robert frost’s poems and being honest, im not enjoying it one single bit. I think they are boring and some just go into too much detail and they drift of the subject which he began with. The poems are very cleverly written but don’t appeal to me at all.

  4. lizzie says:

    i am currently stuying have found his poem and have found it very detailed compared to the actual plot of the poem. one aspect focuses on the possibility of a sexual notion and that the sense that the love and need is related sex. Robert frost uses imagery and personification to emphasise the meaning.

  5. emily says:

    i am currently studying is for Alevel i am not enjoying it. people read to much into poems he may have just woken up one day and decided to write a poem, my teacher believes that its about sex, i do not agree with this. he may go on about love but not the love that we know as. i have enjoyed other poems from robert frost but this i just found monotonus, and repeatitive

  6. Ceri says:

    I think that many people have read too far into these poems as there are many sexual references that many people wouldn’t think of. The only relationship that i can seein this poem is the realtionship between the two tramps and the writer and also the relationship between the worker andhis love of work.

  7. Emma says:

    I’m studying this poem for AS level and I feel that it’s only talking about two tramps coming and wanting to chop wood. It’s boring and I think that Robert Frost wasn’t trying to make it sund different. I’ve heard that it refers to sex but we could say that about every poem ever written!!

  8. sandia says:

    i am currently studing this poem for Alevel and i love it!especially the 4th stanza where he uses paradoxial ideas to contrst the blue bird only as being the colour blue, not the feeling blue!!i think this relation can be given to everyday situations where different ideas can have multiple meanings and its up to us to decipher between them!! love SaN x

  9. holly says:

    i think frost is such an amazing and inspiring poet the way he relates his work to the seasons and experiences that have happened him concoct together such fantastic poems.i especially think two tramps in mud time is one of his bests due to his use of empathy and enjambement;out,out- is another of his great works

  10. Katie Shaw says:

    after reading this poem, i feel this is one of his many greats!

  11. Anna says:

    I do like Robert Frost’ poetry after studying his work for A/S English. But I find ‘Two Tramps in Mud Time’pretty boring. This poem does not interest me at all!

  12. Loretta says:

    I love this poem! For me, it resonates with the wisdom of lived experience and the joy of living from one’s centre. It clearly expresses the difference between regarding work as a means to an end and the vibrancy of seeing it as “play for mortal stakes”. I love the way Frost moves from an apparently trivial event to profounder insight. What a joy! 🙂

  13. beth says:

    we have to do this poem for english too and i dont really get it, i just find it boring.

  14. hk says:

    im having to do this poem as part of english A level, i cant stand this poem by robert frost, however i do believe that he is an amazing poet, only because i am becoming dis heartened with the lack of help on the net, i am starting to dislike his work all together.

  15. jagriti says:

    This poem is good as well as bad because afterwards it starts boring.but discription of weather of different seasons is amazing

  16. patricia a. boutilier says:

    The rhythym and the meter of this poem is exceptional. Robert Frost is a poetic master and novice poem makers do well to study his work. I honored his poem in one of my own “Mud Angels in Quick Time” at http://www.writing.com/authors/ridinghhood

  17. CP says:

    Robert Frost has a wonderful way of acknowledging that nature is always in the present and thats where we should be as well by exercising self-control. Easier said than done because a few universal common pitfalls are anger, fantasizing, forgetting and other mind games.

    Using death as an advisor( the lurking frost in the earth beneath) is a good way to stay on our own personal courses. The bluebird doesn’t waste it’s time.

  18. Marcus says:

    There is a lot of wisdom here.

  19. Pam says:

    I love this poem, it touches my heart and soul. I have been a nurse and a jewelry maker and this poem about splitting wood and who has rights to what work gets to the heart of both of those and so much more…Thank you Robert Frost and Thank you American Poems for putting this up on the web.

    Pam 🙂

  20. Karla says:

    This poem was so boring. I didn’t like it at all. We were required to read it for English class and I personally hated it!

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