ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Robert Frost's "War Thoughts at Home"

Updated on October 8, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Robert Frost

Source

Commentary

Robert Frost's rediscovered "poem" is a collection of seven stanzas, which appears to be more a list of notes rather than a poem, as the title clearly reveals.

Robert Frost's "War Thoughts at Home" consists of seven "notes," with the rime scheme ABCCB in each.

First Note: "On the back side of the house"
The speaker describes a house: "On the back side of the house / Where it wears no paint to the weather / And so shows most its age." This "back side" seems to take the brunt of the bad weather; as a result of all this tumultuous weather, the paint has worn off, and this side of the house "shows most its age." It is on this weather-beaten side of the house that a bunch of blue jays starts to rustle about. The speaker claims that the jays "rage / And flash in blue feather."

Second Note: "It is late in an afternoon"
The speaker continues to describe a bleak atmosphere. The time is late afternoon, and it looks as if it will be snowing soon; there is a gray look to the scene, a time when there may be present a blue jay or a crow or more likely still, "no bird at all."

Third Note: "So someone heeds from within"
The speaker introduces a woman inside the house who has heard the birds' racket, and she goes to the window. She is old and as weather-beaten as the house, "A little bent over with care." She has been sewing so she gets up from her chair carefully placing her sewing aside so she won't drop it on the floor.

The term "bird war" is employed, and for the first time the list begins to reveal the nature of its claim to be thoughts of war. The reader might feel that the house has already demonstrated a kind of war with the weather; then the birds reveal of kind of war. And now enters a human being who might add war thoughts.

Fourth Note: "The sewing in her lap"
The third and fourth stanzas are connected by sharing the same sentence. The woman comes to the window to see the birds, but the birds "cease for a space / And cling close in a tree." The reader is to believe that they see this woman's face staring at them and they cease their "war."

Fifth Note: "And one says to the rest"
Then one bird begins to speak: "We must just watch our chance / And escape one by one—/ Though the fight is no more done / Than the war is in France." Frost is said to have copied this list into a copy of his published North of Boston in 1918. Thus, the war is World War I. The bird says that they can escape this human if they lay low and leave one at a time, but he admits that the fight is not over yet, just as the fight in France is not over yet; although, the war in Europe did end by September of 1918.

Sixth Note: "Than the war is in France!"
In the sixth stanza, the speaker repeats the line, "Than the war is in France!" But it is unclear whose words these are. The bird said that same line, but now the same line appears unattributed. Then the speaker is telling the reader what the woman is thinking: "She thinks of a winter camp /Where soldiers for France are made."

Again, it is not clear. Where is the winter camp? Is it in the United States, which only entered the war a year earlier? Is it in France? There is nothing to clarify why this woman would know these things. Perhaps the reader is to assume that she has a relative who was sent to this war, but the reader cannot determine so. Then the woman pulls "down the window shade" which "glows with an early lamp."

Seventh Note: On that old side of the house"
The seventh stanza simply gives a description of what one would see if one were looking out back from "that old side of the house." This sounds strange, because in the opening stanza, it seemed that the weather had been responsible for making the house look old, but now the speaker actually calls that side "that old side of the house."

One has to wonder how one side might be any older than the other sides. And what one sees there is a line of old sheds that give the appearance of railroad cars that have "lain / Dead on a side track" for a long time.

Final Comment
This "poem" seems to be most aware of itself as trying to be poetic. It is for this reason that critics and scholars should understand that it is not a poem at all, but merely a list of thoughts. And, in fact, Frost did not publish this poem. This list of thoughts was found among his archival materials, jotted down on a flyleaf of his book, North of Boston.

As a poem, this list is seriously flawed. Robert Frost would probably be embarrassed that people are fawning over it as an important Frostian find. It is merely a list that seems to wax profound trying to compare a bird fight to the war in France. But it is obviously not meant to be a finished poem. Frost's best works demonstrate how much better than this he was.

Brief bio of Robert Frost

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Submit a Comment

No comments yet.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)