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Snowbanks North of the House-by Robert Bly

Updated on December 19, 2012

"Thoughts That Go So Far"

Do you know that moment where you thought you would do something different but you didn't? You got stuck doing the same thing day in and day out. Took no risk. Had no adventure. Or rather, hold on to something you'd rather let go. Thinking you'd move on but you don't.

Stuck. Basically that's what it sums up to. Stuck in the moment, in the past, whatever, but not getting out of it. I think we've all had those moments, where our "thoughts [only]...go so far" and then stop.

Think about it, just for a moment...


Snowbanks North of the House

Snowbanks North of the House

-by Robert Bly

Those great sweeps of snow that stop suddenly six feet from the house...

Thoughs that go so far.

The boy gets out of high school and reads no more books;

the son stops calling home.

The mother puts down her rolling pin and makes no more bread.

And the wife looks at her husband one night at a part and loves him no


The energy leaves the wine, and the minister falls leaving form the church.

It will not come closer-

the one inside moves back, and the hands touch nothing, and are safe.

And the father grieves for his son, and will not leave the room where the

coffin stands;

he turns away from his wife, and she sleeps alone.

And the sea lifs and falls all night; the moon goes on through the

unattached heavens alone.

And the toe of the shoe pivots

in the dust....

The man in the black coat turns, and goes back down the hill.

No one knows why he came, or why he turned away, and did not climb

the hill.

Finding Your Place

This poem can mean many things depending on the person and the situation. Personally for me the lines that stand out are where the father is grieving for his son and cannot let go. Imagine how the Newton school shooting parents of the victims feel. Or more personally for myself; I had a high school friend, Kayte, recently die from a brain aneurism, she was 21, there was no rhyme or reason for it. I know her mother would still be standing at the coffin if possible. How do you let go of a child that has passed?

More so how do you feel about the lines "Thoughts that go so far...It will not come closer--" Does this mean that even though we want something or think we can accomplish something we find out that we just can't?

Another thing to ponder is if this poem is talking about the same family the whole time. The boy leaves school and never reads again. Never calls home, therefore, distancing himself from the family. The mother takes it hard, falls out of love with life, never bakes bread, and even falls out of love with her husband. That son dies, father can't let go and doesn't comfort his wife.

Who’s the man in the black coat? He is all of us in my opinion. He is at the base of the hill and won't climb it, can't bring himself to even though he wants to.

Throughout life I think many of us shelter ourselves. We are afraid. Putting ourselves out there would mean risking the safety we have secured.

All the things we said we would do and want to do, we sometimes just can't bring ourselves to do it...we are "those great sweeps of snow that stop suddenly" or at least some of our thoughts and plans are.

Let me hear your opinion on this Robert Bly poem!!


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    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 4 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      I enjoyed this analysis of Robert Bly's poem. I think you've summed parts of it up with a fresh direct insight which shows that you've read it well.

      I have his first published book in the UK - Silence in the Snowy Fields - and it has a great poem in it with the title...After drinking all night with a friend, we go out in a boat at dawn to see who can write the best poem.....

      Votes for this hub, thanks.