Choose Something Like a Star : by Robert Frost || Analysis

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Choose Something Like a Star

O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says "I burn."
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats' Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

O Star (the fairest one in sight), We grant your loftiness the right To some obscurity of cloud It will not do to say of night, Since dark is what brings out your light. Some mystery becomes the proud.
Choose Something Like a Star

Summary and Analysis


      The poem Choose Something Like a Star by Robert Frost was first published in a volume of poems entitled An Afterward. This poem also helps in the confirmation of the view that the stars are a prevailing theme with Frost, both as a fact and a metaphor. For Frost, they symbolise light and order, peace and tranquility. In every volume of poems by Frost, there is either a whole poem or part of a poem dealing with stars.

Development of Thought:

      Frost has always been fascinated by stars and he has written a number of poems on them. Aestrometaphysical, The Star-Splitter, The Star, Choose Something like a Star are some of the finest of these.

      In the first fifteen lines of the poem, the poet addresses the star directly. In fact, the poem, is an imaginary dialogue (a monologue in reality), between the poet and the star that is the 'fairest one in sight' The poet is attracted byy its glory - it shines brightly at unattainable heights. A passing cloud may obscure its glory for a moment but the dark mantle of night brings out its glory all the more. The poet does not chide the dark; in fact he acknowledges the value of the night's darkness that brings out the light of the star. He also admits that the star's mystery is justified, for "some mystery becomes the proud". But the tight-lipped reserve of the star is something that the poet does not want. He wants it to tell him something about itself, 'something we can learn by heart and when alone repeat, The poet wants it to give him such direction and advice that he may cherish and memorise.

      The star does reply to the poet despite its taciturnity. But, for the poet, the star's saying that I burn is not enough. He wants the star to tell us 'with what degree of heat' does it burn. He wants it to speak in Fahrenheit and Centigrade. He wants to know its components. The star's brief words 'I burn' is beyond the poet's comprehension. He does not understand what burn the star implies by this. The poet asks it to explain itself to him, to speak in human language.

      From this point onward the poet speaks of the star in the third person instead of second. The poet says that the star does not help us much in comprehending it but it does tell us something towards the end. The poet uses Keats's epithet Eremite for the star with all its Keatsian implications here. Keats used this term as a tribute to the star's steadfastness. The term Eremite means a hermit, implying seclusion or isolation.

      At this point, the poet very easily assumes a didactic twist. The star is unstooping and unswerving and 'it asks of us a certain height.' It demands a certain dignity, a certain elevation of spirit and loftiness of character. When at times we become one of the multitude and get swayed away by praise or blame, we should choose something like a star to set before us a glamorous example of stability and restraint. The poet says that we should learn to avoid extremes and not to allow our minds to lose equilibrium. Any excess is undesirable. We should have a judicious approach to life and should traverse the road of life with moderation and poise. It is only suffering and sacrifice, waging of a relentless battle against crude reality that can make one attain lofty heights and the shimmering glory of a star.

Critical Appreciation:

      (Most of the criticism has been incorporated in the section entitled Development of Thought'). John T. Napier remains to be quoted. Commenting on Frost's maturity he says: "As a youngman Frost saw in stars only the blind eyes of a Minerva in marble, but now he has matured, and so seeks from them wisdom and guidance."


      Choose Something Like a Star ends on a "note of Horatian equanimity in statement and in reserve of tone supported by spareness of sound". The lyric is an artistic perfection and an expression of the poet's "rich and ripe philosophy". It is sublime and very rightly, Frost has clothed noble thoughts in noble language.

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