Come In: by Robert Frost - Summary & Analysis

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Come In

As I came to the edge of the woods,
Thrush music -- hark!
Now if it was dusk outside,
Inside it was dark.

Too dark in the woods for a bird
By sleight of wing
To better its perch for the night,
Though it still could sing.

The last of the light of the sun
That had died in the west
Still lived for one song more
In a thrush's breast.

Far in the pillared dark
Thrush music went --
Almost like a call to come in
To the dark and lament.

But no, I was out for stars;
I would not come in.
I meant not even if asked;
And I hadn't been.

As I came to the edge of the woods, Thrush music -- hark! Now if it was dusk outside, Inside it was dark.
Come In

Summary and Analysis


      The lyrics Frost's forte. He began with lyrics and went on writing lyrics all through his poetic career. Come In was first published in 1942, in a collection of poems entitled A Witness Tree. This poem is small, simple and charming. Though written late in his career, Frost endows the poem with spontaneity and freshness.


      In this personal lyric, the poem describes the poet's reaction to a thrush's song, that he heard when he approached the edge of the woods. It was dusk, and the inside of the woods was already dark. Once while out for his evening walk, the poet had reached the edge of the woods (perhaps unconscious of time) and got a pleasant surprise when he heard a thrush singing in full-throated ease. Beyond the frontiers of the woods, it was only dusk but inside it was pitch dark, so much so that the bird could not properly see its position and adjust it with a 'sleight of wing'. But the bird continued to sing in spite of this. Perhaps it still remembered the fading agonized red face of the setting sun, and rendered its own agony exquisite and eloquent, through its undisturbed song. Perhaps it sang with the hope that someone would come and join it in lamenting the death of the sun. But the poet is not to be taken in by this invitation. He somehow remains detached. Understanding one's sorrow does not always entail a sharing of it. He wanted to enjoy the beauty of the starlit sky. He feels that the thrush had not invited him; even if it had invited him, he knew he would not have gone in.

Critical Analysis:

      A well known critic says that this lyric expresses an attitude of major interest in any account of Frost's poetic career. The title Come In is a combination of the homely "come in" said to someone at the main entrance of a house with the romantic invitation to "come in to the garden". A similarly balanced poise can be sensed in some other expressions in the poem; let us consider the word hark (in L.2); in one sense the word 'hark' belongs to poetic wonder, and in the other, it belongs to daily speech a generation back in English culture - it was used to arrest the listener's attention.

      Frost's poetry abounds in woods. But we have never seen the poet enter the woods. He always stops at the edge. Even in this poem, the poet tells us with poetic word-play that he would not 'come in' for he 'was out for stars'. The woods might be taken to symbolize different things: (a) the darkness of ignorance, (b) the unfathomable depths of human consciousness, (c) Satanic evil and temptation, and (d) perilous sensuous enchantment. Frost always chooses to remain on the periphery of the dark woods; he never probes into the dark mystery of life or of the human soul. He is perhaps always all out for stars, for those lighted spheres from which one can easily find his way through. The woods are dark mysterious and unknown; but the poet does not like anything hazy or dubious, he is all for clear, unambiguous world of everyday reality.

      Come In deals with one of Frost's favorite themes; the 'death wish' attraction of the dark, the magnetic pull of lonely places, the call to come in / To the dark and lament. Frost assumes different personae in his poems to dramatize various resolutions to this pull of the dark. In 'Come In' the speaker adopts a jocular tone. The thrush in this poem is the inverse of Keats's nightingale. Keats's nightingale represents an eternal principle of joy, as contrasted to sorrowful transitory life of man: here the thrush is lamenting and invites anyone who cares, to come in and join it. The temptation for the poet is strong enough to put the poet in a fix and the call to come in, is much more alluring, intimate and personal than go in. The song is a siren song. But the speaker has not swayed away, emotionally. He is rational enough to see and realize the limitations of the darkness which fascinates and invites him. The word pillared is suggestive of not only the safe shelter of the church but also confinement and imprisonment, to a man who is out for stars. The speaker declines the invitation firmly. He knew that he had not been asked to go in and was sure that he would not have gone in even if asked. The call provides the tension of the poem and the firm rejection provides relief from it.


      It is only fit to conclude this analysis of the poem with Untermeyer's admiring words" ..such poetry is ageless. It entices the reader with its amiable surface of fact and rewards him with its depth of feeling. Never has poetry been more completely an act of sharing, so friendly and so profound".

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