Explanation of An Old Man’s Winter Night by Robert Frost
An Old Man’s Winter Night by Robert Frost is a poem about an old man living alone in his house in the winter. Age has rendered him unaware of why he is in the house or even what his identity is, but he still persists. He walks into his cellar and is unable to remember why he came into the cellar. Because of his old age he walks slowly, “clomping” while he walks. He has no one in his life and he feels alone as he sits outside his house looking towards the moon. He then goes to sleep where he’s only awakened by the shifting of a log, after which he drifts off into a deeper sleep, which may symbolize death.
This poem was written in 1920 as part of “Mountain Interval” which is famous for housing Frost’s most known work “The Road Not Taken”. An Old Man’s Night does not contain any recognizable rhyme scheme.
An Old Man’s Winter Night deals with the predicament of an old man who is dying on a cold winter’s night. The main theme used by Frost in this poem is one of isolation and oblivion. The old man, his memory and legs crippled by old age ambles around his house without remembering who he was or even what he was doing. He is “at a loss” so as to what to do and “clomps” around “scaring” his house, although in my opinion he is really trying to make himself feel less scared of the loneliness. He goes outside to look at the moon and the poet tells us how he was “a light for no one but himself”, which yet again confirms how isolated he is. This also is another reference to his old age and the passing of time, a theme Robert Frost has touched upon in poems like “The Oven Bird”.
Finally realizing the irrevocability of this passage of time and accepting his loneliness, the Old Man decides to go sleep. Besides being woken up by the shifting of a log, the man goes back to sleep “easing his heavy breathing” which may lead one to think that the Old Man had passed away in his sleep. It is at the end of his poems that Robert Frost presents a philosophical wondering which makes the readers contemplate on the meaning. Here, the last four lines do the job.
Frost talks of how an old man, and shifts to how any man can’t “fill a house, a farm or a countryside” on their own, alone and isolated from the rest of society. As one can see from this poem, the pain of isolation is agonizing and bitter and the old man was affected by it. Frost then completes an about turn and says that if a man “can, it’s thus he does of a wintry night” thus talking of the human ability to survive in even the harshest conditions.
In another way, this poem’s theme is exactly opposite to the theme of poems from “A Boy’s Will” like the Vantage Point where the boy wanted to be isolated from society. Frost may be trying to show the contrast that comes about in man regarding his views on companionship as he grows older.
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