Dust of Snow Summary by Robert Frost

About the poet: Robert Frost was born on 26th March 1874, in San Francisco. Frost and his wife Elinor Miriam moved to England in 1912, after they tried and failed at farming in New Hampshire. It was here that Frost met and was influenced by such contemporary British poets as Edward ThomasRupert Brooke, and Robert Graves.

By the time Frost returned to the United States in 1915, he had published two full-length collections, A Boy’s Will (in  1913) and North of Boston (in 1914), and his reputation was established. By the 1920s, he was the most celebrated poet in America, and with each new book—including New Hampshire (1923), A Further Range (1936), Steeple Bush (1947), and In the Clearing (1962)—his fame and honours (including four Pulitzer Prizes) increased.

About the poem: The poem now known as “dust of Snow” by Robert frost is said to have been first published with the title “Favour” in the December 1920 issue of the London Mercury. This poem was later reprinted under the title “Snow Dust” in the January 1920 issue of the Yale Review. Finally it was collected in the famous collection of poems by Frost entitled “New Hampshire” that was published in the year 1923. This collection went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.

Setting of the poem: This poem is set on a winter’s day. The incident that the poet describes is taking place somewhere outdoors, perhaps at the back of his house itself. This is evident because he mentions the snow atop a hemlock tree – a coniferous tree that usually grows on hillsides all over North America.

Dust of Snow Summary by Robert Frost

The poem consists of 2 stanzas. Each of these stanzas is again made up of 4 lines. Hence, the entire poem consists of 8 lines in total.

1st stanza:

The way a crow

Shook down on me

The dust of snow

From a hemlock tree

In this stanza, the poet is talking about a winter’s day when all the treetops were covered in masses of snowflakes. He poet was walking under one such snow-covered tree. This was the North American conifer known as the hemlock, named so because its smell resembles that of the European plant from which the poison known as hemlock was made. Hence, by virtue of its name, this tree was not one that you could associate with anything positive. However, a crow alighted on this tree suddenly, and because of that sudden motion, the mass of snowflakes atop it fell down on the poet like rain. The snowflakes were so light and miniscule that the poet thought they looked like white and immaculate dust particles (if indeed dust particles could ever be white). This shower of snowflakes from the hemlock tree is evidently the subject matter of this poem, since it touched the poet in some way.

2nd stanza:

Has given my heart

A change of mood

And saved some part

Of a day I had rued.

In this stanza, the poet explains to us exactly in what way the shower of snowflakes had an effect on him. He says that it changed his mood. That is to say, he had been in a sullen or despairing mood, and the snowflakes falling on him all of a sudden gladdened his heart. In addition to this, there was another effect that the shower of snowflakes had on the poet. He says that that particular day was one that he had not been looking forward to, and in fact, it was not going too well either.

He had decided, in his mind, that that particular day would go to waste. However, the shower of dust-like snow on his shoulder changed his mind. It made him feel that the day had not been a complete waste. At least some part of that day had been pleasant, since it had given him a new experience that he could treasure as well as the material for another one of his wonderful poetic compositions. Suggested reading: Dust of Snow Analysis by Robert Frost

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