A Time to Talk

Robert Frost

‘A Time to Talk’ by Robert Frost is a poem abut the importance of friendship. Nothing should get in the way of greeting a friend one truly cares about.


Robert Frost

Nationality: American

Robert Frost is one of the most popular American poets of all time.

His highly accessible work made him famous in his lifetime.

A Time to Talk’ is a ten-line poem that is contained within one block of text. Frost has chosen to imbue this piece with a specific rhyme scheme, following the pattern of abcadbceed. The pattern is loose, with the matching rhymes scattered throughout the ten lines. This choice unifies the text but also keeps the reader from knowing which lines are going to rhyme and when. There is an element of surprise to the form. The same can be said for the rhythmic pattern as there is no set standard for the lines, although all contain between six and nine syllables. 

Frost’s poem is quite short, this means that there are no extraneous details to distract a reader from his main theme: friendship. It becomes clear as the poem progresses that Frost’s interest in writing ‘A Time to Talk’ was in speaking on the value of friendship and the place it should take within one’s life. Nothing is more important to his speaker than the waiting companion. This is seen clearly through his disregard for his work and the effort taken to see what his friend on the horse has to say. 

Frost also uses a number of other techniques such as alliteration to improve the sound and flow of his lines. One such instance is with the words “hills” “haven’t” and “hoed” in the fourth line. It takes effort to speak these words just as the speaker is laboring over his fields. A reader can also see alliteration in line three with the words “stand” and “still,” as well as in line six with “time to talk”.

A Time to Talk
Robert Frost

When a friend calls to me from the roadAnd slows his horse to a meaning walk,I don't stand still and look aroundOn all the hills I haven't hoed,And shout from where I am, 'What is it?'No, not as there is a time talk.I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,Blade-end up and five feet tall,And plod: I go up to the stone wallFor a friendly visit.
A Time to Talk by Robert Frost

Summary of A Time to Talk 

‘A Time to Talk’ by Robert Frost speaks on the importance of friendship and how nothing should get in the way of greeting a friend who has come to visit.

The poem begins with the speaker describing a situation in which his “friend calls” to him “from the road.” This person has come on their horse in order to tell him something, or perhaps just to chat. Neither the reader nor the speaker are aware of what the friend has to say. This is not an important part of the narrative. Of greater interest to Frost is the speaker’s choice to set aside his “hoe,” disregard the fields he has yet to work and go speak to his friend. 

The speaker tells the reader what they should do by informing them of what they shouldn’t do. One should not “stand still and look around” then resort to shouting down the hill. This is not how one treats someone they care about. It does not matter how tired one is or what work is left to do, a good friend “plod[s]” down and has a “friendly visit.” 

Analysis of A Time to Talk

Lines 1-5

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, ‘What is it?’

In the first lines of this piece, the speaker begins by recalling a situation, real or make-believe, in which a friend calls to him from the road. He speaks like this is something that has happened more than once. He knows exactly what to do.

 The setting of this piece is at first unclear, but with the addition of words like “horse” and “hoed” it becomes clear that the speaker is working in a field on the land he owns.

The man on the horse does not get off to go and talk to the speaker. Instead, he calls out, asking the speaker to come to him. The reason for this is unclear, perhaps to keep the horse out of the field. Frost never reveals to the reader what it is the speaker’s friend wants to tell him and it doesn’t matter. Just as the reader does not know what’s going on, neither does the speaker. He describes how at this moment his thoughts are not contained to his work, rather than worrying about “all the hills” he hasn’t “hoed” or dug up, he does not “stand still and…shout from where” he is. 

The speaker knows this is not the correct way to treat a friend. He then goes on to prove it by moving from his position to the wall.

Lines 6-10

No, not as there is a time talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

At the beginning of the next set of lines, the speaker continues to describe what it is one should not do when approached by a friend. One must remember that there is always time to talk and do whatever they can to make this happen. As if to prove this, the speaker depicts himself putting down his “hoe in the mellow ground” and “plod[ding]” over to his friend. 

With the addition of the words “mellow” and “plod” the speaker’s attitude towards his work, and perhaps his life as a whole, is flushed out. Although his work is necessary, he does not enjoy the labor. This certainly makes it easier for him to set it to the side. 

His actions are very deliberate, no matter how tired he is. He is determined to talk to his friend. His next step is to place his hoe “Blade-end up” in the hole he’s digging. Once a reader gets to the end of this piece it’s clear that Frost is conveying the importance of friendship. He, or at least this particular speaker he is channeling, believes in maintaining friendships no matter the cost. One’s work and livelihood should not ever get in the way. 

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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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