Come In

Robert Frost

‘Come In’ by Robert Frost is a poem that takes a look at how we as people project ourselves onto nature.


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.

Key Poem Information

Central Message: Nature inspires interpretation but does not offer it.

Themes: Death, Journey, Nature

Speaker: A traveler in the woods

Emotions Evoked: Depression, Faith

Poetic Form: Quatrain

Time Period: 20th Century

This is a poem with arresting visual imagery that illuminates the affecting ways nature can grip humanity.

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When reading Robert Frost, it’s important to be on guard for allowing too much of a Romantic interpretation to seep into his presentations of nature. Anyone with an affinity for the outdoors would be certainly drawn to his lucid imagery that recreates the quiet majesty of the natural world. But to stop short at just his aesthetic appreciation and illustration of these places risks a superficial understanding of Frost’s poetry. ‘Come In’ addresses the ways in which scenery can invite us to project ourselves on inhuman and inanimate things encountered when we’re separated from civilization.

Come In
Robert Frost

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 birdBy sleight of wingTo better its perch for the night,Though it still could sing.

The last of the light of the sunThat had died in the westStill lived for one song moreIn a thrush's breast.

Far in the pillared darkThrush music went —Almost like a call to come inTo 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.


‘Come In’ by Robert Frost describes an encounter between a traveler at dusk with the music of a thrush encloistered inside a dark forest.

‘Come In’ describes the speaker’s reaction to hearing a birdsong at the edge of a wooded area. Much of the poem deals with their descriptions of both the thrush song and the dark forest it sings from. As the poem continues, the speaker begins to impart some significance not just in the song but in the woods as well. At first, the music from the thrush inspires a connection between it and the last light of day. But as darkness approaches, that perspective shifts into something more foreboding, with the speaker describing it as an invitation to enter the forest and “lament” (16).

The speaker finally resolves not to enter, revealing that they’re out to see the stars. Going into the woods would prevent that, given how dark it is within. To emphasize their decision, they comment that even if they were asked to come in, they wouldn’t — ending the poem with a seemingly contradictory statement once they confess that such a request was never made anyways. Drawing attention to the fact that the speaker’s projected interpretations are not truly reality: the thrush’s music is just birdsong and not an attempt to coerce them into entering the woods.

Structure and Form

‘Come In’ is composed of five quatrains with a rhyme scheme of ‘ABCB DEFE GHIH BJKJ LKMK.’ The alternating rhymes in the second and last lines of each stanza give the poem a lilting cadence, which might imitate the echo of the thrush song the speaker describes hearing in the dark. Frost uses both enjambment and end-stopped lines throughout the poem.

Literary Devices

‘Come In’ mainly relies on Frost’s use of imagery and figurative language to illustrate the scene between the speaker and the thrush. There’s the use of auditory imagery when describing the bird’s music and the speaker’s own call to listen: “Thrush music — hark!” (2). Visual imagery also fills the poem, mostly serving to amplify the darkness of the woods: “Now if it was dusk outside, / Inside it was dark” (3-4); “The last of the light of the sun / That had died in the west” (9-10); “Far in the pillared dark” (13).

Metaphor is employed when the speaker projects an interpretive and symbolic view of the bird’s music, describing how daylight “still lived for one song more / In a thrush’s breast” (11-12) as well as simile when the speaker perceives it as “a call to come in / To the dark and lament” (15-16).

Detailed Analysis

Stanza One

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

In the first stanza of ‘Come In,’ the speaker describes arriving at the edge of a forest at dusk and hearing a thrush (a type of small bird) from within. They then give an invocation to listen to the song — “hark!” (4). The speaker also describes the “edge of the woods” themselves, revealing it to be understandably far darker under the canopy of trees than outside of them. It’s these two motifs, the auditory imagery of the thrush and the visual imagery of the dark woody abode it calls from, that develop the poem’s solemnly foreboding mood and themes.

Stanza Two

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 second stanza focuses on the thrush as the speaker muses over its position inside the dark forest. Observing once more the intense opaqueness of the rapidly approaching night, the speaker states that it’s “too dark” (5) for the bird to even fly away despite its own cunning skill — or, as they put it, “By sleight of wing” (6). Unable to leave its perch to find a better spot from which it might weather the night, the speaker observes that, at the very least, the darkness doesn’t prevent it from singing, striking an optimistic tone.

This stanza continues to evolve the images introduced in the first stanza. Accentuating both the lightless realm of the woods and the small thrush that sits on its perch somewhere within. Thus far, the poem is engrossed mainly in the speaker’s attempt to report on the elements of nature encountered. The mood does shift throughout the poem, with the final line of this stanza adding hope with its image of the bird singing in total darkness.

Stanza Three

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.

The speaker reveals that the sun is not yet completely gone over the horizon. As the last vestiges of light “died in the west” (10), the speaker thinks once more of the thrush’s music. Creating a symbolic link between that birdsong and the soon-to-be-gone light that’s giving way to night. Here the mood of the poem grows hopeful once more as the speaker interprets the song as a beam of auditory light existing and emanating from the “thrush’s breast” (12). In the gathering dark, it’s clear that the speaker increasingly views the thrush and its song as an illuminating piece of sensory detail in the wake of dusk.

Stanza Four

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

The fourth stanza of ‘Come In’ begins with a striking description of the woods as a “pillared dark” (13) that continues to echo with the thrush’s music. It’s here that the speaker describes the music as a “call to come in” (15). But the intent behind that invitation shifts away from the previously pleasant interpretation of the bird as a symbol of hope in the dark. Instead, the speaker explains the song seems to entreat them in some way, urging them into the woods so they might “lament” (16). Like a siren song, it calls them with ambiguous and ominous intent.

Stanza Five

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

In the final stanza of ‘Come In,’ the speaker refuses the invitation to enter the forest while also simultaneously asserting that no such request was ever made. The truth of that paradox begins with the speaker’s answer and rationale for staying out of the forest. “I was out for stars” (16), they explain, an image that implies the darkness within the forest was so thick and consuming that it even blotted out the stars. So on the surface, the speaker simply doesn’t want to miss out on seeing the stars by exploring the dark confines of the woodland in front of him.

Asserting that even if they were asked, they would still refuse, the speaker then curiously claims they were never asked in the first place. This seems to blatantly contradict the “call to come in” (15) from the previous stanza. Yet it’s important to note that apart from the speaker’s sensory descriptions of the scene, everything they say is interpretative. Rereading that line emphasizes their use of simile, making their reading of the situation less definitive. The thrush’s music is “almost like” a call to come in (according to the speaker), but in actuality, it’s not.

Like many of Frost’s poems, ‘Come In’ functions both literally and symbolically. The speaker is clearly influenced by a variety of atmospheric factors, from the dreary nature of dusk and nightfall to being alone in such a liminal space and hearing a solitary birdsong. It’s the beauty of the thrush’s music coupled with the compelling obscurity of the darkness that leads the speaker to willfully interpret both as an invitation.

The ambiguity in the meaning of the nighttime woods has led to a variety of interpretations — from the ubiquity of the unknown and death’s own call to all-consuming emotions like grief — all of them valid in their own way. But the lasting impression left behind by the poem lies in the speaker’s lucid understanding that they’re projecting sentiments onto the natural world around them.


What is the theme of ‘Come In?

If you want to boil down the poem to a single theme, a prominent one is how nature can seem to move us in ascribing meaning or apprehending emotion from our encounter with it. By the end of the poem, it’s clear the speaker is well aware that all their interpretations and affectations via the thrush are one-sided.

What does the thrush song represent in ‘Come In?

The speaker at first compares the thrush song to an invitation to go into the forest. Yet at the end of the poem, they remark that such an offer was never given. As a result, the song could represent everything from the speaker’s perceived affinity toward the dark forest to a kind of tempestuous beckoning to come in and lament. Frost makes it very apparent that the speaker is reacting to nature as opposed to being intentionally affected by it. The thrush song, therefore, could also symbolize the way we, as humans, project ourselves onto the world around us.

Why did Robert Frost write ‘Come In?

As with many of Frost’s poems, it was no doubt penned as an encapsulation of a particular moment or scene found out in nature. This one seems to touch on the poet’s awareness of their own symbolic extractions from the environment, as the speaker might as well be a stand-in for Frost on one of his walks through the woods. One could see it as both a reminder and a warning to poets and readers alike to not be swept away by their own imagined fancies when romping through the trees.

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Steven Ward Poetry Expert
Steven Ward is a passionate writer, having studied for a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and being a poetry editor for the 'West Wind' publication. He brings this experience to his poetry analysis on Poem Analysis.

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