‘Dust of Snow’ by Robert Frost is a simple tale of having “snow” fall on the narrator to pull him from the unpleasant “mood” that he had previously been in. The simplicity, in the end, is the key element of the work as nature is shown as magnificent enough to bring a person into a pleasant mentality. It grounds the narrator in a satisfying place, like a “tree,” and this uncomplicated action is mirrored in the uncomplicated wording, techniques, and structure of the poem. Together, these elements solidify the theme of ‘Dust of Snow’: that nature and simplicity, if appreciated and looked into, can be grounding factors in a time of stress. you can read the full poem here.
Dust of Snow Analysis
The way a crow(…)From a hemlock tree
Little information is given about the setting of this poem in this first stanza, or the characters for that matter. All the reader can know at this point regarding those details is that there was a narrator and “a crow,” and the narrator was apparently under “a hemlock tree” where the “crow” was perched. Additionally, there was enough “snow” present to allow the “crow” to move that “snow” toward the narrator. This is a basic setting to match the basic structure of the ABAB rhyme scheme.
This grounds the reader in understanding that this is a common idea, to match the commonness of the theme and prospects at work. The “crow” had done nothing overly impressive, and neither had the narrator. In fact, there is no indication that the “crow” even intended to interact with the narrator. Instead, that “crow” could easily have been moving about and happened to shift the “snow” onto the narrator. This could all be coincidence, and the simplicity of what was happening—whether purposeful or accidental—is mirrored in the simplicity of the stanza’s structure.
Overall, there is nothing extreme or overly exciting in this story, and nothing too vast occurring in regard to literary devices. There is no personification, metaphor, alliteration… It is a simple telling of a simple scenario that, for a reason that has yet to be addressed, was worth writing a poem about. The reader, however, must wait until the second stanza to be offered that reasoning, which hints that whatever theme is at work will indicate some kind of time passage or patience that is needed. Otherwise, perhaps, Frost would go into the rationale in these early lines while he is explaining what was physically happening rather than separate the “what” details” from the “why” details.
Has given my heart(…)Of a day I had rued.
The significance of the “snow” and “crow” interacting with the narrator is examined in the first lines of this stanza—that it “[h]as given [his] heart [a] change of mood.” Further exploration of this idea notes that it “saved some part [o]f a day” that had apparently been lacking beforehand. Once more, this is delivered in the simple method ABAB rhyme scheme, with the only concept that could arguably be tied to the earlier lacking poetic devices being personification in the “heart” having “[a] change of mood.” A person can experience this, but as the heart is just a muscle, this action ties into the more figurative concepts of what the “heart” would represent—like love, happiness, hurt, and other emotional concepts.
By adding in this solitary piece of literary mechanism, Frost has shown that this rationale is the more important element of ‘Dust of Snow’ since it received greater depth than the first stanza. As well, he has noted that this is the element of the story that needs greater depth because it is rationalization. In describing what happened, the basics of the situation could be noted. When expressing how he felt about that happening, however, more needed to be utilized than just those physical elements. Frost needs to address something deeper, so he has chosen to explore a figurative concept of his “heart.”
The reader may wonder, though, why “a crow” causing “snow” to fall on him would cause this kind of reaction. It is a simple scenario, no doubt, making it one that could be brushed aside as not worth exploring and not filled with impact. It could be the humor of the scenario that caused Frost to react in such a way, as if having “snow” brushed onto him from a “tree” was the final straw “[o]f a day [he] had rued,” and the frustration became so overdone at that point that it felt comical. This would explain a lightening of mentality and “change of mood.”
It could also be that the simple occurrence provided a grounding element to Frost, as if in the midst of horrible details that made him “rue” the “day,” he found that nature and trivial happenings could still “sh[ake]” a person. Essentially, something pure and clean, like “snow,” fell from above him in a way that could have been jarring, given the cold shock the “snow” could have caused, and it would have been attributed to something as small as “a crow.” At that moment when the “snow” hit, his thoughts could have strayed from his problems and honed in on that single element in life—and a simple “crow” caused him that momentarily liberation.
In this, it is the natural simplicity that is the reason for his noting this moment as significant, and this idea is strengthened in the number of natural elements that are represented in the work—particularly the strong “tree” that is rooted into the earth and able to withstand so many harsh concepts that impact it. This represents the grounding concept that occurred for Frost with the “snow” coming in contact with him to allow a reprieve from his troubles.
Worth noting as well is the symbolic nature of the “crow.” The animal would be, in regard to hues, in contrast to the “snow” that fell to Frost, which would indicate a universality of concepts. Both light and dark—as well as something as pure as “snow” being matched with something as ominous as “a crow”—worked as one to jar Frost out of his previous state. Neither intended to do so, hinting at the aforementioned accidental notion, but it was their combined effort that impacted Frost. Any type of element, then, could cause this grounding concept, either by accident or on purpose.
This simple, jarring element could be anywhere, basically, so long as the reader is willing to keep an eye open to them—like the eye of “a crow” scaling the territory from atop a tall “tree.” Those elements can be quick and uncomplicated, but this beauty and simplicity of nature can be grounding and refreshing among harsh elements. This basic story shows that concept through its uncomplicated delivery and details.
About Robert Frost
Robert Frost was born in 1874 in San Francisco, California. In his lifetime, he won more than one Pulitzer Prize and attended Harvard. His poetry remains significant in today’s literary world, and his name is also linked to the Robert Frost Library where President John F. Kennedy honored the poet with a speech. This honoring was somewhat fitting since Frost read a poem at Kennedy’s inauguration. Frost passed away in 1963.