‘Flower-Gathering’ was published in A Boy’s Will in 1912. It is a fairly simple poem that, like most of Frost’s poems, deals with natural imagery. In this case, Frost takes a different perspective on one of his classic, solitary walks and alludes to them as a means of gaining inspiration for his poems. These same poems were often dedicated to and written about his wife, Elinor, who also features in the poem.
Summary of Flower-Gathering
The poem starts out with the poet leaving early in the morning on one of his famous walks. His wife tries to tag along with him, and he spends a few lines trying to explain why he thinks she’s done this. She knows well that he’s going to come back and bring with him flowers for the both of them. The second stanza reemphasizes this and adds that he knows she’ll love these flowers (or poems, depending on how one reads the text). She just needs to let him go and do what he needs to do. But he’s not unsympathetic. He knows that even a short time away from someone can feel like forever.
You can read the full poem here.
In ‘Flower-Gathering,’ Frost engages with themes of walking, nature, and relationships. The latter is alluded to through the “you” and “I” pronouns used throughout the poem. He’s addressing his wife, Elinor, and trying to remind her of how these walks he goes on are what makes his poetry (or flower gathering) possible. As readers of his poetry are likely already aware, his poems hinge heavily on his use of natural imagery and the process of taking inspiration from nature. This is as evident as it ever is in ‘Flower-Gathering.’
Structure and Form
‘Flower-Gathering’ by Robert Frost is a two-stanza poem that is separated into sets of eight lines, known as octaves. These octaves follow a specific rhyme scheme of ABCBDDEB, changing end sounds in the second stanza. There are also a few examples of half-rhymes as well. For instance, “glow,” “go,” and “gloaming” in stanza one. Plus, there is a good example of an exact rhyme, where the same word is used, in stanza two with “measure.”
Frost makes use of several literary devices in ‘Flower-Gathering.’ These include but are not limited to caesura, metaphor, and alliteration. The latter is a type of repetition that occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “dusty” and “dumb” in lines six and seven of the first stanza, as well as “Gaunt” and “grey” in line six of the same stanza.
Caesurae are pauses at the beginning, middle, or end of lines. The first line of the second stanza is a good example. It reads: “All for me? And not a question.” The fifth line of the same stanza is also an example. It reads: “They are yours, and be the measure.”
Depending on how one readers ‘Flower-Gathering,’ there may or may not be an interesting metaphor at work within the lines. If read on a surface level, this poem is about a man going to get flowers for his wife. If read slightly deeper, the poem is about Robert Frost going to gather his thoughts so that he can write poetry for his wife, Elinor.
Analysis of Flower-Gathering
I left you in the morning,
And in the morning glow,
Are you dumb because you know me not,
Or dumb because you know?
In the first stanza of ‘Flower-Gathering,’ the speaker begins by talking to “you” and recalling a time he left this person in the morning. Due to the number of poems Frost wrote over his lifetime about walking, it’s likely that he’s the speaker of this poem. This is yet another of his walks, something that the following lines reassert as routine and familiar. The “you” in these lines is likely his wife, Elinor. He left her in the morning, but before he has a chance to get far, she tries to join him. She walked a way beside him “to make [him] sad to go.” This suggests that she was purposefully trying to get her husband to stay home, guilting him into it.
The following lines include two questions that suggest that Elinor shouldn’t be trying to do this. She knows that he goes on these walks every day and is perhaps “dumb because” she knows what he does. Perhaps he thought she was playing dumb to the situation or was being so quiet (dumb being used to refer to muteness) that she hoped he’d let her follow along.
All for me? And not a question
For the faded flowers gay
The measure of the little while
That I’ve been long away.
In the second stanza, the speaker starts off with another question. This stanza explains what the walk is about and why Elinor should be okay with it, besides the fact that it happens every day. He’s going off to gather flowers, not just for his benefit, but for Elinor’s. It’s not “All for [him]” at all. He’s telling her that he’s going out to get flowers that she’s going to appreciate too. It’s possible to read deeper into these lines and interpret the flowers in a different way. They might be used as a metaphor for the speaker’s own thoughts and creative process. He might need the walks as a way to sort out what he’s going to write about. This makes sense as he often wrote about Elinor.
The stanza goes on, reiterating that the flowers, or perhaps the poems he’s going to write with his newly gathered thoughts, are “yours” and will be worth the time spent on them because she’ll treasure them. In the final two lines, the speaker acknowledges that even a “little while” away feels like a “long” while.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Flower-Gathering’ should also consider reading some of Frost’s other best-known poems. For example:
- ‘Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening’ – is one of Frost’s most famous poems. It describes how Frost was faced with a difficult choice and the easy escape the woods provide.
- ‘The Road Not Taken’ – Frost’s best-known poem and one that is famously misinterpreted. He depicts two roads, both of which are the same, and then he takes the one he declares “less traveled by.”
- ‘Desert Places’ – is yet another nature-based poem. This time, Frost discusses his internal desert places while exploring physically deserted ones.