The poem uses some literary techniques that Frost is well-known for, including rhyme and the use of refrains. Throughout this short poem, readers become acquainted with the few tasks the speaker, a farmer, has to complete and his clear way of addressing them. There are a few questions left unanswered at the end of ‘The Pasture,’ but this is often the case with Frost’s poetry.
Explore The Pasture
The poem is quite short, only eight lines long, and starts with the speaker telling the listener that he’s going to go out and clean. This is one of a few chores that he has to do. It includes raking the leaves away, and he may take the time, just for the pleasure of it, to watch the water clear. He notes that these are things that are going to happen; he has to do them. Then, he tells the listener that they can come too if they want to. The second stanza plays out similarly. The speaker tells the listener that they’re going to fetch a newborn calf from the field and that if they want to, the listener can accompany them. These tasks feel quite peaceful and simple. They are also suggestive of the life that the speaker lives on the farm and its struggles and pleasures.
You can read the full poem here.
I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.
In the first stanza of ‘The Pasture,’ the speaker begins by telling someone that they’re going to go out to “clean the pasture spring.” It’s springtime, and this is one of the many chores that he has to do. It quickly becomes clear that the speaker is a farmer. The things he’s addressing in these lines are very normal for his day-to-day life.
He also tells the listener that the only thing he’s going to do in between activities is stopping to “rake the leaves away.” He might, he adds, stop to watch the water clear, but in total, he won’t be gone long. These are simple statements, ones that allude to a life filled with chores, some hardship, but also a great deal of peace. He tells the listener that they can “come too” as he goes about his work. This suggests that the farmer feels the pull of his solitude and wants a companion as he works.
I’m going out to fetch the little calf
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.
In the second stanza, the farmer starts by saying that he is also going to go and “fetch the little calf” that’s out in the field with its mother. It’s “so young” and totters when she licks it. This is another quite simple yet moving image. It’s easy to imagine, but it’s unclear exactly why he’s going to fetch the calf. Perhaps it is so newborn he has yet to examine it, or maybe he’s moving the animal somewhere else.
He repeats the refrain that was used at the end of the first stanza at the end of the second. He tells her that he “sha’n’t be gone long” and that the listener can “come too.” The poem ends on this note without revealing whether or not the farmer got his chores done or if the listener decided to come with him.
Structure and Form
‘The Pasture’ by Robert Frost is a two-stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a rhyme scheme of ABBC DEEC. There are two perfect rhymes in the middle of each stanza, and the final word of both stanzas is the same, “too.” This is known as an exact rhyme. Readers will also note the use of a refrain at the end of each stanza. The entire line is repeated without any variations.
Throughout ‘The Pasture,’ Frost makes use of several literary devices. Theses include but are not limited to:
- Caesura: occurs when the poet inserts a pause into the middle of a line. For example, “I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.”
- Enjambment: can be seen when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines two and three of the first stanza and lines one and two of the second stanza.
- Anaphora: occurs when the poet repeats the same word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines. For example, line one of both stanzas starts with “I’m going out to” and the last line of both stanzas uses the same words as well.
- Imagery: can be seen when the poet uses especially interesting and evocative descriptions. For example, “It totters when she licks it with her tongue.”
‘The Pasture’ is a pastoral poem that uses two quatrains for a total of eight lines. The poet uses simple language and a speaker who has nothing to hide addressing the ins and outs of a life on the farm.
The rhyme scheme of this poem is ABBC DEEC. The last line of both stanzas is the same. This means that the ‘C’ rhymes are exact, or identical. The poet also uses a couplet in the middle of both stanzas, creating an example of perfect rhyme.
Frost wrote this poem in 1910. He was inspired by the time he spent walking in a cow pasture. This memory seemed to have meant a great deal to him as he continued to dwell on it throughout the rest of his life.
The meaning is that a simple life, one filled with chores and hard work, is fulfilling and beautiful. Frost wanted to draw the reader’s attention to the farmer’s life and make them feel what he felt as he walked through the cow pasture.
The speaker is a farmer. It’s unclear if Frost was thinking about a specific person when he wrote this poem, but it has been suggested that he was thinking about a specific place. The farmer is likely a man, someone who is talking to a friend or partner.
The tone is peaceful and explanatory. The speaker spends the lines telling the listener what he’s going to do in the most direct way possible. He doesn’t waste time with extra words or extended explanations.
Readers who enjoyed ‘The Pasture’ should also consider reading some other Robert Frost poems. For example:
- ‘A Time to Talk’ – a poem about the importance of friendship. Nothing should get in the way of greeting a friend one truly cares about.
- ‘A Prayer in Spring’ – a poem that asks for peace in the face of a busy, endlessly stressful world. The speaker is looking for peace for himself and those around him.
- ‘Desert Places’ – a dark poem that uses a snowstorm to depict universal human loneliness and the inevitable return of depression.