Readers are likely to walk away from this poem with very different opinions in regard to what Frost was thinking of when he wrote it. The “Secret” could represent something very different from one reader to the next. For some, it might be an allusion to the nature of life, its secrets, and purpose, but for others ‘The Secret Sits” could mean something very different.
Explore The Secret Sits
‘The Secret Sits’ by Robert Frost is a very short poem about understanding life and the impenetrability of its secrets.
The poem’s first line references a “dance” that “we” engage in. It’s likely that this is a symbol of life and our continual search for meaning. All we can do, Frost states, is “suppose.” But, the “Secret,” which some may interpret as the deepest secrets of life, sits in the middle of our circle and “knows.” The knowledge that “we” are seeking is there, right in the middle of our lives, but we can’t quite reach it.
You can read the full poem here.
In the first line of ‘The Secret Sits,’ the speaker begins by referring to “We.” This first-person plural pronoun is not described in more detail as the poem progresses. It’s vague and up for interpretation, much like the rest of the poem. Frost could be thinking about a small group of people, two people, or perhaps all of humanity. If the poem is taken literally and readers interpret the “ring” and “dance” as real things, it’s more likely to be a small group he’s talking about. But, if the two are metaphorical, then it could be any group of people.
The dance evokes images of childhood games, like ring around the rosie. But, the use of the word “suppose” immediately elevates it. There is more thought going on within the lines of the poem than would be present in a childish game.
It’s also not clear what “suppose” is in reference to. It’s another way of saying “and think about something.” The “something” is, of course, the main point of the poem. “We” can only suppose, Frost is saying. But, the second line adds more detail.
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.
While human beings, or perhaps just a smaller group contemplating a topic personal to them, can only “suppose” the “Secret” is in the middle of the circle and “knows.” This is an interesting way, perhaps, of depicting the absolute truth in the world. Human beings dance around it, making up rules, trying to declare life is one way or another, while the “Secret” of life is the only one who “knows.” The use of personification in this line makes it feel as though the “Secret” is purposefully keeping itself hidden. It could, if it wanted, reveal itself to “us.”
Structure and Form
‘The Secret Sits’ by Robert Frost is a couplet. This means that the poem is only made up of two lines. These two lines are written in anapestic trimeter. This means that the lines contain three sets of three beats. The two lines are also half-rhymes. This means that they almost rhyme but don’t quite perfectly correspond. This helps create an effective feeling of rhyme.
Throughout this poem, the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of words. For example, “round” and “ring” in line one and “Secret sits” in line two.
- Imagery: occurs when the poet uses especially interesting descriptions. For example, “the Secret sits in the middle and knows.”
- Personification: can be seen when the poet imbues non-human characters with human features. For example, referring to “the Secret” sitting in the middle of the ring.
The themes at work in this poem include the purpose of life. The “we” referenced in the first line is likely an allusion to all of humanity and our continual quest for knowledge. We dance around the “secret” but never know it.
The purpose is to illustrate what life is like when we don’t know something and can only guess at it. One could use the lines of this poem to represent something small or something quite large, like the purpose of life.
The tone in this poem is direct and confident. The speaker knows what he’s talking about and is willing to acknowledge what he doesn’t.
The mood is mysterious and contemplative. Readers are likely to walk away feeling somewhat confused about what they just read and what it all means.
Readers who enjoyed ‘The Secret Sits’ should also consider reading some other Robert Frost poems. For example:
- ‘The Road Not Taken’ – is about the choices and opportunities in life. The poem highlights the sensation of regret that accompanies all the roads that a person doesn’t take.
- ‘Reluctance’ – a powerful and thoughtful poem. It depicts the changing seasons and what it’s like to push back against winter.
- ‘The Pasture’ – a thoughtful and image-rich poem that depicts the chores a farmer has to complete.