‘Tree at my window’ by Robert Frost is a four stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, or quatrains. Each of these quatrains follows a specific rhyme scheme, conforming to the pattern of abba cddc effe ghhg. One interesting moment of rhyme is in the last stanza. Upon a close reading one will notice that lines one and four and lines two and three are also half or slant rhymes. This means that they do not rhyme entirely but, in this case, match in consonance.
In regards to rhythm, the pattern is less consistent. The first three lines of each stanza are the longest and the majority contain somewhere between eight and ten syllables. The final lines range from four to six syllables. While this is not a specific pattern, the rhythm is similar enough to provide the poem with a sense of unity. The poem was first published in Frost’s collection West Running Brook in 1928.
You can read the full poem here.
Summary of Tree at my window
The poem begins with the speaker taking note of the tree outside his window and recognizing the fact that he’s never going to be separated from it. The window might go up or down, but he will never leave.
He goes on to describe how thoughts of the tree have penetrated his mind. He is reminded of the “light” sounds the leaves make and the tree is further personified. The speaker goes on to tell the tree that he has seen it through thick and thin. There have been bad storms and long nights. In this same manner the tree has watched over the speaker. It is also able to look through the window and see what’s going on on the other side. The tree often observes the speaker sleeping.
It becomes clear at the end of this piece that the speaker cares so deeply for the tree because it is a steadfast presence in his life. No matter what he’s going through the tree has been, and always will be, there.
Analysis of Tree at my window
In the first stanza of this piece the speaker begins by utilizing the phrase that would later come to be used as the title. He is speculating on a tree outside his window. The words are repeated twice, as if he is contemplating what it means to see a tree at one’s window, or even be a “window tree.” The repetition of the name of the tree also enhances its importance to the narrative. By the time a reader has passed the first line they have read the words “tree” and “window” three times, including the title.
Through the second, third and fourth line a reader becomes fully aware of how important the tree is to the speaker. It has taken on a presence in his life that is closer to that of a human companion than a plant. One will also realize that the poem itself is directed at the tree. The speaker tells his window tree that he never wants there to be any “curtain” between the two of them. No matter if his “sash” is up or down (meaning the window itself), mentally and emotionally there is no separation between them.
The next lines are vaguer. Here the speaker seems to be discussing a dream. It clearly revolves around the tree and its presence in the world. The speaker continues to refer to it as if it his companion or friend. He makes a reference to the tree’s “light tongues” and the “talking aloud.” When one considers a tree and the noises it makes, there is the “light” sound of leaves rustling. This would also fit in with his description of the “head lifted out of the ground.” The lines also emphasize Frost’s use of personification. He refers to the tree as having a “head” and “tongues.” It takes on the vague shape of a human being.
The third stanza is clearer and discusses how the speaker and the tree have been watching one another. A reader is already aware that the speaker looks outside his window at the tree, but now we know that the tree has “seen [him] when [he] slept. This is a lonely image. The tree is outside, suffering in a storm perhaps, and is only able to look in on its companion. While the speaker has the ability to come and go from the room (although this piece does make it seem like that’s a rare occurrence) the tree is stuck in the same place.
It is in the next lines that it becomes clear what the speaker values about this particular tree and why he spends so much time watching it, talking about it and to it. The tree is steadfast in a way that the rest of life is not. It has observed the speaker at his highs and lows and when everything was almost “lost.” One might assume, considering the speaker’s professed affection for the tree, that it had something to do with all not being “lost.” Perhaps the constant presence of the tree outside the window reassured the speaker. Then, in some way, improved his life before he considered himself completely “lost.”
The fourth stanza finalizes the connection the speaker and the tree have. Together they relate in a way that two humans, or two trees, could not. The speaker has his own human concerns. They are his “inner…weather.” On the other side of the spectrum the tree only cares with the “outer” world.
In conclusion, a reader should consider how the speaker has an entire mental world to navigate. This is the weather he is struggling with. The tree on the other hand is completely absorbed by the “outer.” It cares for the actual weather, the rain and storms. When they are beside one another these opposite cares balance one another out.