‘Two Look At Two’ by Robert Frost is a forty-two line poem that is contained within one block of text. The lines do not follow a specific pattern of rhyme. This does not mean that the poem lacks unity though. Frost utilizes other techniques, such as repetition and alliteration, as well as a structured pattern of meter, to create a unified feeling.
In regards to rhythm, the majority of the lines contain five sets of two syllables. There are moments in which the lines don’t reach ten or stretch past ten to eleven or twelve syllables. These moments are few and far between and are usually surprises which often come at turning points in the text. For example, line thirty contains nine syllables and is the moment in which the reader is surprised to see a different deer coming around the corner than the one they expected.
Frost makes great use of the technique of anaphora in this text. It is a kind of repetition in which a word or phrase at the beginning of a line is repeated. A reader can look to the first nine lines to see the word “With” used to start four of the lines. Farther along in the poem, “She” is used a few times in succession. Alliteration combines with anaphora in lines 36-40. Here, Frost uses a word beginning with the letter “T” word five times in a row. You can read the full poem here.
Summary of Two Look At Two
‘Two Look At Two’ by Robert Frost describes an important encounter between two human hikers and two deer, on opposite sides of a barbed-wire wall.
The poem begins with two people, likely a man and a woman, who have decided to stop walking for the night. They are in the woods and far from any other human beings. They come across a wall. It is wrapped in barbed-wire. It comes to represent the wilder world of nature that is inaccessible to humans.
While the stand and look at the wall they see two different deer, a doe and a buck, come out and analyze them. There is a connection between these “two” looking at “two.”
Analysis of Two Look At Two
In the first lines of ‘Two Look At Two’ the speaker begins by placing the two characters, an unnamed man and woman, in the woods. These two have been traveling through the woods, hiking, or seeking out some particular destination all day and now night is falling. The speaker states that,
Love and forgetting might have carried them
A little further up the mountain side
But only if night wasn’t so near. They would not have made it too much farther, leaning on their love for one another, the world, and their desire to push beyond the confines of their everyday life and “forget” their origins and destination.
The speaker adds another detail onto their decision to stop walking, that they “must have halted soon in any case.” It is interesting to note the number of lines that the speaker spends describing their decision to stop, almost as if making excuses for them, or trying to anyway. It could be an attempt to keep outsiders, aka, the reader, from questioning the character’s devotion to their task of being outdoors, or their love to one another. In conclusion, he simply wants the reader to know, it was dark, they had to stop, no matter how much they loved one another.
One of the things that is starting to weigh on the minds of the walkers is the “path back” and “how rough it was.” There was a lot of “washout.” This means that the rain and the floods wiped away the path. This will make it hard to see and traverse in the daytime, much less at night. If they attempted to make it home in the dark they’d be taking a big risk.
In the next set of lines the speaker describes how the two walkers came upon “a tumbled wall.” This is a surprise, as up to this point it seemed as though the two were far from any form of civilization. The wall is there in front of them, physically, but it represents something larger. It is a metaphor for the wall that humanity has erected between the wildest parts of nature and curated, safe, human-friendly nature. It is a barrier between connecting with other forms of life and seeing them not as inferior, only different.
The barrier is one that is tough to cross. It is covered with “barbed-wire binding.” This is a ubiquitous material. It’s used in equal measure to keep people in and keep animals out. The walkers come upon this barrier when they are out on their own, just when things start to become dangerous. They do not, at first, want to cross over onto the other side where the world is wilder.
The two face the wall and halt their own impulses to go onward. They know that they need to stop and turn around and go back “up the failing path.” It is interesting to note the different types of danger prevalent in the text. They think that they should choose the danger of the path, as it is known to them, rather than the danger of something wholly unknown.
Line thirteen reveals that the two did not move after all. They continued to stand there, sighing and thinking that this was the end of their journey for the night. They say, “‘This is all”’ and “‘Good-night.”’
Again, they go against what they initially think is right. The two still do not move away from the wall. Something is keeping them there. Perhaps a revived curiosity for the unknown that waits on the other side of the barbed-wire wall. All of a sudden, there is a doe. She stands
[…] round a spruce…looking at them
Across the wall, as near the wall as they.
The doe’s actions mirror their own. She is as curious about them as they are of her, but for different reasons. In this scenario she represents an unachievable wildness. The walkers on the other hand represent the exact opposite, as will be exposed in the next set of lines.
The final line of this section of ‘Two Look At Two’ emphasizes the fact that two very different worlds exist on either side of the wall. The doe is in hers, and the walkers are in theirs.
The speaker describes how the doe has trouble seeing the two humans on their side of the wall. The fact that they were not moving, and were of a shape she was unfamiliar with confused her eyes. She saw them as being like “some up-ended boulder split in two.” Although she doesn’t know what these people are, she can tell they aren’t afraid. She thinks they are safe.
The narrator moves away from the doe and back to the larger scene. To the walkers, or perhaps just to the narrator looking down at this scene, the doe seems to pass a judgement on the walkers. They were to her,
[…] though strange,
[Something] She could not trouble her mind with too long,
The doe does not want to spend any more time looking at the humans than she has to. They confuse her, but not so much that she wants to stay. Contrastingly, the walkers still have not moved. They were transfixed by the sight of this animal. This uneven consideration is a perfect representation of the divide between human and non-human animals. In the last line of this section, in what seems like a conclusion but isn’t, the doe moves “unscared along the wall.”
The use of the word “unscared” is interesting. It is not actually a word, but a turn of phrase chosen by Frost to represent two different words. “Scared” and the more commonly used, “unscarred.” The deer is not scared of the people, so she moves away “unscared,” she is also not “scarred” by the metaphorical barbed-wire wall (due to the fact that the humans do not harm her) and moves on.
Lines 25- 30
In line twenty-five of ‘Two Look At Two’ one of the walkers wonders aloud if this is it, is there more they can “ask” for from the woods. There is, they aren’t done yet. There is a “snort,” which seems to come from the doe, that bids the two to “wait” where they are. Rather than the doe reemerging, a “buck,” or male deers comes, “round the spruce.” He takes the doe’s place,
Across the wall as near the wall as they.
The buck feels just as confused about the human onlookers as the doe did. Rather than standing still and thinking though, he “jerks” his head around. This makes it seem as though he is asking and answering,
‘Why don’t you make some motion?
Or give some sign of life? Because you can’t.
I doubt if you’re as living as you look.”
The deer is passing a judgment on the two humans, just as the humans would if the situation were not special. The buck sees them for what they are on the surface, unmoving, seemingly useless, unintelligent pieces of rock. He dismisses them. The walkers see these motions and remain entranced by the sight.
Eventually, they are so taken in, they want to “stretch a proffering hand.” No matter if they did so or not, the buck decides to move on. The spell is once again broken, this time by the idea of the human beings moving and regaining agency over the situation. They have come into unique contact with two creatures on the other side of the ideological wall.
At this point the buck moves off, as “unscared” as the doe, “along the wall.” Frost concludes the poem with the utilization of a variant of the title, “Two had seen two.” The two human walkers had seen two deer and visa versa, varying connections were made across the wall. The most important part was that there was a change. A “wave” came over the two, so impactful were the encounters. It was,
As if the earth in one unlooked-for favour
Had made them certain earth returned their love.
This connection with the two animals, no matter how uneven or strange, showed the two that they have a deeper tie to the world than to one another, or even their larger human cohort. They share love and spiritual life with creatures on the other side of the wall.