Emotional Insight from Robert Frost’s “Love and a Question”

Vik RubenfeldPoem0 Comments

One of the things I do regularly on this site is to post big, easy-to-get-with examples of emotional insight. Emotional insight conveys a meaning that can only be grasped using your emotional ability.

Here’s another great example, from Robert Frost.

Love and a Question
by Robert Frost

A stranger came to the door at eve,
And he spoke the bridegroom fair.
He bore a green-white stick in his hand,
And, for all burden, care.
He asked with the eyes more than the lips
For a shelter for the night,
And he turned and looked at the road afar
Without a window light.

The bridegroom came forth into the porch
With, ‘Let us look at the sky,
And question what of the night to be,
Stranger, you and I.’
The woodbine leaves littered the yard,
The woodbine berries were blue,
Autumn, yes, winter was in the wind;
‘Stranger, I wish I knew.’

Within, the bride in the dusk alone
Bent over the open fire,
Her face rose-red with the glowing coal
And the thought of the heart’s desire.

The bridegroom looked at the weary road,
Yet saw but her within,
And wished her heart in a case of gold
And pinned with a silver pin.

The bridegroom thought it little to give
A dole of bread, a purse,
A heartfelt prayer for the poor of God,
Or for the rich a curse;

But whether or not a man was asked
To mar the love of two
By harboring woe in the bridal house,
The bridegroom wished he knew.

Here’s an intellectual restatement of the information content of the poem: The bridegroom and the bride have been newly married, and this is their first night together as man and wife. A homeless man comes to the door. The bridegroom is happy to give him food and money, but the homeless man wants a place to stay for the night. The bridegroom is torn as to whether it is appropriate for him to give the homeless man a roof to sleep under on that very special night.

Yet this intellectual restatement fails to capture the emotions which the poem so powerfully conveys. Look at the last verse:

But whether or not a man was asked
To mar the love of two
By harboring woe in the bridal house,
The bridegroom wished he knew.

Do you feel that?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *