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A Patch of Old Snow -- Robert Frost

(Poem #336) A Patch of Old Snow
There's a patch of old snow in a corner
That I should have guessed
Was a blow-away paper the rain
Had brought to rest.

It is speckled with grime as if
Small print overspread it,
The news of a day I've forgotten --
If I ever read it.
-- Robert Frost
A somewhat different poem by Frost - showing all his usual genius at
capturing a scene in a few, well-chosen details, but far more 'snapshot'
like than the previous ones we've run. There is a wonderful overlaying of
images - nature and civilisation, past and present, the purity of snow and
the speckle of grime. Notice, particularly, the interplay of time and
stillness. The poem explicitly deals with the passage of time, and its
effect on newsprint and memory alike. And yet it has all the quiet, timeless
stillness of a winter's morning; an air of suspended or frozen time
reminiscent of the more famous 'Stopping by Woods'.

However, whereas in 'Stopping by Woods' there was the constant reminder of
passing time, and the narrator ultimately failed to gain himself a moment
outside its flow, here the effect is just the opposite. Time, in the shape
of the old newspaper, fails to assert itself upon the speaker's
consciousness - the irrelevance of the outthrust past is beautifully summed
up in the last two lines.

Other random points - note the surface imagery, which is characteristically
beautiful. Note the interesting association of newsprint with grime (and the
images conjured up by 'overspread'). The use of 'corner' to further suggest
a secluded refuge from the passage of time. And much more - Frost had a
wonderful ability to pack layer after layer of meanings and imagery into a
few words.



Biographical details at poem #51

And a few other poems on Minstrels - see
[broken link]

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