By Robert Frost
The poem titled 'A Roadside Stand' by Robert Frost, explores the plight of rural life
and the economic struggles faced by those living in the countryside.
Robert Frost, an
American poet, is widely known for his nature poems with realistic themes and revolutionary ideas.
The poem voices out
loud the plight of poor vendors and subsequent efforts to change the
predicament of rural sections of the city.
The poem is rich
in terms of language, bitter in tone and expression, profound in emotional content
and strong in appeal.
scheme of the poem is inconsistent and irregular as sometimes consecutive lines
rhyme and sometimes one after the other, and sometimes after a gap of two lines, and four lines.
§ The impactful description of the stand, roadside scene, running traffic, urban and rural parts of city brings out the theme through powerful use of imagery. The poet skilfully employs various poetic devices such as alliteration, assonance, enjambment, metaphor, irony, and personification to convey its themes and an emotional message.
Summary / Synopsis
To sum up, the poem
captures the struggles of rural life, the impact of economic disparity, and the
longing of poor vendors and poor people for a better life and their due right to enjoy their share of city's cash flow. It criticises the disconnect between urban and rural
life and unequal flow of money among social groups highlighting the hardships faced by those living in the
countryside. The poem also explores the complexities of the systems to find quick solutions to alleviate suffering and poverty.
The poet sensitises the readers, the government and the business sector against the plight, difficulties, and helplessness of poor vendors who live hand
to mouth through description of the roadside stand, poor people and their hopeful eyes. He criticises the insensitive attitude of this selfish world and the government who fail to do their bit to improve the condition of the poor vendors through describing insensitive and fast moving traffic. The
poet dreams and demands a fresh perspective towards development which ensures
growth of all the sections of the city and change the sad reality of poor
vendors and rural sections of the city.
Line by Line Explanation
little old house was out with a little new shed
at the edge of the road where the traffic sped,
roadside stand that too pathetically pled,
not be fair to say for a dole of bread,
some of the money, the cash, whose flow supports
flower of cities from sinking and withering faint.
polished traffic passed with a mind ahead,
ever aside a moment, then out of sorts
The poem begins with a description of a small, old house accompanied by a new shed at the front of the house. The stand is standing at the edge of the busy road. The setting of the poem is a busy road where traffic moves in great speed. The roadside stand appears to be in a pathetic condition or state of need. It seeks people’s attention for livelihood of the people who depend on it. The poem suggests that the stand is not asking for charity but is selling things and making livelihood which is their right. The stand is seeking little financial support, a small amount of the money on which entire city depends, and which is their due share. The poet suggests that the money earned supports the vitality of cities, and economy and development of the country at large. The cash flow, circulated by the roadside stand is a vital part of the city’s economy. The traffic is described to be high earning gentry who are running with individual purposes in their mind hence, not paying much attention to the stand as they don’t have time, nor sensitivity. If ever they do notice it for a moment, they are displeased or annoyed by its appalling condition thinking that it is spoiling the beauty of the city.
the landscape marred with the artless paint
that with N turned wrong and S turned wrong
for sale wild berries in wooden quarts,
crook-necked golden squash with silver warts,
rest in a beautiful mountain scene,
the money, but if you want to be mean,
your money (this crossly) and go along.
presence of the roadside stand is seen by higher strata, as an unwelcome
intrusion spoiling the beauty of the landscape. The signs on the stand are
described as having incorrect directions for 'N' and 'S'. The stand is selling natural products like fruits and fruit juices in the bottles. Perhaps the stand offers the only thing of beauty that
people may enjoy is the mountain scenery which is painted on the stand. The poet suggests that those who have money should be willing to
spend it. There's a sense of frustration that people are unwilling to spend
money at the stand. Frost intellectually supports Marx theory that money should
exchange hands by earning and spending, and that everyone has the right to earn
and spend. If high earning people don’t spend on vendors, how these low poverty
line people would survive. They are deprived of their share of city money which
is ironically accumulated in few hands.
to the scenery wouldn’t be my complaint
as the trusting sorrow of what is unsaid:
from the city we make our roadside stand
for some city money to feel in hand
To try if
it will not make our being expand,
us the life of the moving-pictures’ promise
party in power is said to be keeping from us.
speaker doesn't mind the visual impact of the city spoiled by the stand, as
much as the unspoken suffering of poor vendors and their family. The real issue
is the silent suffering and unexpressed needs of those who depend on the stand. They don’t
plead or demand, but they also have the right to hold their share of money
which is being earned and spent in the city. The
setting is described as rural, far from center of urban part of the city. The
poor inhabitants seek financial support from the city by selling things at the
stand. They hope that the money earned will improve their lives and well-being.
They, too have a desire for a better life, which is many times seen in the
movies as such themes are projected through many films based on socialism and
equality. The government and the political parties in power who have made high
promises prior to the elections are withholding these promises, and not
It is in
the news that all these pitiful kin
Are to be
bought out and mercifully gathered in
in villages, next to the theatre and the store,
they won’t have to think for themselves anymore,
greedy good-doers, beneficent beasts of prey,
over their lives enforcing benefits
calculated to soothe them out of their wits,
teaching them how to sleep they sleep all day,
their sleeping at night the ancient way.
reports in the news that the rural people are to be relocated. The government plans to
bring out the rural inhabitants and relocate them in the city where they may
receive the benefits of development and urban growth. The relocation involves
moving them to more urbanized settings, near theatres and market where they may have more opportunities and, earn better and improve their life. The people in power are described as
opportunistic and predatory. The government or authorities will reap their
benefits and satisfy their selfish motives instead of supplying the poor
vendors their share of benefits. The benefits behind such plans are - to pacify and distract the rural inhabitants. The authorities attempt to control their lives,
even regulate their sleep. The traditional way of living is disrupted,
including the natural sleep cycle hindering the peace of their life.
I feel myself I can hardly bear
thought of so much childish longing in vain,
sadness that lurks near the open window there,
waits all day in almost open prayer
squeal of brakes, the sound of a stopping car,
the thousand selfish cars that pass,
to inquire what a farmer’s prices are.
did stop, but only to plow up grass
the yard to back and turn around;
another to ask the way to where it was bound;
another to ask could they sell it a gallon of gas
The poet empathises with the struggles of the rural population. The longing for a better life is compared to childlike innocence. There is a sense of melancholy and longingness in their hopeful eyes. The poet suggests a hopeful waiting for some positive and beautiful change. The anticipation is for someone to stop and buy something. Despite the numerous passing cars, only a few may stop. The hope is for someone to ask about the products for sale or their price. Ironically, the car that stops does so for a different purpose. Another car stops for directions but is not interested in buying anything. Yet another inquiry, this time about purchasing gas, is also unsuccessful as they all don’t purchase anything, nor even ask about the prices, instead they remove grass from the yard by making a turn by the car, which damages the yard while turning.
couldn’t (this crossly); they had none, didn’t it see?
country money, the country scale of gain,
requisite lift of spirit has never been found,
Or so the
voice of the country seems to complain,
help owning the great relief it would be
these people at one stroke out of their pain.
next day as I come back into the sane,
how I should like you to come to me
to put me gently out of my pain.
response of the people is dismissive, indicating a lack of understanding,
concern and empathy. The poet explains the cruel reality of the rural economy. The
needed improvement in the poor people’s situation has not been achieved. The
poet portrays the collective voice of the rural community. He admits to
considering the relief that would come from a significant change. There's a
suggestion that a drastic solution, such as relocation, might end their
suffering or bring great improvement in their miserable life. At the same time
the poet reflects on the idea with a more rational and logical perspective. The
speaker imagines someone offering them a help, and wonders how they would feel
if someone offered a solution to their personal struggles. He seems to conclude
that offering a help is not a good idea. At the same time he wants a change in
social fabric and policies of the government so that the predicament of these poor
venders can change for better, everyone should understand they have the right
to live a life with dignity and happiness.
old house was out with a little new shed – Repetition, Imagery, antithesis
In front at the edge of the road where the traffic sped – Consonance, Repetition, Imagery
A roadside stand that too pathetically pled – Alliteration, Consonance, Personification
It would not be fair to say for a dole of bread – Alliteration, Consonance, Assonance
But for some of the money, the cash, whose flow supports – Repetition, Assonance
The flower of cities from sinking and withering faint – Anaphora,
Assonance, Consonance, Metaphor, Imagery
traffic passed with a mind ahead – Anaphora, Alliteration, Consonance, Transferred epithet
Of signs that with N turned wrong and S turned wrong – Repetition, Imagery
Offered for sale wild
berries in wooden quarts – Alliteration, Consonance,
Or crook-necked golden squash with silver warts – Anaphora, Alliteration, Assonance, Imagery
Or beauty rest in a beautiful mountain scene – Anaphora, Alliteration, Imagery
You have the money, but if you want to be mean – Alliteration, Repetition,
The hurt to the scenery wouldn’t be my complaint
– Personification, Consonance, Repetition
So much as the trusting sorrow of what is unsaid – Alliteration, Personification, Enjambment
To try if it will not make our being expand – Assonance, Consonance
And give us the life of the moving-pictures’ promise – Assonance, Alliteration, Repetition
That the party in power is said to be keeping from us – Alliteration, Assonance
It is in the news that all these pitiful kin – Assonance, Alliteration, Consonance
Are to be bought out and mercifully gathered in – Alliteration,
To live in villages, next to the theatre and the store – Repetition, Assonance, Imagery
good-doers, beneficent beasts of prey – Alliteration, Oxymoron, Metaphor
Swarm over their lives enforcing benefits – Enjambment, Metaphor, Consonance
And by teaching them how to sleep they sleep all day – Alliteration,
Destroy their sleeping at night the ancient way – Alliteration,
The thought of so much childish longing in vain – Anaphora, Assonance, Consonance
The sadness that lurks near the open
window there – Anaphora, Personification, Alliteration, Consonance,
squeal of brakes, the
sound of a stopping car – Alliteration, Repetition, Imagery
Of all the thousand selfish cars that pass – Alliteration, Consonance, Hyperbole, Imagery, Transferred epithet
one to inquire what a farmer’s prices are – Consonance, Assonance
And one did stop, but only to plow up grass – Consonance, Assonance, Imagery
the yard to back and turn around – Consonance, Imagery
And another to ask the way to where it was bound – Anaphora, Alliteration
And another to ask could they sell it a gallon of gas – Anaphora, Alliteration,
They couldn’t (this crossly); they had none, didn’t it see – Alliteration, Repetition, Consonance
No, in country money, the country scale of gain – Repetition, Assonance
Or so the voice of the
country seems to complain – Repetition,
To put these people at one stroke out of their pain – Alliteration, Assonance, Consonance
I wonder how I should like you to come to me – Repetition
And offer to put me gently out of my pain – Assonance, Alliteration, Consonance
The poet clearly brings out the theme that unequal distribution of cash and city money hinders the real development of the city, voicing loud the capitalist theory of Carl Marx who says that every social group has equal right to earn and spend using the cash flow in the city and the country. The poet talks about the desired change in economic policies and laws of the government as everyone has the right to use equal share of city money and live a life with dignity and happiness.