Robert Frost gives an explanation of loss, grief and the transient nature of life in each line of his poem “Bereft”. The poem seeks the attention of readers at once as the poet illustrates emotions in it. The mood of the poet remains sad as the speaker seems suffering from sorrow. It is also apparent that he misses something significant in his life. Ultimately, in the end, it is revealed that he misses the company of God.
Table of Contents
Bereft Poem Line by Line Analysis and Explanation
The poet uses vivid imagery and unique symbols to illustrate themes related to sorrows, sufferings and struggles in life. There are some other themes that he uses which are mostly related to external conflicts and daily universal challenges.
Where had I heard this wind before,
Change like this to a deeper roar?
The poet starts the poem with a description of the wind. It seems that he is familiar with the sound that it makes. He could not recall the moments completely from his unconsciousness but those moments are certainly there.
The first and foremost symbol that the poet uses in these lines is wind. In the context of this poem, the symbol of wind refers to change, uncertainty and the time that has passed. It also symbolises that change is the law of nature and that experiences in life are subject to change.
Roar is another symbol that the poet uses to paint the theme of danger. The poet uses the word “roar” for describing heavy and deeper sounds. Usually, the wind does not roar while blowing but the wind that roars may bring destruction. Through these unique symbols, the poet creates an intense atmosphere in the starting lines of the poem.
The main theme in these lines is memory and recognition. The poet realises that he has heard the sound of wind previously somewhere but he does not remember the location.
The poet also shows the influential powers of nature. The emotions of the poet also change with every blow of the wind. There is a direct connection between human emotions and nature and the poet represents it. In short, the wind is a sort of connection between the natural world and humans.
There are some literary devices that the poet uses. The first of them is a simile. The second line of the poem “Change like this to a deeper roar” contains a simile when the poet makes a comparison while showing the wind’s transmission to a deeper roar. The use of simple words in each line of the poem “Bereft” boosts the imagination of readers to give an explanation of events.
What would it take my standing there for,
Holding open a restive door
The speaker is at the door from where the wind enters into the room and he is unable to close the door. He raises another question. He thinks about taking action in a specific situation. The speaker wonders if his standings at the door would serve any purpose.
From these lines, an image of a person standing on the door while holding it can be imagined. The speaker’s willingness to stand there shows that the poet happily engages with a particular situation and experiences it voluntarily.
The “restive door” on the other hand symbolises a passage. Perhaps the door creates a connection between the present and the past. It connects the imagination with reality. It may also be used as a symbol of creating a connection between humans and nature. In the end, it is revealed that the poet uses the door to create a connection between humans and God.
The poet illustrates themes of choices. The speaker may shut the door or he may opt to leave the door open to let the air come inside. Symbolically, it is on the speaker whether he shuts the door and stops thinking about the past or not. The speaker stands at the edge. It is on him to decide whether he chooses to live in the real world or the world of imagination.
In this way, the poet gives line by line an explanation of his transformation of leaving aside the past and focusing on the present in his poem “Bereft”. Past is for the imaginative world whereas the present is for the real world which the poet shows through the symbols of wind and door respectively.
The literary device that is obvious in these lines is the “rhetorical question”. It was also present in the last lines of the poem. These lines start with the question which creates a sense of the speaker’s mental and emotional process.
The “door” which is “restive” and the “wind” are images that the poet uses in order to enhance the imagination of his readers.
Looking down hill to a frothy shore?
Summer was past and the day was past.
The poet adds another scene in the row. We may imagine the speaker sitting in a room and when he hears the sound of the wind, coming from the door, he comes and tries to shut the restive door. But now he is not standing at the door; instead, these lines suggest that he is standing outside. He is at a high place from where he gazes at the downhill and looks towards the shore which is covered with small bubbles.
In this line of the poem “Bereft”, the poet sheds light on his past without giving an explanation. The speaker is out of the room. It means that he decides to live with his past as he still thinks about it. In the past, he had seen the shores from an elevated position. The poet remembers those best days of his life. The poet may have heard the roaring sound of wind there in the past. Thus, it leaves a nostalgic impact on the minds of readers.
The frothy shore is a symbol of the turbulent nature of the water. Like shores, the mind of the speaker is also unstable and restless at this time.
In addition, the poet portrays symbols related to the change in these lines. The end of summer and the day represent the passing of time. It may also be considered a symbol of moving from comfort zone to discomfort zone where one may gain success but the same is subject to uncertainty and loss.
The poet Robert Frost illustrates themes of change and observing nature from different angles for which he uses the literary device of imagery with a description of the “shore” as “frothy”. It creates a visual image and evokes a sense of movement.
The poet also uses the literary device of repetition. He mentions “past” twice in the second line to show the moments that had happened in the past. It emphasises that those moments are irrecoverable. Moreover, it adds rhythm and reinforces the theme of transience.
Sombre clouds in the west were massed,
Out on the porch’s sagging floor,
The poet sketches images at the very beginning of these lines. “Sombre clouds in the west were massed” indicates dark, heavy clouds. These clouds have been clustered together in the western sky. There may be a storm as the whole description of the images is about an expected heavy storm.
The word “sombre” suggests the darkness due to the black clouds as the poet talks about an approaching storm that is nearby. The first line of these lines from the poem “Bereft” gives an explanation of the gloomy mood of the poet.
These lines of the poem, if put with each other, create a scene of a person standing on a porch with a dilapidated floor. The person continues gazing towards the west and sees the clouds gathered there. The scene is all about the passage of time and the prediction of an approaching storm which may also be used as a symbol for the upcoming difficult times and disasters.
As mentioned earlier, sombre clouds are symbols of gloom. The poet paints a melancholic atmosphere with the help of clouds. In these lines, he expresses his mood and emotional state of mind.
On the other hand, the sagging floor of the porch is a symbol of decay, instability and weariness. The speaker carries a burden of the things that happened in the past.
The symbols that the poet uses create a sense of sadness. The major themes that the poet portrays in these lines are melancholy and Loss. In short, these themes are entirely related to the heavy burden that the speaker carries due to his worst past experiences.
In addition to it, themes of mortality and the inevitable passage of time are also apparent in these lines of the poem. It seems that something has happened in the past but the burden of those experiences is still there on the heart of the speaker. It shows the transient nature of human existence.
The major literary device that the poet uses in these lines is imagery. The poet creates an image of “sombre clouds”. The scenery of heavy and dark clouds that the poet paints in the western sky seems realistic. Moreover, the image of a “sagging floor” conveys a sense of instability.
Leaves got up in a coil and hissed,
Blindly struck at my knee and missed.
The writer uses the object of leaves and personifies it in these lines of the poem. The leaves coil and hiss just like snakes. They make a sudden movement towards the speaker’s knee but miss their target. The word “blindly” indicates that the leaves acted without any clear purpose or intention. It seems as if they were moving randomly.
The leaves symbolise change and the transient as well as fragile nature of life. Leaves fall over time. Similarly, humans do not remain the same. Thus, the leaves in these lines of the poem are used as symbols for the passing of time, change and the cycle of nature.
Apart from that, the leaves are not natural. There is hiss and coil in them which means that the peaceful natural order has been modified. It is a symbol that the poet uses to describe natural disasters. Perhaps there are conflicts in the mind of the speaker. The peaceful state of mind has been disturbed due to an incident that has happened in the past which is still unclear.
Hence, the poet gives a line by line explanation of the theme of “conflict and disturbance” in these lines of the poem “Bereft”. The speaker has become restless due to the burden that he carries throughout his life.
The poet also demonstrates the theme of mortality. The leaves fall and the humans die just like them. There is a description of the unpredictable nature of existence.
The poet also uses the vulnerability of life as a major theme. The line “blindly struck at my knee and missed” indicates the possibility of missed opportunities or failed attempts.
As far as literary devices in these lines are concerned, personification is the one that the poet uses first. He personifies the leaves while mentioning their actions. For instance, he mentions that the leaves coil, hiss and strike. These actions are human-like qualities that the poet awards to the leaves.
The poet also uses onomatopoeia. The words “coil” and “hiss” create a vivid auditory image. It helps the readers in imagining the actions of the leaves.
Something sinister in the tone,
Told me my secret must be known
There is a secret that the speaker is hiding. He is restless due to the secret that he carries as an unknown tone suggests to him that the secret is going to become public. Thus these lines create suspense in the mind of the speaker.
In the next line “Told me my secret must be known”, the speaker is in danger due to the threat that his secret is going to be revealed. What would happen if the secret is known to everyone? The speaker fears the consequences. Thus, the danger of revealing the secret evokes a sense of anxiety and concern about the consequences.
The sinister tone symbolises a sense of danger. It warns the speaker to fear the consequences in case the secret is revealed whereas the secret possibly symbolises a past event that the speaker is denying to reveal. In short, he carries a burden due to this secret.
Three major themes are witnessed in these lines of the poem; one is secret, the second is guilt and the third is fear. The speaker hides the secret as he fears the consequences. The secret may be shameful and the speaker may feel guilty when it becomes obvious to everybody. Hence, he fears the consequences.
The poet personifies the sinister tone. He gives it the ability to communicate and convey a message. He also uses the literary device of rhyme. The words “tone” and “known” rhyme with each other in these lines of the poem. Both these words create a musical quality.
Word I was in the house alone,
Somehow must have gotten abroad,
The speaker was alone when the incident happened. Nobody had witnessed the incident nor had anybody listened about it. The speaker does not know how the information became public but he is certain that somebody else also knows his secret, hence, it no longer remains hidden. The poet uses the phrase “gotten abroad” which means that the information has been leaked at a wider level and the public at large is part of it.
The “house” is a symbol of safe, private and personal space whereas the “word” is a symbol of information that has become public. The speaker was alone in the house, therefore, there is a theme of isolation in these lines. However, despite loneliness, someone else knows the secret, thus, it promotes the theme of vulnerability and loss of privacy. In this way, it is ironic that the poet was alone yet the information is known to many others.
Word I was in my life alone,
Word I had no one left but God.
The speaker is simply alone and he realises it. He is in solitude and in that state, he expresses his guilt for the sin. The word “alone” suggests the loneliness of a human in this word. If one realises, he comes alone and goes alone. The meanings are deep so far as their symbolic analysis is concerned. The poet portrays the theme of loneliness in these lines.
Nonetheless, “God” is there to support everyone, in case he makes efforts for it. Only faith and spirituality must be there if one wants support, guidance and companionship of “God”. In addition to the theme of loneliness, the poet also gives an explanation of the theme of companionship in the last line of the poem “Bereft”. The poet tried to prove that one finds happiness in the company of “God”.
The writer puts apart loneliness from the company of God while using the literary device of “contrast”. He shows the contrast between being “alone” and having “no one left but God”. These lines also show the speakers’ strong faith in God. The speaker realises that he is alone in this world yet the company of “God” helps him keep going.