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Mowing(1913)

Robert Frost

There was never a sound beside the wood but one,
MeterThere was never a sound beside the wood but one,
And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.
MeterAnd that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.

Note on line 2: Limbering up for this working sonnet means discovering how liberally Frost relies on anapestic substitutions. These little breaks in the earnest iambic progress stand, perhaps, for the by-play that forms part of most work worth doing. Lest the studied casualness of it all seem too easy a dream, notice the symmetry of the feet in this line: iamb, anapest, spondee, anapest, iamb.

What was it it whispered? I knew not well myself;
MeterWhat was it it whispered? I knew not well myself;
Perhaps it was something about the heat of the sun,
MeterPerhaps it was something about the heat of the sun,
Something, perhaps, about the lack of sound–
MeterSomething, perhaps, about the lack of sound–
And that was why it whispered and did not speak.
MeterAnd that was why it whispered and did not speak.
It was no dream of the gift of idle hours,
MeterIt was no dream of the gift of idle hours,
Or easy gold at the hand of fay or elf:
MeterOr easy gold at the hand of fay or elf:
Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak
MeterAnything more than the truth would have seemed too weak
To the earnest love that laid the swale in rows,
MeterTo the earnest love that laid the swale in rows,
Not without feeble pointed spikes of flowers
MeterNot without feeble pointed spikes of flowers

Note on line 11: Because 4B4V says a disyllabic word should take stress someplace, in this line a stressed second syllable of “without” earns approval. But the word goes down better here as two slacks, which turns out to be permissible scansion for certain two-syllable prepositions like this one, or “over,” or “into” — especially when a poet plays duple against triple feet as consistently as Frost is doing. There’s no anapest in this line, but the trochee-iamb junction of the first two feet probably ought to feel like one.

(Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake.-
Meter(Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake.-
The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.
MeterThe fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.
My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.
MeterMy long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.

Rhyme
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