The poem Dust of Snow is short yet profound in meaning. It brings out the impact small things have in changing one’s attitude. By using the crow, the hemlock tree and the dust as symbols, the poet conveys the healing effect of nature on humans.
Poem ‘Dust of Snow’
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.
Dust—very small particles,
Dust of snow— small white flakes falling on earth
Shake – to move with short quick movements from side to side or up and down.
Shook down—shook the snow dust down
Hemlock—a poisonous plant with fernlike leaves and white flowers
Has given my heart – has created impact on my heart
Mood—state of mind,
A change of mood—a change in the present condition of mind
Saved—saved from being wasted
Rued—regretted deeply, felt sad deeply, bemoaned, lamented
Frost stood under a tree. A crow, on the tree, shook off the snow from the branches of the tree. The snow fell on the poet and lifted the poet’s mood. He had been depressed at the beginning of the poem. Now, however, he felt that his day was saved.
- The poem is set on a wintry day.
- The treetops were covered with masses of snowflakes.
- The poet was walking under one such snow-covered tree.
- This tree was a hemlock tree associated with poisonous qualities.
- A crow perched on the hemlock tree suddenly.
- The sudden movement of the crow, the mass of snowflakes started falling down the tree.
- The snowflakes fell down upon the poet who was standing under the tree.
- The mass of snowflakes was so light and fine that it looked like the dust of white snow.
- The sudden movement and arrival of the crow and the falling of the flakes of snow look like just ordinary happenings.
- But the falling of fine snowflakes on the poet leaves a tremendous effect on him.
- Before this, the poet was in a gloomy or despairing mood.
- However, this simple beautiful act of nature has a very comforting effect on him.
- The fall of snow over him changes his mood and mental state.
- It gladdens his heart.
- Before this incident, that particular day was not going too well for him.
- He had decided in his mind that the day would go waste.
- However, the fall of snowy flakes on him makes him realise that the whole day has not been wasted.
- At least, this part of the day when he is enjoying the snowflakes, has been saved. i.e. some part of the day has been pleasant for the poet.
- If he had not experienced such a pleasant experience, he would have rued at the wastage of the whole day.
The major themes of this poem are:
- Significance of Small Events
- Nature and Humans
Significance of Small Events
- Frost recounts an incident that despite being small, has a huge impact in uplifting his mood.
- Through this, Frost is trying to help us understand that things that we might consider trivial do have the potential to heal.
- The poet also highlights that a small event can have impact on a larger event.
Nature and Humans
- The poem shows the deep connection between nature and humans. It tries to show how humans and nature can co-exist peacefully with each other.
- It also shows the healing effect of nature on humans.
The poem provides brief insights on Robert Frost, the narrator of the poem.
Melancholic: He is sad and feels depressed as he stood under the hemlock tree.
Optimistic: He is filled with happiness as the dust of snow fell on him.
Philosophical: Frost looks for deeper implications to a small insignificant event.
A few key literary elements in the poem are:
- Rhyme Scheme
The rhyme scheme of the poem is abab.
The way a crow a
Shook down on me b
The dust of snow a
From a hemlock tree b
- In ‘Dust of Snow’ Frost symbolises the ‘crow’ and the ‘hemlock tree’.
- The ‘crow’ is used as a symbol of darkness and is thus considered a bad omen.
- Since the ‘hemlock tree’ is poisonous, it signifies death.
- By symbolising the ‘crow’ and the ‘hemlock tree’, the poet proves that things that may appear to be evil can benefit us in many ways.
- Frost uses simple imagery like a crow scattering snow from hemlock tree, and ‘dust of snow’ falling on the poet to depict the positive effect of nature on the poet.
- Frost draws a contrast between reality and expectation, between what appears to be true and what the actual truth is.
- The irony is that the things that are considered inauspicious filled him with happiness when everything seemed gloomy.