Miki Lowe

Robert Frost is commonly thought of as a “nature poet”—a simple chronicler of stoic New England beauty. Quotes from “Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening” and “The Road Not Taken” are plastered on mugs, plaques, and a host of other mundane products, their out-of-context words used as inspirational mantras and pleasant home decor. But Frost rejected the nature-poet label, and his poems were actually quite dark. In fact, he used nature motifs to get at weightier themes—often death.

“Come In” could be taken as a poem about a lovely stroll at dusk, but that wouldn’t be Frost’s way. The narrator stops at the edge of the woods, where he hears a bird from the dark depths inside, “almost like a call to come in”—but he refuses. The poem has been interpreted in many ways: as a statement on free will, a metaphor for the darkness of the mind, a love letter to the unknown. But the poet Joseph Brodsky’s analysis seems closest to Frost’s explanations of his own work. Brodsky contends that the call of the bird represents grief, and the decision not to follow it into the darkness shows reason against impulse. “The twenty lines of the poem constitute the title’s translation,” he wrote. “And in this translation, I am afraid, the expression ‘come in’ means ‘die.’”

Faith Hill