Today I want to talk about a not very well known Robert Frost poem, which is called The Tuft of Flowers.
The Tuft of Flowers Analysis
I think the reason why this poem is not very well known is that he uses some old fashion and farmland vernacular that makes it a little bit inaccessible to the modern reader.
It’s kind of difficult to tell what’s going on.
So I thought we could read it in parts, and then you know, discuss it and see if we can get a handle as to what exactly is going on, because it’s actually a really meaningful poem when he comes to a great conclusion at the end, but it’s kind of difficult to understand it if you don’t really know what’s going on.
So let’s read it in parts and then discuss it as we go.
Here’s the tuft of flowers and it’s written down below so you can follow along as I read aloud, I went to turn the grass once after one who mowed it in the do before the sun.
The dew was gone that made his blade so keen, before I came to view the leveled scene, I looked for him by denial of trees, I listened for his whetstone on the breeze, but he had gone his way.
The grass all known and I must be as he had been alone, as all must be, I said, within my heart, whether they work together or apart.
Well, it took me a number of read through is truly understand what he was talking about. And the reason why is because the opening two lines are somewhat cryptic.
He says, I went to turn the grass once, half to one. And he’s using an old fashioned expression to say, I went, I took a turn or I went for a turn is just to say, I went for a walk.
So he’s saying, I went for a walk in the grass once after one, he’s not saying 1 pm or 1am, he saying after someone.
He’s saying, I went for a grass, I went for a walk in the grass once after someone had mowed it in the do before the sun.
So someone had been there already before him, he went for a walk early morning.
And he was remarking on the fact that someone had already been there and had already mown down all the excess weeds and brush along the side of the path.
That was common in those days, you’d have people with long sides like if you think Grim Reaper, you know, someone with a long wooden pull and a curved piece of metal would come along.
They would mow down the weeds and the brush along you know, the sides of pathways and other places, and this was common.
So Robert Frost is saying someone had already been there early in the morning in the do before the sun, and had mowed the grass down before he took his walk and intrigued him.
He wanted to see if he could find him. So he said, I looked for him behind an aisle of trees.
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.
And the wet stone is just the stone that the mower would bring to sharpen, you know, their side as they in the course of their labors, obviously, it would become dull.
So he’s looking for him and he’s listening for him. And he said, but he had gone his way the grass all moan, and I must be as he had been alone, as almost BI said within my heart, whether they work together or apart.
That’s actually bothered him a little bit and he came to a lamentable philosophical conclusion that well wouldn’t have mattered anyway if I would have found him because people work apart.
It doesn’t matter if you get if they’re together, people are still separate, and they still work apart.
But then something interesting happens. There’s a new, a new character that enters the scene and it’s a butterfly.
And so he said, but as I said it swift they’re passed me by on noise list wing, a will their butterfly, Seeking with memories grown dim or night Some resting flower of yesterday’s the light
Once I marked his flight goes round and round, as were some flower lay weathering on the ground.
Then he flew as far as I could see, and then on the tremulous wing came back to me, I thought of questions that have no reply, and would have turned to toss the grass to dry.
But he turned first and lead my eyes to look at a tall tough to flowers beside a Brook, a leaping tongue of bloom, the side had spared beside a Reedy Brook, the side had bared I left my place to know them by their name, finding them butterfly weed when I came.
So you have this butterfly that he described this as flying in a bewildered fashion that is seeking with memories grown dim overnight, Some resting flower of yesterday’s the light.
So this butterfly had clearly been to the same place the day before.
And now is wondering what in the world is happening because of all the flowers and you know, all the things that it’s hoping to find her laying on the ground dead and it doesn’t understand.
So he’s saying the butterfly is flying all around, it flew as far as I could see.
And then and he says, and then on tremulous wing flew back to me.
So he’s almost indicating that the butterfly and Mark sharing and this camaraderie because they’re both bummed out about the fact that this path has Ben Moen and all the flowers and everything else all the brush and now dad along the side of the path. So they have this camaraderie.
And Robert Frost said that he was going to turn and leave but the butterfly turned first and led his eyes to look at a tall tough to flowers beside a Brook. And he described it as a leaping tongue of bloom.
The side has spared the side or really Brooke decide had Baird. So what he’s saying is that there’s this tall tough to flowers that are like a tongue of bloom.
And it’s beside a really Brook that the side had bared so the side had mowed down everything around it. Except for this tough the flowers.
So Frost is saying that this was clearly intentional, the mower hadn’t just accidentally missed this touch the flowers he had left it there on purpose for some reason.
So it intrigued Robert Frost and he said I left my place to know them by their name, Finding them butterfly weed when I came, that’s a very obscure piece of information.
But there’s only one kind of plant that a monarch butterfly will lay their eggs upon. And it’s called the milkweed plant.
And he refers to it here as butterfly weed but in our modern world, we would refer to it as milkweed.
So this mower had clearly been a lover of nature because he had known that this kind of plant was the only kind of plant that would attract a monarch butterfly.
And so he had intentionally left it there and had moved on and had not mon it down in the course of moving down everything else.
The butterfly had recognized that when Robert Frost had not, and so it kind of changes his entire outlook, and, and leads him to another philosophical conclusion at the end of the poem. So we can read the rest of the poem now really understanding what is going on.
So he said the mower in the do had loved them thus by leaving them to flourish not for us, nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him, but from sheer morning gladness at the brim.
The butterfly and I had lit upon nevertheless, a message from the dawn that made me hear the awakening birds around and hear his long side whispering to the ground, and feel his spirit Kindred to my own, so that henceforth I work no more alone.
But glad with him, I worked his with his aid, and where he sought at noon with him the shade and dreaming as it were held brotherly speech with one who thought I had not hoped to reach men work together, I told him from the heart, whether they work together or apart.
That’s a really neat and interesting poem with a great little philosophical conclusion.
Because even though he had lamented the fact that doesn’t matter if you work together with other people.
You really still work alone, and you live your life alone. And he comes to the opposite conclusion by the end of the poem, because he said that the mower in the do had loved the, the scene by leaving it to flourish, not for us, nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him, but from sheer morning gladness that the brand.
So Robert Frost is saying that the mower didn’t even expect for anyone to know what had happened.
He didn’t expect, you know, that anyone would come along.
And notice that he had left this little very specific type of plants so that the butterfly could still lay its eggs upon it.
He just did it from sheer morning gladness, and it inspired Robert Frost so much that he changed his philosophical position. And he said men work together.
I told him from the heart, whether they work together or apart because this mower had clearly worked apart.
He had done something not ever expecting anyone to give him recognition for but because of the fact that the butterfly and Robert Frost had noticed it.
Now he knew no, we really have this camaraderie.
We’re both lovers of nature. And even though you did this not expecting any recognition.
Now, it’s inspired a change within my heart.
I know that you know, that goodness is good to do just for the sake of it, even if you’re never expecting anyone to give you recognition. So it’s a really nice poem. And I encourage you to read it again.
So you don’t read through it the way we just did in a broken up fashion, because it’s a really nice poem.
And once you understand what’s going on in the poem, it actually has a really cool meaning.