illustrated portrait of American poet Robert Frost

Robert Frost

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Please explain the poem "October" by Robert Frost.

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Robert Frost’s “October” uses both its form and content to depict a moment in time right before fall gives way to winter. Although the poem takes the form of one stanza, it can be roughly split into two parts that are different in terms of content and the type of speech employed.

In the first part, the speaker’s use of apostrophe—that is, the speaker’s address to October—is primarily descriptive. We learn that the leaves are about to fall and that the crows are preparing to fly away before winter arrives. In the second part of the poem, the purpose of apostrophe shifts as the speaker uses the imperative to command October:

Release one leaf at break of day;

At noon release another leaf;

One from our trees, one far away.

The speaker’s request is almost absurd in its optimism, as he asks October to slow down, dropping only two leaves a day in a way that would stretch both time (“day,” “noon”) and space (“our trees,” “far away”). By asking to be beguiled, the speaker seems to realize the fantastical nature of this request. The speaker explains that, in juxtaposition with October, the harsh winter will destroy the grapes, and he wants to postpone this moment.

But this desire to slow down the passing of time is not just part of the poem’s content—it is also integral to the poem’s form. The single stanza stretches down the page, and this elongation is furthered by the poem’s rhyme scheme. The rhyme scheme is irregular, which causes the reader to both speed up and slow down at various points. This slowing down is particularly evident in the shortest of the poem’s lines, when the speaker commands, “Slow, slow!” The caesura and exclamation mark both produce long pauses for the reader, stretching out the poem. Through manipulation of form and content,the speaker attempts to persuade October to slow down and linger longer before the arrival of winter. 

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This is an excellent poem that captures the moment between the end of fall or autumn and the beginning of winter. The poem begins with an apostrophe, as the speaker addresses the "hushed October morning mild" and implores it to not go too fast as it wants this moment of natural beauty and tranquility to last for longer before winter comes with its cold and snow. We are at a crucial moment when the characteristics that we normally associate with fall are about to pass:

O hushed October morning mild, 
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall; 
To-morrow's wind, if it be wild, 
Should waste them all.

The leaves have all "ripened" and they are ready to fall from their trees if the wind is strong enough. Because of this, the speaker asks to be "beguiled" by October, or deceived, into thinking that this day and this period of the seasons will last longer than he actually knows he will. He implores October to be slower and to not speed up so that he can enjoy this enchanted moment.

Retard the sun with gentle mist; 
Enchant the land with amethyst. 
Slow, slow!

The poem ends with a final plea. Slowing down the passing of the seasons and preventing winter from arriving for just a little while longer will ensure the survival of the grapes, whose leaves have already been "burnt" with frost.

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