The Death of the Hired Man by Robert Frost | Poetry Foundation (2022)

Mary sat musing on the lamp-flame at the table

Waiting for Warren. When she heard his step,

She ran on tip-toe down the darkened passage

To meet him in the doorway with the news

And put him on his guard. ‘Silas is back.’

She pushed him outward with her through the door

And shut it after her. ‘Be kind,’ she said.

She took the market things from Warren’s arms

And set them on the porch, then drew him down

To sit beside her on the wooden steps.

‘When was I ever anything but kind to him?

But I’ll not have the fellow back,’ he said.

‘I told him so last haying, didn’t I?

If he left then, I said, that ended it.

What good is he? Who else will harbor him

At his age for the little he can do?

What help he is there’s no depending on.

Off he goes always when I need him most.

He thinks he ought to earn a little pay,

Enough at least to buy tobacco with,

So he won’t have to beg and be beholden.

“All right,” I say, “I can’t afford to pay

Any fixed wages, though I wish I could.”

“Someone else can.” “Then someone else will have to.”

I shouldn’t mind his bettering himself

If that was what it was. You can be certain,

When he begins like that, there’s someone at him

Trying to coax him off with pocket-money,—

In haying time, when any help is scarce.

In winter he comes back to us. I’m done.’

‘Sh! not so loud: he’ll hear you,’ Mary said.

‘I want him to: he’ll have to soon or late.’

‘He’s worn out. He’s asleep beside the stove.

When I came up from Rowe’s I found him here,

(Video) Death of the Hired Man Read Aloud

Huddled against the barn-door fast asleep,

A miserable sight, and frightening, too—

You needn’t smile—I didn’t recognize him—

I wasn’t looking for him—and he’s changed.

Wait till you see.’

‘Where did you say he’d been?’

‘He didn’t say. I dragged him to the house,

And gave him tea and tried to make him smoke.

I tried to make him talk about his travels.

Nothing would do: he just kept nodding off.’

‘What did he say? Did he say anything?’

‘But little.’

‘Anything? Mary, confess

He said he’d come to ditch the meadow for me.’

‘Warren!’

‘But did he? I just want to know.’

‘Of course he did. What would you have him say?

Surely you wouldn’t grudge the poor old man

Some humble way to save his self-respect.

He added, if you really care to know,

He meant to clear the upper pasture, too.

That sounds like something you have heard before?

Warren, I wish you could have heard the way

He jumbled everything. I stopped to look

Two or three times—he made me feel so queer—

To see if he was talking in his sleep.

He ran on Harold Wilson—you remember—

The boy you had in haying four years since.

He’s finished school, and teaching in his college.

Silas declares you’ll have to get him back.

He says they two will make a team for work:

Between them they will lay this farm as smooth!

The way he mixed that in with other things.

He thinks young Wilson a likely lad, though daft

On education—you know how they fought

(Video) Lecture #6

All through July under the blazing sun,

Silas up on the cart to build the load,

Harold along beside to pitch it on.’

‘Yes, I took care to keep well out of earshot.’

‘Well, those days trouble Silas like a dream.

You wouldn’t think they would. How some things linger!

Harold’s young college boy’s assurance piqued him.

After so many years he still keeps finding

Good arguments he sees he might have used.

I sympathize. I know just how it feels

To think of the right thing to say too late.

Harold’s associated in his mind with Latin.

He asked me what I thought of Harold’s saying

He studied Latin like the violin

Because he liked it—that an argument!

He said he couldn’t make the boy believe

He could find water with a hazel prong—

Which showed how much good school had ever done him.

He wanted to go over that. But most of all

He thinks if he could have another chance

To teach him how to build a load of hay—’

‘I know, that’s Silas’ one accomplishment.

He bundles every forkful in its place,

And tags and numbers it for future reference,

So he can find and easily dislodge it

In the unloading. Silas does that well.

He takes it out in bunches like big birds’ nests.

You never see him standing on the hay

He’s trying to lift, straining to lift himself.’

‘He thinks if he could teach him that, he’d be

Some good perhaps to someone in the world.

He hates to see a boy the fool of books.

Poor Silas, so concerned for other folk,

And nothing to look backward to with pride,

And nothing to look forward to with hope,

(Video) The Death Of The Hired man By Robert Frost Summary

So now and never any different.’

Part of a moon was falling down the west,

Dragging the whole sky with it to the hills.

Its light poured softly in her lap. She saw it

And spread her apron to it. She put out her hand

Among the harp-like morning-glory strings,

Taut with the dew from garden bed to eaves,

As if she played unheard some tenderness

That wrought on him beside her in the night.

‘Warren,’ she said, ‘he has come home to die:

You needn’t be afraid he’ll leave you this time.’

‘Home,’ he mocked gently.

‘Yes, what else but home?

It all depends on what you mean by home.

Of course he’s nothing to us, any more

Than was the hound that came a stranger to us

Out of the woods, worn out upon the trail.’

‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there,

They have to take you in.’

‘I should have called it

Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.’

Warren leaned out and took a step or two,

Picked up a little stick, and brought it back

And broke it in his hand and tossed it by.

‘Silas has better claim on us you think

Than on his brother? Thirteen little miles

As the road winds would bring him to his door.

Silas has walked that far no doubt today.

Why didn’t he go there? His brother’s rich,

A somebody—director in the bank.’

‘He never told us that.’

‘We know it though.’

‘I think his brother ought to help, of course.

I’ll see to that if there is need. He ought of right

To take him in, and might be willing to—

(Video) Class Lecture on "The Death of the Hired Man"- by Robert Frost.

He may be better than appearances.

But have some pity on Silas. Do you think

If he’d had any pride in claiming kin

Or anything he looked for from his brother,

He’d keep so still about him all this time?’

‘I wonder what’s between them.’

‘I can tell you.

Silas is what he is—we wouldn’t mind him—

But just the kind that kinsfolk can’t abide.

He never did a thing so very bad.

He don’t know why he isn’t quite as good

As anyone. Worthless though he is,

He won’t be made ashamed to please his brother.’

I can’t think Si ever hurt anyone.’

‘No, but he hurt my heart the way he lay

And rolled his old head on that sharp-edged chair-back.

He wouldn’t let me put him on the lounge.

You must go in and see what you can do.

I made the bed up for him there tonight.

You’ll be surprised at him—how much he’s broken.

His working days are done; I'm sure of it.’

‘I’d not be in a hurry to say that.’

‘I haven’t been. Go, look, see for yourself.

But, Warren, please remember how it is:

He’s come to help you ditch the meadow.

He has a plan. You mustn’t laugh at him.

He may not speak of it, and then he may.

I’ll sit and see if that small sailing cloud

Will hit or miss the moon.’

It hit the moon.

Then there were three there, making a dim row,

The moon, the little silver cloud, and she.

Warren returned—too soon, it seemed to her,

Slipped to her side, caught up her hand and waited.

‘Warren,’ she questioned.

(Video) The Death of the Hired Man by Robert Frost | বাংলা লেকচার | Bengali Lecture

‘Dead,’ was all he answered.

FAQs

What is the main idea of the death of a hired man? ›

In Robert Frost's poem, "The Death of the Hired Man," the theme of the poem that the author attempts to portray is the need to forgive and accept people for who they are before it is too late; Frost presents this to the reader through structural, poetic, and metrical devices.

What is the story of Death of the Hired man by Robert Frost? ›

The Death of the Hired Man, narrative poem by Robert Frost, published in North of Boston in 1914. The poem, written in blank verse, consists of a conversation between the farmer Warren and his wife, Mary, about their former farmhand Silas, an elderly man who has come “home” to their farm to die.

What is the tone of The Death of the Hired Man? ›

The poem is told from Mary and Warren's perspective. Attitude: The tone is this poem is frustration, uncertainty, and resentfulness. Shift: The shift takes place when Mary informs Warren that Silas has come back to die. Also again when Warren comes back from seeing Silas informing Mary he was passed away.

What is the message of the poem by Robert Frost? ›

Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken” Meaning

“The Road Not Taken” is a poem that argues for the importance of our choices, both big and small, since they shape our journey through life.

Why does Mary warn her husband to be kind to the hired man? ›

Warren has grown impatient with Silas, but Mary urges him to “be kind,” since she believes Silas has returned to die. This debate between Mary and Warren represents the ambivalence often felt between two conflicting desires, here the desire to be charitable toward others and the desire not to be taken advantage of.

What are the two definitions of home in the death of a hired man? ›

Warren defined "home" as "the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in." Explain why you agree or disagree with Warren. Warren defined "home" as "the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in." Explain why you agree or disagree with Warren.

What do the sailing cloud and the moon symbolize in Death of the Hired Man? ›

The bright light of the moon symbolizes the life of Silas, and its being covered by the cloud symbolizes Silas's death. This indicates that Mary was apprehensive of the death of Silas. She had a mental struggle with herself to ascertain whether Silas was dead or alive.

Who is Silas in the death of a hired man? ›

Answer: Silas is the protagonist of the dramatic poem “The Death of the Hired Man”. We have got a unique character in the person of this old servant of Warren and Mary. He does never appear in the events of the story, but we come to know a lot about him through the conversation of Warren and Mary.

What is the idea of home and why is it important thematically in the poem Death of the Hired Man? ›

The idea is that "home" is the one place where you cannot be rejected. One is bonded for life to their biological ties, but "home" is also the place where love creates an unbreakable bond.

Why is Warren angry with Silas? ›

Why is Warren angry with Silas? Warren told Silas not to come back because he always leaves before haying time when Warren needs him the most and comes back in the winter when Warren does not need him and can't afford to pay him. In Mary's mind why has Silas returned to the farm?

Who are the three characters in The Death of the Hired Man? ›

In the poem The Death of the Hired Man by Robert Frost there are 3 characters, Mary, Warren and Silas. Mary and Warren are married and live on a farm. Silas comes and works for them by helping around the farm. However, there is lots of tension between Warren and Silas.

What do the sailing cloud and the moon symbolize in Death of the Hired Man? ›

The bright light of the moon symbolizes the life of Silas, and its being covered by the cloud symbolizes Silas's death. This indicates that Mary was apprehensive of the death of Silas. She had a mental struggle with herself to ascertain whether Silas was dead or alive.

What is the idea of home and why is it important thematically in the poem Death of the Hired Man? ›

The idea is that "home" is the one place where you cannot be rejected. One is bonded for life to their biological ties, but "home" is also the place where love creates an unbreakable bond.

What was Silas's great accomplishment in The Death of the Hired Man? ›

In Robert Frost's poem The Death Of The Hired Hand, Silas' great accomplishment is making hay bales. He gathers the dried grass together, 'bundles every forkful in its place,' and then 'tags and numbers it for future reference.

How do Harolds and Silas ideas about education differ? ›

Harold Wilson had finished school and acquired a job teaching in the college he had attended. Yet, Silas felt education was never a necessity as he never used it. He had spent most time working as a farm hand where education isn't vital.

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