The Sound of Trees by Robert Frost Cover image

The Sound of Trees by Robert Frost: Easy & Detailed Analysis

Have you ever had the feeling of being tired even though you have done nothing? A feeling of exhaustion from all the weight of thoughts about doing big things, living your life freely, and yet you find yourself sitting on a desk, doing routine rote work? If yes, then don’t worry, because almost everyone feels this way at some point in their lives. Even Robert Frost did. And to describe this feeling more poetically, he wrote “The Sound of Trees”. 

The Sound of Trees is a beautiful poem that conjugates two very different things and creates a powerful and dramatic effect. Frost uses trees and the rustling sound of the leaves, something that is not alien to any human and gives meaning to it. This rustling of leaves and swaying of trees becomes a bit of advice for us, a message that these great, old, and knowledgeable trees are giving us.

Let’s look at the poem and analyze it line-by-line to get what Frost is trying to convey through the voices of the trees. Here’s the complete analysis, meaning, and summary of “The Sound of Trees” by Robert Frost

The Sound of Trees

I wonder about the trees.  

Why do we wish to bear  

Forever the noise of these  

More than another noise  

So close to our dwelling place? 

We suffer them by the day  

Till we lose all measure of pace,  

And fixity in our joys,  

And acquire a listening air.  

They are that that talks of going       

But never gets away;  

And that talks no less for knowing,  

As it grows wiser and older,  

That now it means to stay.  

My feet tug at the floor 

And my head sways to my shoulder  

Sometimes when I watch trees sway,  

From the window or the door.  

I shall set forth for somewhere,  

I shall make the reckless choice 

Some day when they are in voice  

And tossing so as to scare  

The white clouds over them on.  

I shall have less to say,  

But I shall be gone.

Summary and Meaning of the Poem

The most concise way of explaining the meaning of this poem would be this; Frost is telling us that sometimes, people are too comfortable in their homes, in the warmth of their beds, and their daily routine lives. We think that is the happiness we all want, our permanent fix for happiness. But then why do we wish to bear the noise of the trees and watch them sway in the wind? 

Is there something deep down inside us that tells us to listen to them? Or do we find comfort in this noise? Some sort of agreement to what they are saying? We listen to them all the time until we lose the rush of our daily work, the hustle of earning money and doing things. We lose this sense of finding happiness in one place, being happy by doing just one thing for the rest of our lives. 

But when the poet does listen to what they are saying, he does realize that being in one place, just swaying does not mean moving ahead. This idea of having a life without a journey scares the poet.

He looks at the trees and sees their plight, a desire to move ahead but all they can do is just sway from one place to another. They keep growing, they keep getting more knowledgeable, yet all they try is to move ahead. Does Frost think that what if he is turning something like a tree? Growing old, talking more, but never moving ahead? 

Frost finally decides to move ahead instead of swaying in just one place. He hears the voice of the trees and agrees to move ahead, take on different adventures, and explore the world and nature instead of being stuck in the comfort of his home.

He says that he will go somewhere and make this choice without thinking too much, and when he does, he won’t have much to say, but at least he won’t be in the same place as before.

Analysis of The Sound of Trees

Let’s look at each stanza and every line of the poem to get the exact meaning of the poem more clearly. 

I wonder about the trees.  

Why do we wish to bear  

Forever the noise of these  

More than another noise  

The first stanza is about introducing the readers to the scene and the mentality of the poet. Frost has no idea about what the trees are saying. He is just confused as to why we want to bear the noise of these trees more than any other noise.

If you think about it, the rustling of leaves is noise, and yet why do we love listening to this noise? What makes it so special? The first stanza puts forward a question, personifying the trees as if they are deliberately making this noise.

So close to our dwelling place? 

We suffer them by the day  

Till we lose all measure of pace,  

And fixity in our joys,  

And acquire a listening air.  

The second stanza starts with further questioning but ends with a change of heart. We can see the transition happening due to the sounds of the trees. Trees are always close to our houses. We like being surrounded by trees and listening to the noises they make. We keep listening until we realize a change in us. 

“Losing measure of pace” and “fixity in our joys” are two of the most pivotal sentences in this poem, because these sentences give weight to the poem. What does “losing measure of pace” mean? It means that we forget the rush of our daily lives, the rush of working, meeting deadlines, earning money, everything. We get lost in the sound of the trees. 

Losing the “fixity in our joys” means that we lose the single permanent definition of joy. There isn’t one idea of joy, which involves living in our warm houses, doing the same thing again and again.

The idea of getting a job, working till the end of our lives, and earning a bit of money is usually that fixity. But the sound of the trees makes us lose all those ideas and acquire a listening air. “Listening air” works like a pun here. 

They are that that talks of going       

But never gets away;  

And that talks no less for knowing,  

As it grows wiser and older,  

That now it means to stay.  

Now that we give them a listen, we find out what these trees are saying. They are telling us to “go away”, moving ahead. They express their desire to move away, and with their gentle swaying motion, it seems like they really want to. This stanza holds a very important meaning that people often miss. 

The trees talk of getting away, but they never do, and they talk about knowing as well. But as the trees get older and older, this talk of going away changes to just staying.

What Frost is describing here is trees that are older and firmer sway very little as opposed to younger, more flexible trees. This beautifully gels with the fact that we humans are also very passionate and adventurous when we are young, but slowly turn stagnant as we grow older and wiser. 

This is what makes Frost’s poems so brilliant. Look how beautifully and subtly way managed to connect natural phenomena with something so human. This stanza, therefore, is one of the most important stanzas in the poem. 

My feet tug at the floor 

And my head sways to my shoulder  

Sometimes when I watch trees sway,  

From the window or the door.  

The fourth stanza is about seeing a mirror. As Frost looks at the trees and listens to the noise they make, he notices something peculiar. Just like the old trees outside, his feet are tugged at the floor, and his head sways slowly, just as the trees sway in the open.

He realizes that he is turning to the tree, trying to move away, talking wise, but never going anywhere else. Soon, with age, he will talk more, and be wiser, but will stop moving at all. This is the moment of realization which leads us to the fifth stanza. 

I shall set forth for somewhere,  

I shall make the reckless choice 

Some day when they are in voice  

And tossing so as to scare  

The white clouds over them on. 

Frost decides to make a move. Instead of just talking about moving, he decides to act. He will move somewhere, the whereabouts he does not know. It will be a reckless choice, something that the old and wise shall never do, yet he will do it because that is what he wants to do.

He wants to keep moving ahead, live a life full of adventures, of action, exploring the world, not just being in one place, slowly growing old but never moving ahead. 

I shall have less to say,  

But I shall be gone.

The final two lines explain what he wants to be. He says that he will “have less to say”, meaning he won’t be as wise as the trees are. But he shall be gone, he shall do what these trees try to do but never can achieve.

Instead of having a life where he gets wiser and has a lot to say, he decides that he wants to move. That is what the poem means. Stay and get wiser, or make a reckless decision and live an adventurous life. 

Rhyming Scheme

One of the most interesting things about “The Sound of Trees” is its unique and even bizarre rhyming scheme. There is no consistent rhyming scheme in this poem. Some parts have A B A C, while some parts have completely different rhyme schemes.

Even though the rhyme is not consistent, with slant rhyming as well, there is some rhyming scheme present. There are some repeating rhymes, some words rhyme with another word present in the previous stanza. It’s all chaotic.

This is done so that the poem gets the unique quality of the noise the trees make. Even though there’s no definitive structure in the sound of the trees, it still rhymes, it still feels coherent and musical, but through chaos, unstructured lines, and slant rhymes. This makes the poem even better in terms of sending the essential message to the readers. 

The Message of the Poem 

Frost is telling the readers that the life of comfort can be bewitching and the comfort zone might make you believe you have achieved all the happiness. But it stops you from moving ahead, it stops you from achieving more things, seeing new parts of the world, and progressing ahead.

This poem is for the people who plan on doing things yet just talk wisely about it, never beginning the journey. It tells us that we cannot achieve great things if we keep a predefined idea of happiness.

If you just keep talking about doing things but stay in the same place, thinking that swaying means moving ahead, you’d soon stop swaying as well, and the idea of moving ahead would become staying motionless in one comfortable place. So keep moving and keep achieving new things. Move out of your comfort zone.

Literary Devices

Personification is used extensively to give this poem the impact it has. The trees have been personified and used as an example of what it means to just stay in the same place, grow old, and lose all the ambitions of moving ahead.

The trees also work as an extended metaphor for the human condition. How people are passionate and willing when they are young, only to grow old before they know it and never think of taking up challenges again. 

Metaphors have been used in this poem as well. “Acquire a listening air”, “talks of going”, “talks of knowing”, “grows wiser and older”, and “I shall have less to say”, are examples of the metaphors used in this poem. 

Examples of alliteration used in this poem include: 

Why do we wish to bear  

They are that that talks of going       

And my head sways to my shoulder  

I shall set forth for somewhere,  

Other literary devices used in the poem include anaphora, rhetorics, enjambment, etc. 

As already mentioned, the rhyming scheme of the poem is complete chaos, but it does have a rhyming scheme. There is no definitive rhyme scheme, but if you were to extract one, it would look something like this: 

A B A C D E D C B F E F G E H G E H B C C B I E I

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