18 pages 36 minutes read

Robert Frost


Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1913

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Summary and Study Guide


“October” is a pastoral poem written by American poet Robert Frost. It was first published in London in 1913 and later in the United States in 1915 as part of his first book of collected poems, A Boy’s Will. Appearing as one of the final poems of that collection, “October” deals with the themes of death, passage of time, and nature—themes that were particularly relevant to Frost as he entered into middle age at the time of publication. Frost began to achieve major recognition and publishing success in his 40s, which is roughly the time A Boy’s Will was released.

Of A Boy’s Will, the prolific modernist poet Ezra Pound remarked, “[Frost] has the tang of the New Hampshire woods, and it has just this utter sincerity. It is not post-Miltonic or post-Swinburnian or post Kiplonian. This man has the good sense to speak naturally and to paint the thing, the thing as he sees it” (“Robert Frost.” Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/robert-frost). While Frost’s career occurred in tandem with modernism, he was not closely aligned with any one school or literary movement; however, the imagists championed his earlier work thus cementing his footing as an emerging poet in England and the United States. For a debut work, “October”—and more specifically A Boy’s Will—established Frost’s voice and unique style as a poet somewhat between the eras of romanticism and modernism.

Within the context of his time, Frost’s work tends toward the more formal and romantic versus more experimental works, such as Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons published only a year earlier in 1914. However, Frost was not entirely of a different era and mindset. He believed in objectivity in art, which aligned him in some ways with the objectivist poets—Lorine Niedecker, George Oppen, and Louis Zukofsky. Of his poetry Frost once wrote, “The objective idea is all I ever cared about. Most of my ideas occur in verse. [...] To be too subjective with what an artist has managed to make objective is to come on him presumptuously and render ungraceful what he in pain of his life had faith he had made graceful” (“Robert Frost.” Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/robert-frost).

While “October” is an early poem, it encapsulates Frost’s overall sensibility and style as a poet. Throughout his career, Frost’s poetics remained relatively consistent in tone, style, and messaging, with very little of his canon deviating from the semi-romantic, New England style of writing introduced in his first collection.

Poet Biography

Robert Lee Frost was born on March 26, 1874, in San Francisco, California to William Prescott Frost, Jr., and Isabelle Moodie. Frost’s father was a journalist and teacher, and his mother a teacher and member of the Swedenborgian church. In 1885, shortly after his father’s death from tuberculosis, Frost relocated with his mother and sister Jeanie to Lawrence, Massachusetts to be closer to his grandfather, William Frost, Sr.

In Massachusetts, Frost attended Lawrence High School where he graduated with top honors in 1892. He published his first poem “My Butterfly” in 1894, selling it to the New York Independent for $15. He later attended Dartmouth College for two months before returning home to teach and work several jobs to support his family; however, he disliked these jobs due to his more artistic and poetic inclinations. From 1897-1899, Frost attended Harvard University, but was forced to drop out due to health concerns. Despite not graduating from Dartmouth or Harvard, Frost eventually received honorary degrees from the schools in addition to more than 40 other honorary degrees he received throughout his lifetime.

Frost met his wife, Elinor Miriam White, while attending high school together. They married on December 14, 1895 and had six children—their eldest born in 1896 and youngest in 1907. Once married, Frost and Elinor moved to Derry, Massachusetts, to work on a farm purchased for them by Frost’s grandfather. In their nine years working the farm, Frost developed a writing habit that produced some of his most well-known poems and established a practice he would carry with him for the rest of his life. Frost transitioned from farming to working full-time as an English teacher from 1906-1912. In 1912, Frost moved to England with his family in hopes of finding his footing in the poetry world.

His years in England proved doubly fruitful, as his first two books of poems, A Boy’s Will and North of Boston, found a publisher in London. While in England, Frost met fellow poets Ezra Pound and Edward Thomas who played critical roles in championing his early work. Frost was somewhat prematurely forced to return to the United States due to the escalation of World War I. Soon upon his arrival to the states, Frost found a publisher for the American edition of A Boy’s Will and landed several teaching jobs thereafter. Frost taught English for many years in New Hampshire, Michigan, and most notably at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts—now home to a campus library bearing his name. For more than 40 years, Frost taught at the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College.

In 1916, Frost published a book of collected works, Mountain Interval. He received his first Pulitzer Prize in 1924 for his book New Hampshire: A Poem with Notes and Grace Notes. Additionally, Frost received Pulitzers for Collected Poems (1931), A Further Range(1937), and A Witness Tree (1943). Late in his life, Frost read at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy (1961) who later granted Frost a Congressional Gold Medal for his achievements in poetry (1962). Frost died in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 29, 1963 at the age of 88 due to complications from prostate surgery. Years after his death, Frost’s legacy remains as one of the most well-known and most celebrated American poets of the 20th century.

Poem Text

O hushed October morning mild, 

Thy leaves have ripened to the fall; 

Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,

Should waste them all.

The crows above the forest call;

Tomorrow they may form and go.

O hushed October morning mild,

Begin the hours of this day slow.

Make the day seem to us less brief.

Hearts not averse to being beguiled,

Beguile us in the way you know.

Release one leaf at break of day;

At noon release another leaf;

One from our trees, one far away.

Retard the sun with gentle mist;

Enchant the land with amethyst.

Slow, slow!

For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,

Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,

Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—

For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

Frost, Robert. “October.” 1915. Poetry Foundation.


Frost opens “October” with the speaker directly communicating to the October morning, “O hushed October morning mild” (Line 1). The following lines (2-6) work to more specifically situate the reader within the October season, as they provide imagery of leaves that have changed colors, “ripened” (Line 2), and the crows “above the forest” (Line 5) that “may form and go” (Line 6), further clarifying the time of year. Line 7 functions as a refrain of the first line, and Line 8 provides a formal plea to the October morning, “Begin the hours of this day slow” and “Make the day seem to us less brief (Lines 8-9). Additionally, Line 9 introduces the first-person plural pronoun “us.” Lines 10-11 are more abstract and seemingly outside of the direct landscape of the poem, as it is not entirely clear to whom exactly “hearts” (Line 10) refers.

Lines 11 and 12 mark a shift in time in the poem, with time being directly named: “Release one leaf at break of day; / At noon release another leaf.” Line 14 again introduces the first-person plural pronoun, “our,” with “One from our trees” and “one far away” expanding the poem into a larger sense of scale. The following lines, Lines 15-16, create an almost mystical imagery tied to the landscape and the elements: “Retard the sun with gentle mist; / Enchant the land with amethyst.” And Line 17, while not a refrain of “O hushed October morning mild,” harkens back to these earlier lines in a direct plea: “Slow, slow!”

The final quatrain of the poem introduces “grapes” (Line 18) already succumbing to the changing season: “Whose leaves already are burnt with frost” (Line 19). The poem ends on a refrain of “For the grapes’ sake” (Line 21), which amplifies the grapes and their plight in relation to the changing season.