- The Silken Tent
- She is as in a field a silken tent
- At midday when a sunny summer breeze
- Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,
- So that in guys it gently sways at ease,
- And its supporting central cedar pole,
- That is its pinnacle to heavenward
- And signifies the sureness of the soul,
- Seems to owe naught to any single cord,
- But strictly held by none, is loosely bound
- By countless silken ties of love and thought
- To everything on earth the compass round,
- And only by one's going slightly taut
- In the capriciousness of summer air
- Is of the slightest bondage made aware.
- --Robert Frost
Hap Notes: First off, the structure of this poem (like the woman he is describing) is pretty amazing. It's a Shakespearean sonnet which is composed of only one (long) sentence. If this does not take your breath away a bit, you need to try it once, for a lark, to see how masterful that is.
A brief bit of explication: Frost is comparing a woman he knows to a tent made of silk. Not with taut ropes (like the ropes of a tent are when the dew has constricted them) but with a light easily flowing rope that gives a bit after the dew has dried. She is not characterless, she has a strong "backbone" symbolized by the center pole of the tent, but she has a graceful flow and is not uptight or perceived as constricted.
Now, here's the part of the poem that is easy to overlook. The woman and the poem are one in that the form Frost is using has strict parameters yet the tone and the words are easy and conversational and flow on gracefully. One is not aware of the strict form any more than one is aware of the woman's "constrictions" because the flow is light, easy and pleasing.
It may be the loveliest poem every written to a woman- it does not ignore her character and still sees her easy flowing rhythms and charm. It is admiration without a lot of nonsense about physical beauty and youth-- this is all about the woman taken as a whole free person. This woman has a sense of self.
It is believed to be a poem about his wife, Elinor. Some say it is about Frost's love affair with the world or poetry. It all works for me.
Here's where we have talked about Frost before: happopoemouse.blogspot.com/2010/12/number-7-robert-frost-design_14.html
P.S. Thought since we always see pictures of Frost as a craggy old guy it might be nice to see a picture of him when he was younger.