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The Silken Tent by Robert Frost, An In-depth Analysis

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Text of the Poem

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 it’s 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.

Analysis

 

Robert Lee Frost was an influential American poet of the first half of the 20th century. While young, Frost left busy metropolitan cities to live his life in the countryside. While exploring complex social and philosophical themes of life his poems are often set in rural surroundings reflecting his love for nature. 

‘The Silken Tent’ is a metaphorical poem that is set in the form of a sonnet in long sentences. The title of the poem suggests the presence, influence, and support of a strong, beautiful woman in the life of the poet.


Read also,  Critical Analysis of Neither Out Far nor in Deep by Robert Frost


The use of the word ‘silken’ conjures up elusive images of indulgence, beauty, love, and sensuality in the mind of the reader. Frost uses the metaphor of a silken tent for the woman he loves and admires. A tent provides shade, protection, and security to those who reside in it from heat, strong winds, and cold whereas the tent itself is exposed to all the elements of nature but protects the ones who seek shelter in it.


The scene is of a summer’s day that is bright and sunny that signifies a pleasant, content, and joyful life. However as summer days are days of abundance and growth they also imply experience, reflection, and growth of human mind attitudes and life’s philosophy. The ‘midday summer breeze’ suggests that the lady seems to have passed her youth but is still lovely. The ‘dried summer dew’ and ‘all the ropes relent’ indicate the attainment of maturity in her thoughts and actions as she seems to have understood that yielding in some of the ways is the foundation of strong faith, relationships, and happiness so her ties are not a burden for her. She has established robust and balanced relationships with her beliefs and her loved ones.

The use of alliteration in the poem through the use of sound s with the image ‘supporting central cedar’ helps the reader to focus on the central theme of the poem. The tent is anchored to the ‘cedar pole’ which is a metaphor symbolizing the strength of her soul and character. She is deeply rooted in her selected place and her resilient spirit helps her remain strong and pure in all circumstances. ‘Pinnacle to heavenward’ and ‘sureness of faith’ indicates her strong faith whatever that may be. 


She has a free spirit that bows to none but at the same time has a realization of her commitments to those she is tied to. The ‘capriciousness of the summer breeze’ hints at the various opportunities that life provides in its journey whether in forming new relationships of love with other men or some ideas hindering her faith. She is sturdy in stressful circumstances and while ‘going slightly taut’ she keeps loyalty to her ideals and the beliefs she so honors and ‘bondage’ to the ones she truly loves and is committed to. 

The poem is interpreted by Ayesha Saeed, one of the contributors to the SOL Community.

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