'Death of the Hired Man, The' by Robert Lee Frost

AI and Tech Aggregator
Download Mp3s Free
Tears of the Kingdom Roleplay
Best Free University Courses Online
TOTK Roleplay

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 harbour 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,
Huddled against the barn-door fast asleep,
A miserable sight, and frightening, too--
You needn't smile--I didn't recognise 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."


"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
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 sympathise. 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,
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
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 the 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 to-day.
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--
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. He won't be made ashamed
To please his brother, worthless though he is."

"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 to-night.
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.

"Dead," was all he answered.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Deeper Look into Robert Frost's "Death of the Hired Man"

As one of the most celebrated American poets of the 20th century, Robert Frost is known for his insightful and often melancholic observations on life, death, and the human condition. And while many of his poems explore these themes, few are as poignant and affecting as "Death of the Hired Man."

First published in 1914, "Death of the Hired Man" tells the story of an old man named Silas, who returns to the farm of his former employers, Mary and Warren, in search of shelter and care in his final days. Though Warren is initially hostile towards Silas, Mary's compassion and empathy eventually win out, leading to a heart-wrenching confrontation and ultimately, Silas's passing.

At its core, "Death of the Hired Man" is a meditation on the meaning of home, family, and the bonds that connect us to one another. Through its exploration of these themes, the poem offers a nuanced and deeply moving portrait of the human experience.

The Meaning of Home

One of the central themes of "Death of the Hired Man" is the idea of home, and what it means to different people. For Mary, the farm where she and Warren live represents a place of safety and comfort, a sanctuary from the harsh realities of the outside world. As she tells Warren early in the poem, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, / They have to take you in."

Silas, too, seems to view the farm as a sort of home, albeit one that he left many years before. Throughout the poem, he speaks wistfully of his memories of the farm and of his time working there. And when he returns, it's clear that he is seeking not just a place to die, but a place where he can feel a sense of belonging once again.

Yet while the farm is a home to both Mary and Silas, it is also a place of tension and conflict. Warren, for his part, seems to view the farm primarily as a business, a source of income that he must protect at all costs. And when Silas returns, Warren is quick to remind him of his past failures and inadequacies as a worker.

This tension between the different meanings of home is what ultimately drives the conflict of the poem. Mary, with her compassion and understanding, represents a sort of middle ground between Warren's pragmatism and Silas's nostalgia. Yet even she is unable to bridge the gap completely, and the poem ends with a sense of unresolved tension and sadness.

The Power of Memory

Another important theme of "Death of the Hired Man" is the power of memory, and how it shapes our understanding of the world around us. Throughout the poem, Silas speaks fondly of his memories of the farm and of his time working there. He recalls the names of the horses he used to groom, and reminisces about the old days when the farm was a bustling hub of activity.

Yet even as Silas revels in his memories, it's clear that they are tinged with sadness and regret. He speaks of the mistakes he made in his youth, and of how he wishes he could have done things differently. And as he nears the end of his life, he seems to feel a sense of remorse for all that he has lost.

At the same time, however, Silas's memories also provide him with a sense of comfort and solace. As he lies dying, he speaks of his longing to see the farm once more, to be surrounded by the sights and sounds of his past. And in this way, his memories serve as a sort of balm to ease the pain of his passing.

The Limits of Empathy

Finally, "Death of the Hired Man" is a study of the limits of empathy, and of how we navigate the emotional complexities of human relationships. Throughout the poem, Mary is portrayed as a woman of great empathy and compassion. She seeks to understand and care for Silas, even when Warren is dismissive and cruel.

Yet even as Mary strives to be kind and understanding towards Silas, it's clear that there are limits to what she can do. She cannot erase the pain and regret that Silas feels in his final days, nor can she fully bridge the gap between him and Warren. And in the end, it's this sense of the unknowable depths of human emotion that lends the poem its power and pathos.


In conclusion, "Death of the Hired Man" is a masterful exploration of some of the most fundamental themes of the human experience. Through its vivid characters and haunting imagery, the poem offers a window into the hearts and minds of people struggling to find meaning, belonging, and compassion in a world that can often seem cold and unforgiving. And while the poem ultimately ends on a note of sadness and unresolved tension, it also offers a glimmer of hope for the power of human connection to transcend even the greatest divides.

As readers, we are left with a sense of reverence and awe for the complexity and beauty of human emotion, and for the ability of great literature to capture and illuminate that complexity in all its richness and depth.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Death of the Hired Man: A Masterpiece of Robert Frost

Robert Frost is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his works have left a lasting impact on the literary world. Among his many masterpieces, "The Death of the Hired Man" stands out as a poignant and thought-provoking piece that explores the themes of loyalty, compassion, and the meaning of home. In this article, we will delve into the poem's structure, language, and symbolism to understand its deeper meaning and significance.


"The Death of the Hired Man" is a narrative poem that tells the story of Silas, an old farmhand who returns to his former employer's farm seeking shelter and care in his final days. The poem is divided into five stanzas, each with varying lengths and rhyme schemes. The first and last stanzas are written in iambic pentameter, while the middle three stanzas are written in free verse. This contrast in structure highlights the tension between the characters and the shifting emotions throughout the poem.


Frost's use of language in "The Death of the Hired Man" is simple yet powerful. The poem is written in colloquial language, which adds to its authenticity and realism. The characters speak in a natural, conversational tone, which makes them relatable and human. The use of repetition, such as the repetition of the phrase "home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in," emphasizes the importance of home and the sense of belonging that it provides.


Symbolism plays a significant role in "The Death of the Hired Man," and Frost uses it to convey deeper meanings and themes. The most prominent symbol in the poem is the farm, which represents the idea of home and the sense of belonging that it provides. The farm is a place where Silas feels comfortable and safe, and it is where he wants to spend his final days. The farm also represents the contrast between the urban and rural lifestyles, with the former being associated with transience and the latter with permanence.

Another symbol in the poem is the character of Warren, who represents the practical and pragmatic side of life. Warren is a farmer who values hard work and practicality over sentimentality and emotion. He is initially hesitant to take in Silas, but eventually agrees to do so out of a sense of duty and loyalty. Warren's character represents the tension between the practical and emotional aspects of life, and the need to balance the two.

The character of Silas is also symbolic, representing the idea of loyalty and the importance of human connection. Silas is a loyal worker who has spent his life working on the farm, and his return to the farm in his final days is a testament to his loyalty and devotion. Silas's death represents the loss of a connection and the importance of cherishing the relationships we have in life.


"The Death of the Hired Man" explores several themes, including loyalty, compassion, and the meaning of home. The theme of loyalty is evident in Silas's character, who remains loyal to his former employer despite the lack of reciprocation. The theme of compassion is also present, with Warren eventually taking in Silas out of a sense of duty and compassion. The theme of home is perhaps the most significant, with the farm representing the idea of home and the sense of belonging that it provides.


In conclusion, "The Death of the Hired Man" is a masterpiece of Robert Frost that explores the themes of loyalty, compassion, and the meaning of home. Frost's use of language, structure, and symbolism adds depth and complexity to the poem, making it a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant piece. The poem's message is clear: the importance of human connection and the need to cherish the relationships we have in life. "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in," and it is this sense of belonging that gives us comfort and meaning in life.

Editor Recommended Sites

LLM Model News: Large Language model news from across the internet. Learn the latest on llama, alpaca
Cloud Automated Build - Cloud CI/CD & Cloud Devops:
Datawarehousing: Data warehouse best practice across cloud databases: redshift, bigquery, presto, clickhouse
JavaFX App: JavaFX for mobile Development
Crypto Insights - Data about crypto alt coins: Find the best alt coins based on ratings across facets of the team, the coin and the chain

Recommended Similar Analysis

It Is the Hour by George Gordon, Lord Byron analysis
And their feet move by Sappho analysis
The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe analysis
To a Friend by Matthew Arnold analysis
Mending Wall by Robert Frost analysis
The Exposed Nest by Robert Frost analysis
Ode On The Death Of A Favourite Cat Drowned In A Tub Of Goldfishes by Thomas Gray analysis
Purdah by Sylvia Plath analysis
Life Is Fine by Langston Hughes analysis
What Work Is by Philip Levine analysis