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“The Silken Tent” is a poem written by Robert Frost. It is one of his most famous love poems addressed to his beloved.
About the Poet:
Robert Frost (1874-1963) was an eminent American poet. He was the recipient of many awards, including receiving the Pulitzer Prize four times. Famous works of his include ‘The Road Not Taken’, ‘Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening’, and ‘Fire and Ice’.
This poem is structured in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet, with 3 quatrains and a rhyming couplet.
Analysis and Summary:
She is as in a field a silken tent At midday when the 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 every thing on earth the compass round, And only by one's going slightly taut In the capriciousness of summer air Is of the slightlest bondage made aware.
The poem begins with a “she”, the persona’s beloved. He calls her a “silken tent” in a field that sways in the “sunny summer breeze” after “drying the dew”. Its pole, he says “signifies the sureness of her soul”. This strength is not based on “any single cord” but is “loosely bound” by many thoughts of love. Of all these ties, like in a “compass”, one tie alone goes “slightly taut” for her and is a “bondage made aware”.
Contrary to the belief that because it is a love poem of Frost, it is addressed to his deceased wife Elinor Frost, it is addressed to Kay Morrison. Kay Morrison was the woman Frost had a relationship with after the death of his wife for over two decades. It was an illicit relationship carried forth by both of them with Kay Morrison already married to a man named Theodore Morrison. This relationship and its complexities are brought out by Frost.
In the first part of the poem, Frost uses the extended metaphor of a tent to denote his beloved Kay. He uses it to bring out her beauty and strength (which he sheds light on through the “central cedar pole” which “signifies the sureness of her soul”.)
He metaphorically denotes her roles and responsibilities as her “silken ties” and how they are “loosely bound” as she makes them flexible for “her ties of love and thought”. Yet, the one tie she keeps “taut” like that of the compass is her marital responsibility– this is a direct reference to her rejection of Frost’s proposal and her unwillingness to break off her marriage to Ted. This, he calls her “bondage”, one she wouldn’t break free from.
This is a poem which has hidden layers of meaning to it. It beautifully captures Frost’s tortured soul and his agonising love for a forbidden woman.