by Robert Frost
In A Nutshell
Are you ready to get lost? Seriously, the-birds-have-eaten-the-breadcrumbs-off-the-path, the-map-flew-out-the-window, the-GPS-is-fried, I-don't-think-we're-in-Kansas-anymore, lost? Because that's what "Directive" by Robert Frost promises, and boy, does it deliver.
Written toward the end of this revered poet's life, "Directive" anchor's Frost's 1947 collection Steeple Bush. In it, the speaker takes a confusing, long, and melancholy journey back in time and in memory—and he takes us along for the ride. According to Randall Jarrell, a contemporary and rival of Frost's, "Directive" is about "longing, tenderness, and passive sadness, Frost's understanding that each life is tragic because it wears away into the death that it at last half-welcomes" (source). Shmoop thinks that sounds about right. "Directive" is a poem for a rainy Sunday afternoon, when you can't help but contemplate your past, and how it all rolled inevitably toward your future. If that all sounds a wee bit depressing, well, it is. But don't worry—Frost's got a bit of redemption and salvation in store for you at the poem's end, in the form of a nice, cool drink.
Why Should I Care?
Anyone can know and love the greatest hits of a band, but it takes a true devotee to know the band's most wonderful songs—you know, the B-sides? Or the ones they only perform live? That's how you separate the amateurs from the true believers, right?
Well, "Directive" is a Robert Frost B-side. Sure, it may not be among Robert Frost's greatest hits, but it's the kind of ditty that can only come from a seasoned pro after a long career of chart-toppers. This poem is wise.
And like those songs that only you (and a few enlightened friends) love, this poem sounds as if it's letting you in on a deep and wonderful secret. The way the speaker takes you by the hand, leading you through the poem, showing you the sights and the terrain of his memory, it's as if you've been slipped a backstage pass into the inner sanctum. Live it up, Shmoopers.