Study Guide

Directive Exploration

By Robert Frost

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Back out of all this now too much for us,
Back in a time made simple by the loss
Of detail […] (1-3)

Our trip starts on uneven ground. With the very first word, "back," you might wonder—are you being given an order or a description? Are you supposed to back out (like out of a parking space), or is the guide asking you to cast your attention back in time? Can it be both at once? From the get-go, it's clear that while our speaker knows what he wants us to do, he's not going to hold our hand while we do it.

There is a house that is no more a house
Upon a farm that is no more a farm
And in a town that is no more a town. (5-7)

What the Shmoop? No there, there? How do we explore something that doesn't even exist anymore? Unless, that is, we're doing some time-traveling here.

The road there, if you'll let a guide direct you
Who only has at heart your getting lost,
May seem as if it should have been a quarry— (8-10)

Doesn't it seem strange to have a guide directing us who admits he wants to get us lost? But people "lose themselves" all the time by looking at a sunset, being dazed by love, watching TV, etc. Getting lost can be both positive and negative. Do you think "losing yourself" in this poem allows for greater exploration of yourself?

Nor need you mind the serial ordeal
Of being watched from forty cellar holes (20-21)

This is no pleasure cruise. Is it just Shmoop, or is this poem getting seriously spooky? Well, we guess that comes with the territory. If you're going to explore the unknown, you have to learn to take the good with the bad—especially if your main goal is to get lost.

The height of the adventure is the height
Of country where two village cultures faded
Into each other. Both of them are lost. (33-35)

The speaker is giving mile markers to show how far you've come on your "adventure." Is height a matter of altitude or is it about intensity? Again, you don't have to choose between one or the other. Both can coexist in "Directive." In any case, it's clear we're reaching the climax of this poem.

And if you're lost enough to find yourself (36)

Wait. What? Paradox much? How does being lost help you find yourself? No seriously, Shmoopers. We're asking.

Your destination and your destiny's
A brook that was the water of the house,
Cold as a spring as yet so near its source (49-51)

You know the old saying that it's not the destination, it's the journey? We think our speaker would agree—to a point. Reaching the destination requires the journey—you have to be one of the worthy. But once you get there, well, there's no beating that, now is there?

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