Study Guide

Directive Lines 8-12

By Robert Frost

Lines 8-12

Lines 8-9

The road there, if you'll let a guide direct you
Who only has at heart your getting lost, 

  • Finally we get some good news. That house that is no more a house? Well, it turns out, there's a way to get there: a road. 
  • But we need a guide to help us along our journey. That all sounds well and good until we hit another snag: that guide really just wants us to get lost. 
  • Whoever that guide is, he's not exactly a reliable guy. But maybe that's precisely the point. Remember, we're traveling back in time and memory here, which means we've got to be willing to get a bit lost along the way.

Lines 10-12

May seem as if it should have been a quarry—
Great monolithic knees the former town
Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered. 

  • That road from line 8? Well, it ain't your grandma's road. The speaker tells us "it should have been a quarry." 
  • Let's tally up what we know about quarries: they're rocky. They're sources for materials we use to build buildings and monuments and roads and other permanent-seeming things. Whatever this road we need to travel is, it's going to be bumpy. 
  • Along the road, there seem to be "great monolithic knees." The speaker's getting metaphorical on us, here, comparing the rocky outcroppings along the road to the knees of some sort of rocky sculpture. Imagine great big boulders jutting out along the road. 
  • What's so cool about this metaphor is that he's describing something huge and inanimate in a human way—he's personifying the road by giving it knees. 
  • And those knees, it turns out, belong to the town (that is no more a town). We hear that these knees are something the town no longer bothers to keep covered, which again indicates the passage of time. If the town were a young and proper lady, you can bet those knees would be covered by petticoats and pantyhose and a hem that's plenty long. But now that town is old and over it. Who cares about a little knee exposure? Town's got a backache to deal with. 
  • Time out, Shmoopers. This seems to be a good moment to recap what we've seen so far. We've got a speaker taking us, his audience, back through time to a memory that seems fuzzy at best. 
  • The speaker seems to be a guide of sorts, and maybe he's only got "at heart your getting lost." In any case, we're not exactly feelings secure in our whereabouts. 
  • What's clear to Shmoop is that our speaker is inviting us, his audience, along on a journey. Only, if you read closely, he's not actually coming. He is telling us where to go. At least he's definitely been there before. He seems to know what he's talking about.

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