I went to turn the grass once after one Who mowed it in the dew before the sun.
The dew was gone that made his blade so keen Before I came to view the leveled scene.
We start off this poem with a tale of lawn care.
Actually, it's a bit more labor intensive than it sounds, Shmoopers. You see, back in the early twentieth century when this poem was written, folks didn't have fancy riding lawn mowers. Heck, they didn't even have the kind of gas-powered pushmower you might remember fondly from your old summer job.
Instead, they had scythes to cut the grass by hand. (Looks like a blast, doesn't it?) Often times, this was done in the cool temperature of early morning, when dew would still be on the grass. Then, when you had all of the cut grasses lying all over the place, you would go and "turn" it to dry, either to make hay or to arrange the cuttings so that they would decompose and provide nutrients for the soil.
Okay—so is everyone up on the ins and outs of historical gardening? We hope so, because our speaker is about to get involved in some of that.
Specifically, he's coming to turn the grass after someone—we're not told who—has already done the cutting.
When the speaker arrives, though, the cut man (or cut woman) is gone. All that's left is the "leveled scene"—the freshly-mown field (4).
Aside from this fascinating trip through ancient yard work, do you notice anything else about these lines? Form-wise, we have two pairs of rhymedcouplets that follow a particular rhythm. For more on those details, check out "Form and Meter."
I looked for him behind an isle of trees; I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.
But he had gone his way, the grass all mown, And I must be, as he had been,—alone,
'As all must be,' I said within my heart, 'Whether they work together or apart.'
Our speaker is looking for the person who made all this mess: the grass cutter.
Whoever did the cutting, though, is either gone or is wearing super-advanced camouflage. The speaker can't find him anywhere.
He looks in a group of trees bunched together in the field (and metaphorically described as an island). He listens to see if the cutter is sharpening his blade on a whetstone (a stone used for…sharpening blades).
No soup—the guy is gone, and the speaker realizes that he (we're just going to use "he" for now, but check out "Speaker" for more) is alone.
The speaker realizes that the grass cutter was also alone (you know, back when he was cutting the grass).
In fact, the speaker reasons, we're all alone—cheery, no? That reasoning is described figuratively as the speaker speaking "within [his] heart" (9). That suggests that this knowledge is something deep and profound, and we can't argue with that.
Think about it: even if we're standing right next to someone, deeply engaged in conversation with that person, they can't actually get inside our heads.
In that way, we're each of us alone in ourselves—even if we're working together.
Is that a bad thing, though? Let's read on to see what the speaker thinks…right after we point out that the same form (rhymed couplets with a regular rhythm) holds up here. Hit up "Form and Meter" for the details.