Robert Frost

(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963 / San Francisco)

Never Again Would Bird's Song Be the Same


He would declare and could himself believe
That the birds there in all the garden round
From having heard the daylong voice of Eve
Had added to their own an oversound,
Her tone of meaning but without the words.
Admittedly an eloquence so soft
Could only have had an influence on birds
When call or laughter carried it aloft.
Be that as may be, she was in their song.
Moreover her voice upon their voices crossed
Had now persisted in the woods so long
That probably it never would be lost.
Never again would birds' song be the same.
And to do that to birds was why she came.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • E. A. Bartholomew (10/24/2013 1:08:00 AM)

    Frost would declare and could himself believe that nature, through human attribution, sustains so vividly an aspect of human affects that he wagers “probably it never would be lost” (l.12) . In “Never Again Would Birds’ Song Be the Same, ” he offers that Everyman over the years has heard and can still hear as Adam the human tone of meaning Eve so softly and eloquently imbued in the birds. Along the course of the sonnet, there is ample room for elements of separation from love and nature that could normally cast loving humans into sorrow, but instead are used to display that a more positive yearning exists. Careful language also affects how the poem’s meaning is relayed. By using his mythological backbone of Eve instilling an oversound into birds’ song, Frost manages to précise the history and everlasting effects of love and nature according to Romantic ideals.

    Adam, as the first man to exist, was also the first man to love and be inspired by love when Eve was created. Without any precedent, we have to wonder what it is that made Adam connect the voice of his love, Eve, to the song of birds. The first sentence of the sonnet tells us something about Adam’s location and influence from his surroundings:


    He would declare and could himself believe
    That the birds there in all the garden round
    From having heard the daylong voice of Eve
    Had added to their own an oversound.
    (ll.1-4)

    Adam was dwelling in the garden, able to hear the birds around him singing their usual song. He needed something to equate his love for Eve with, and when in a lush garden with many animals a person is likely to hear the beautiful and prevalent song of birds. But Adam went further than just to equate them; he declared that the birds extracted what they also loved from Eve’s voice and embedded it into their own song in what probably would be the first act, according to Frost’s interpretation of mythological events, of poetic Romanticism.

    The “He” in the poem may explicitly refer to Adam, but Adam is implicitly used as a figure for Everyman. Adam was Eve’s companion and the only other human alive to bear witness to what Eve did to the birds’ song. Only Adam could know that “Never again would birds’ song be the same” (l.13) because he was the only person around before Eve was created to have heard both the unchanged song and the altered song after. Adam, however, can represent anyone that has ever realized or has been inspired to place a human affect on nature. In using the idea of the first man and woman ever to exist, Frost sets a precedent that the entire human race, as Everyman, is able to follow. The temporality of the poem also hints that Adam is intended to represent Everyman. We can only assume when “now” is, but juxtaposed to the modal “would” it appears as though the poem takes place in the past looking forward to the future. The “probably” admits that the future is still uncertain, but up until the present Eve’s voice has probably not been lost. The same applies in saying “Never again would birds’ song be the same” (l.13): what is also added, though, is the fact that Eve’s effect was a permanent one. The finality of “Never again” resonates through the entire sonnet from the onset because of the title, and when it is repeated as the turn we come to truly understand what it means in the context of the first 12 lines. The reiteration serves as a coda to Frost’s proposition that lasts for all of time and through every human heart.

    Despite Frost’s suggestion that this superimposition of human affection and nature is experienced by every passionate human through time, there also exists a tension in the distance between the speaker and Adam. The speaker does not appear to take on any specific identity, so the poem remains presented by an anonymous narration. The fact remains, however, that this sonnet was written in the 20th century: far past the time of Adam and Eve and the simplicity of their garden. This brings attention to what differences the speaker and Adam, referred to only in the third person as “He” (l.1) , might have. Surely Adam in ahistorical times “would declare and could himself believe” (l.1) , but perhaps the speaker serves to point out that this belief in modern times no longer truly exists. With the knowledge thrust upon us at the Fall of Man, nobody could honestly believe it is true that birds would or could consciously imbue their song with Eve’s “tone of meaning” (l.5) , whether it was their intention or what seemed to be evident in Adam’s ears.

    Furthermore, with his mythological proposal Frost must confess that in order for humans to tie our emotions to birds in such a disjunct manner we must have viewed ourselves as something separate from nature from our very inception and especially after the Fall from the Garden of Eden suffered by Adam and Eve. Here we see Eve’s voice as separate from the birds’. The birds, “having heard the daylong voice of Eve / Had added to their own an oversound” (ll.3-4) . Birds and Eve each possessed their own distinct voices while in the Garden of Eden despite that humans were still supposed to be connected to nature then. Later in the poem exists even more grinding between the voices than before: “[Eve’s] voice upon [the birds’] voices crossed / Had now persisted in the woods” (ll.10-11) . “Crossed” is presented as a past participle describing voices, which suggests an uneasy friction between the voices of Eve and the birds. In fact, it makes the voices appear to work against one another. There was even less unity between humans and nature: a downward trend that mostly would continue for the rest of time alongside the advancement of human knowledge.

    What also seems to separate humans from nature and thus birds is our intelligence and language. One of the greatest distinctions between humans and animals is our spoken word. The greater skills of communication have helped the human race develop lasting cultures and ideas, effectively moving us past the nature from which we came. What makes this clear is that when the birds added the oversound to their song, they added Eve’s “tone of meaning but without the words” (l.5) . Birds, clearly incapable of the same level of communication through speech that humans have developed, have not been able to broaden their intelligence; they remain a unified part of nature whereas humans have become something unique in spite of the unity of nature.

    Rather than disheartening humans, however, Frost appears to suggest this brand of separation is yet another aspect of what draws our interest to nature and makes us long for it, as well as long to see ourselves in it. Adam and Everyman “would declare and could himself believe” (l.1) that the birds were influenced by Eve’s voice: by a human’s voice. A declaration is a proud variety of statement; a man declares things that he feels speak of achievement and success. Adam and Everyman seem to herald the discovery that an aspect of humanity, however small, can be found within nature in the birds’ song. That Adam and Everyman “could himself believe” in this discovery follows the notion that we comfort ourselves by believing our achievements to be true, however improbable they are. As mentioned earlier, thinking that birds use Eve’s “tone of meaning” is tough to believe. But whether birds in reality have the capacity to forge into their own song something they admire in Eve’s voice matters little; the belief is primarily a reassuring prospect that drives the nature-lusting mind. Romantic poets embraced everything natural and emotional and tended to eschew reason, logic, and the scientific trend of the Enlightenment period. What they, like the birds, would embrace is the “tone of meaning, ” not the “words.”

    Although it is not clearly touched upon in the immediate context of Frost’s sonnet, the fact that this story is used allegorically to expand past the time spent in the Garden of Eden is substance enough to consider the Fall and how the meaning expressed is altered from pre- to postlapsarian times. If Eve “Could... have had such an influence on birds” (l.7) to make them change such an essential part of their natural existence as their song, then we can imagine how strongly she could have influenced Adam to consume the forbidden fruit. Eve, as the first woman, was created as a companion to Adam: someone for him to love. They were even told to reproduce: “Be fruitful and increase in number, ” the Lord said. But after the Fall, the need of a woman was doubled because humans would no longer be immortal. Adam and Eve were suddenly burdened with the need to have sex to reproduce in order for the human race to live on. However, with the newfound knowledge they received came shame in nudity and in turn a sort of sinful pleasure in sex and eroticism. This is for the most part exclusive in human nature; for the vast majority of living organisms, sex is only for to reproduce. It is no surprise, then, to realize a sexual factor playing a part in “why [Eve] came” (l.14) . Eve at once provides a literal separation of humans from nature with her eroticism and figuratively fecundates nature with her eloquent human voice. It is almost as if her intent was to tear Everyman away from nature just to make him crave it, and effectively her, more. Once again, by embodying in the first woman, Eve, a type of coyness all too common to female nature, Frost sets a precedent to last through all time.

    Ultimately, Frost proves that humans, although tragically cast away from nature, still retain a yearning to remain natural entities: a yearning that is frequently played upon due to our love for other humans. Frost is able to capture the essential ideals of Romantic poetry and tie them to the very first instance of love mythologically known to human kind and, in effect, launch them as a permanent precedent that has lasted throughout all of history. And to do that to poetry was why Frost came. (Report) Reply

  • * Sunprincess * (10/30/2012 9:29:00 AM)

    wow the essence of eve's voice was captured in
    the bird's song and expressed so beautifully in
    this write..fabulous.. :) (Report) Reply

  • Terence An (11/19/2009 9:48:00 PM)

    This poem seems to me just to be Robert Frost paying respect to females. Women are considered the daughters of Eve and at least the way I interpret it is that after hearing a woman's voice, a bird's is just never as sweet.
    This poem is also a rejection of the pervasive naturalism in the 20th century since it demonstrates the impact that Eve has upon nature. The possibility that nature would attempt at mimicking humans is a blatant laugh in the face of naturalism. (Report) Reply

  • Andrew Hoellering (6/23/2009 4:52:00 PM)

    I don't believe that divinity has anything to do with it, nor is there any direct mention of Adam.
    Eve's tones and eloquence, her influence on the birds, goes way back, and is used by Frost to cojoin the human with the natural world, to the mutual enrichment of both. (Report) Reply

  • William F. Dougherty (7/15/2008 2:25:00 AM)

    The soul of the sonnet is metaphor: what Eve's voice does not only to the sound of birds but to the ear of Adam- the namer-poet. Why she came is a myth of origin that precedes a Father of poetry like Orpheus and his mythical lyre; moreover, there's no escaping the intention or influence of divinity, since the creator of Adam created Eve and the voice of Eve. I under-read Frost sometimes:

    Eve adds the soft eloquence of Sound to Adam's task of Naming (Words) , and that, I venture, marks the birth of poetry-NB: only Adam would have known the sound of birds before the birds absorbed Eve's over-sound, as Adam's son, Robert Frost, celebrates Sound and Sense, the phrase made famous by Alexander Pope. Thus, it seems to follow, never again should we refer to the Father or Mother of poetry, but to the Parents of poetry. (Report) Reply

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