Robert Frost

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

Spoils Of The Dead


Two fairies it was
On a still summer day
Came forth in the woods
With the flowers to play.
The flowers they plucked
They cast on the ground
For others, and those
For still others they found.
Flower-guided it was
That they came as they ran
On something that lay
In the shape of a man.
The snow must have made
The feathery bed
When this one fell
On the sleep of the dead.
But the snow was gone
A long time ago,
And the body he wore
Nigh gone with the snow.
The fairies drew near
And keenly espied
A ring on his hand
And a chain at his side.
They knelt in the leaves
And eerily played
With the glittering things,
And were not afraid.
And when they went home
To hide in their burrow,
They took them along
To play with to-morrow.
When you came on death,
Did you not come flower-guided
Like the elves in the wood?
I remember that I did.
But I recognised death
With sorrow and dread,
And I hated and hate
The spoils of the dead.

Submitted: Monday, March 29, 2010

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  • Rookie - 866 Points John Richter (10/6/2014 12:30:00 PM)

    I think the colloquial terms ferries and elves were used interchangeably in those days. But honestly must say that I don't understand his reference to spoils of the dead. He paints a rather grisly picture of the man's remains - as if he were in an advanced stage of decomposition - even perhaps only bones remaining - with the trinkets still attached. I should think he was referencing things taken directly off the rotting corpse as spoils. But that is the problem with poetic license - it is open to so many interpretations. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 94 Points Stephen Loomes (10/25/2013 12:32:00 AM)

    He can't seem to make up his mind whether they were fairies or elves but one thing is for sure, as much as he boasts of hating the spoils of the dead he didn't reject his substantial inheritance, and you can be sure no fairies were around when the will was read. (Report) Reply

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