A Roadside Stand by Robert Frost

The little old house was out with a little new shed
In front at the edge of the road where the traffic sped,
A roadside stand that too pathetically pled,
It would not be fair to say for a dole of bread,
But for some of the money, the cash, whose flow supports
The flower of cities from sinking and withering faint.
The polished traffic passed with a mind ahead,
Or if ever aside a moment, then out of sorts
At having the landscape marred with the artless paint
Of signs that with N turned wrong and S turned wrong
Offered for sale wild berries in wooden quarts,
Or crook-necked golden squash with silver warts,
Or beauty rest in a beautiful mountain scene,
You have the money, but if you want to be mean,
Why keep your money (this crossly) and go along.
The hurt to the scenery wouldn’t be my complaint
So much as the trusting sorrow of what is unsaid:
Here far from the city we make our roadside stand
And ask for some city money to feel in hand
To try if it will not make our being expand,
And give us the life of the moving-pictures’ promise
That the party in power is said to be keeping from us.

It is in the news that all these pitiful kin
Are to be bought out and mercifully gathered in
To live in villages, next to the theatre and the store,
Where they won’t have to think for themselves anymore,
While greedy good-doers, beneficent beasts of prey,
Swarm over their lives enforcing benefits
That are calculated to soothe them out of their wits,
And by teaching them how to sleep they sleep all day,
Destroy their sleeping at night the ancient way.

Sometimes I feel myself I can hardly bear
The thought of so much childish longing in vain,
The sadness that lurks near the open window there,
That waits all day in almost open prayer
For the squeal of brakes, the sound of a stopping car,
Of all the thousand selfish cars that pass,
Just one to inquire what a farmer’s prices are.
And one did stop, but only to plow up grass
In using the yard to back and turn around;
And another to ask the way to where it was bound;

And another to ask could they sell it a gallon of gas
They couldn’t (this crossly); they had none, didn’t it see?
No, in country money, the country scale of gain,
The requisite lift of spirit has never been found,
Or so the voice of the country seems to complain,
I can’t help owning the great relief it would be
To put these people at one stroke out of their pain.
And then next day as I come back into the sane,
I wonder how I should like you to come to me
And offer to put me gently out of my pain.

Summary

A farmer has an old house on the edge of a highway. He puts up a roadside stand in front of his house. He has wild berries and home-made squash to sell. Thousands of cars speed past him. He hopes that some of the cars will stop and buy his produce. People in the country don’t have much money. They wish they had some more money to improve their lot.

He waits day after day for a car to stop at his stand. But the drivers never look left or right. Even if they cast a glance, they look with disdain at the sights painted in an uneducated manner. They think the farmers have spoiled the beauty of the landscape.

Only three cars stopped at the stand. One of them used the farmer’s yard to back and turn around. It furrowed the grass and drove away. Another one stopped to ask the way. And a third one wanted to buy a gallon of petrol. The farmer was annoyed because it was obvious that he did not sell petrol.

It is heard that some people want to help the poor farmers. Those greedy people wanted to buy their property for commercial use. They want the farmers to go into the village and live there next to a theater or a store. They want to cheat them with a sweet talk. They want to ruin their lives by taking to vices.

The speaker is deeply concerned about the miserable lives of the poor country people. He thinks of a childish solution to the problem. He thinks the poor people should be killed all at once to free them from their misery. But soon he realizes that it is a vain thought. He wishes he was dead so that he was free from sorrows about them.

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