On Frost’s "Meeting and Passing"

Meeting and Passing
Robert Frost

As I went down the hill along the wall
There was a gate I had leaned at for the view
And had just turned from when I first saw you
As you came up the hill. We met. But all
We did that day was mingle great and small
Footprints in summer dust as if we drew
The figure of our being less than two
But more than one as yet. Your parasol

Pointed the decimal off with one deep thrust.
And all the time we talked you seemed to see
Something down there to smile at in the dust.
(Oh, it was without prejudice to me!)
Afterward I went past what you had passed
Before we met and you what I had passed.

Commentary:

The hill in the first stanza has many ways one can go up and down it; I assume a gate implies that a path runs perpendicular to the path our speaker is on. It is then quite remarkable that he finds someone on the exact same path he is on, and that seems to be the prelude to love. Love is depicted in the first stanza as continual turning: he turns and discovers her, the mingling of footprints suggests that they are walking in circles, around and around a section of the hill – incidentally, Purgatory, in the Divine Comedy, is a mountain one walks up to get to Paradise (more on Frost and Dante).

The turning of summer walks, though, changes with in the second stanza; the parasol points, not merely circles, and it demands a unity that is not to be. I wonder if she is younger than he; she’s coming up the hill as he’s coming down, yet her face is pointed downward, like she knows something – or believes something – he doesn’t. She wants whatever is at the top, which might be connected with what she smiles at in the dust. He, on the other hand is returning to the earthly, and knows her love was not True, not because she wasn’t sincere, but precisely because she was sincere.

6 Comments

  1. Yeah, it’s tricky. I took it apart to understand it:

    Afterward I went past what you had passed

    That seems clear enough, the speaker going down the hill went past something she had moved beyond before, and it has an appeal to him, but not to her.

    Before we met

    Reinforces the above. She passed something before.

    and you what I had passed.

    And she, in relation to him “afterward,” is something that he has passed.

    The thematic significance is that their meeting might as well have been a passing, I think.

  2. If you do not undeerstand what the last line means, read it together with the preceding line as one sentence as follows-
    Afterward, I went past what you had passed
    before we met and you what I had passed. o
    That is the poet goes on his way down the hill and the woman he met continued on her way up the hill; obviously each passed what the other had passed before they met.

    As for mingling of the foot prints, it seems they moved while they talked, probably she moved to turn her back to the sun and he went around to face her. May be he called her to his side to show her the sight he eas seeing. I do not think they walked around.

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