Provide, Provide

Provide, Provide

By Robert Frost

The witch that came (the withered hag)
To wash the steps with pail and rag,
Was once the beauty Abishag,

The picture pride of Hollywood.
Too many fall from great and good
For you to doubt the likelihood.

Die early and avoid the fate.
Or if predestined to die late,
Make up your mind to die in state.

Make the whole stock exchange your own!
If need be occupy a throne,
Where nobody can call you crone.

Some have relied on what they knew;
Others on simply being true.
What worked for them might work for you.

No memory of having starred
Atones for later disregard,
Or keeps the end from being hard.

Better to go down dignified
With boughten friendship at your side
Than none at all. Provide, provide!

Summary of Provide, Provide

  • Popularity of “Provide, Provide”: Written by the American poet laureate and a great icon of poetic writing, Robert Frost, this short poem, comprising just seven stanzas, presents the view of how a person should lead his life and how he should find it at the end. The poem first appeared in 1934 in the New Frontier, a magazine, and Roosevelt was set to take office shortly. Robert Frost got inspiration from the women’s protests at Harvard. The beauty of the poem lies in the titular thematic strand of how to lead a good life.
  • Provide, Provide” As a Representative of Suggestion for Living a Good Life: Frost presents a speaker who comments on the woman, Abishag, saying that she has turned into a witch now and is mopping floors. However, once, she was a beauty working in Hollywood. He comments that this is not a big thing as several people fall from grace. It does not matter, he says, adding that it is entirely upon a person how he avoids his fate, and how he dies, or in what state. Addressing the reader in the second person, the speaker advises that even if a person has a whole stock exchange to his name, a throne, and wealth, nobody calls him/her a bad name. However, it is not everybody does the same. Some rely only on truth and others on their hearts, while some live a good life with a friend beside them at the end, and others only provide for themselves. This happens in life.
  • Major Themes in “Provide, Provide”: Leading a good life, choosing your end time, and living a frugal life make up the three major themes of this poem. The poet has presented the character of Abishag to show that once she was a Hollywood star and living a glamorous life, but on the next day, she is mopping floors. Actually, it is not predestined that everybody should face the same. People can choose how they want to live or die. Some may like to live a frugal life having family and friends and choosing their end with a friend beside them. However, some others may choose the life of glamor and die without anybody besides their bed. This happens in your choice of life. The advice of the poet is to exercise your right to choose what you want to do in your life and how you want to end it.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Provide, Provide

Robert Frost’s use of various literary devices to enhance the intended impact of his poem demonstrates his poetic skills. Some of the major literary devices are as follows.

  1. Allusion: It is a device in which an event, figure, or incident of cultural or historical, or literary significance is referred to for emphasis. For example, the poet referred to Hollywood in this poem.
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /a/ in “Too many fall from great and good” and the sound of /o/ in “For you to doubt the likelihood.”
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession, such as the sound of /p/ in “picture pride” or /c/ in “can call” or /w/ in “What worked.”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /f/ and /g/ in “Too many fall from great and good” and the sound of /w / and /m/ in “What worked for them might work for you.”
  5. Enjambment: It is a device in which the meanings of verse roll over to the next without having any pause or punctuation mark. The sonnet shows the use of enjambment, such as;

Better to go down dignified
With boughten friendship at your side
Than none at all. Provide, provide!

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Robert Frost used imagery in this poem, such as “If need be occupy a throne”, “No memory of having starred” and “Or keeps the end from being hard.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects different in nature. The poet has used the metaphor of a witch for Abishag and even a “withered hag.”
  3. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols such as witch, hag, fate, late, and death to show the end of a friendless life.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Provide, Provide

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows good use of formal and poetic diction.
  2. End Rhyme: It means to use end words rhyming with each other. The poet has used end rhyme, such as hag/rag/Abishag and fate/late/state.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: It is the rhyming of end words. The poem follows the AAA rhyme scheme in all of its stanzas until the end.
  4. Repetition: It means to repeat words or phrases or clauses for emphasis. The poem shows the use of repetition, such as provided in the last verse.
  5. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are seven stanzas, with each having three verses, also known as tercet.
  6. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows an ironic, satirizing, and tragic tone at different places.

Quotes to be Used

The following stanza is useful to quote when discussing how to lead the final days of one’s life.

Better to go down dignified
With boughten friendship at your side
Than none at all. Provide, provide!