Robert Frost, ‘Snow’
in Mountain Interval
(New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1916)

‘But how much better off are we as it is?      
We’ll have to sit here till we know he’s safe.’

‘Yes, I suppose you’ll want to, but I shouldn’t.        
He knows what he can do, or he wouldn’t try.          
Get into bed I say, and get some rest.
He won’t come back, and if he telephones,   
It won’t be for an hour or two.’

‘Well then.     
We can’t be any help by sitting here 
And living his fight through with him, I suppose.’   

Cole had been telephoning in the dark.         
Mrs. Cole’s voice came from an inner room:
‘Did she call you or you call her?’    

‘She me.         
You’d better dress: you won’t go back to bed.         
We must have been asleep: it’s three and after.’      

‘Had she been ringing long? I’ll get my wrapper.
I want to speak to her.’

A man stops in with a couple during a heavy snowstorm at night, but only briefly and then insists on continuing on his way home. The couple is later called by the man’s wife, who was worried about her husband. Unknown to the couple, the wife sets down the phone to help the husband in, while the couple can hear the house with a baby inside. While the two homes are emphasised as being dangerously distanced by snow, the telephone connects the two spaces. Most strikingly, though, is Frost’s exploration of how the telephone creates an auditory imagination of the other space. He writes that ‘Cole had been telephoning in the dark,’ and the darkness of their house, like the darkness outside, is parallel to his inability to see the other family’s home. Cole explains to his own wife, ‘I hear an empty room— / You know—it sounds that way.’ They call out through the phone as they try to imagine what is happening, and forgive the man for worrying them because they got to share this experience. Frost balances the novelty of this new possibility with a recognition of its limitations and its place in hospitality.

by Timothy Wilcox