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Dust of Snow by Robert Frost | CBE Based Qs | Class X | Critical Commentary

Updated: Apr 10

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A man sitting under a hemlock tree.


Frost has presented nature in quite an unconventional manner. While in other nature poems we come across birds such as nightingales or sparrows, Frost has used a crow in this poem. A crow can be associated with something dark, black, and foreboding. That is why other poets usually mention singing nightingales or beautiful white doves in their poems.

Also, the poet has written about a hemlock tree, which is a poisonous tree. He has not written about a more beautiful tree such as a maple, or oak, or pine because these trees symbolise beauty and happiness. Frost wanted to symbolise the feelings of sadness and regret, which is why he has used a hemlock tree.

The crow and the hemlock tree represent sorrow. The dust of snow that is shaken off the hemlock tree by the crow stands for joy that Frost experiences. He has, therefore, used an unconventional tree and bird in order to contrast them with joy in the form of snow.

A shaking off dust of snow.

Line-wise Explanation

(Lines 1-4)

The way a crow

Shook down on

The dust of snow

From a hemlock tree


1. Shook down: shook the tree and the dust of snow from the tree fell on the poet.

2. dust of snow – particles of snow

3. hemlock tree – a poisonous tree with small white flowers.

Key Points:

#Once the poet was once very sad and hopeless.

# He was under the hemlock tree.

# Suddenly a crow, that was sitting on the tree, shook the tree and the particles of snow from the tree fell on the poet.

#It was a very ordinary experience, but had a positive impact on him.

(Lines 5-8)

Has given my heart

A change of mood

And saved some part

Of a day I had rued.


A change of mood: the poet has gone through a swing (change) in his mood.

rued – regretted.

Key Points

# A crow dropping dust of snow on the poet had contributed to the swing of his mood.

# He became optimistic and stopped wasting his day in regretting about his sad mood.

# This simple incident helped him enjoy the remaining part of the day.

Poetic Devices

# Rhyme scheme – abab cdcd

# Symbolism – Hemlock tree, Crow.

# Alliteration: Has given my heart/ And saved some part.

Certainly! Here are some poetic devices used in the poem "Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost:

1. Metaphor: The dust of snow falling from the hemlock tree is metaphorical, representing a small, transformative moment that changes the speaker's mood.

2. Personification: The crow is personified when it is described as shaking down the dust of snow. This attribution of human action to the crow adds vividness and impact to the imagery.

3. Symbolism: The dust of snow symbolizes a moment of purity, redemption, or positive change. It represents the transformative power of nature.

4. Imagery: The poem contains vivid visual imagery, particularly in the descriptions of the crow, the hemlock tree, and the dust of snow. This imagery helps to create a clear and evocative mental picture for the reader.

5. Rhyme: The poem follows an AABB rhyme scheme, with each quatrain consisting of two rhyming lines. The rhyming scheme helps to create a sense of musicality and rhythm in the poem.

6. Alliteration: There are examples of alliteration throughout the poem, such as "crow shook" and "dust of snow." The repetition of consonant sounds adds a pleasing and rhythmic quality to the language.

7. Repetition: The repetition of the word "dust" emphasizes its importance and reinforces the central image of the poem.

8. Contrast: The poem employs contrast as a poetic device, contrasting the dark color of the crow with the light color of the snow, as well as contrasting the negative mood at the beginning with the positive change brought about by the dust of snow.

9. Enjambment: There are instances of enjambment in the poem, where a thought or sentence continues without a pause beyond the end of a line, flowing into the next line. For example, "The way a crow / Shook down on me."

10. Allusion: While not explicit, the poem indirectly alludes to the transformative power of nature and the ability of small moments to bring about a change in perspective or mood, which is a recurring theme in Frost's works.

11. Assonance: There are examples of assonance, the repetition of vowel sounds, in the poem. For instance, the long "o" sound in "crow shook down on me / The dust of snow" creates a pleasing sonic effect.

12. Consonance: Consonance, the repetition of consonant sounds, is also present in the poem. For example, in the line "From a hemlock tree," the repetition of the "m" sound creates a soft and melodic quality.

13. Sensory imagery: The poem appeals to the reader's senses, particularly the sense of sight, by using vivid and descriptive language to evoke mental images of the crow, the snow, and the hemlock tree. This sensory imagery adds depth and richness to the poem.

14. Juxtaposition: The poem juxtaposes contrasting elements, such as the dark crow and the white snow, the negative mood and the positive change, creating a sense of tension and highlighting the transformative nature of the experience.

These additional poetic devices further contribute to the poem's overall effectiveness in conveying its themes and creating a memorable reading experience.


# While sitting under a tree, dust of snow falls on the poet. This seemingly upsetting incident changed the mood of the poet.

# He realized that he had just wasted a part of his day repenting, rather he could have utilized the same in doing some productive activity.

# Underlying message for us in our hectic life is that we should have a positive outlook even towards simple acts because they can lead to the learning of greater lessons of enjoying life.

# The Poem expresses the significance of small things in changing one’s mood.

# The poem reiterates that the little things in life can make huge changes in our future.

# if we take the hard times of life in stride eventually something will happen to change our situation into happier times.


  • The message of "Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost is that even the smallest and seemingly insignificant moments can have a profound impact on our lives.

  • The encounter with the crow shaking down the dust of snow from the hemlock tree serves as a metaphor for unexpected and transformative experiences.

  • The poem suggests that it is essential to be open to these moments and to appreciate the beauty and significance they hold.

  • The dust of snow, which represents a brief and seemingly inconsequential event, has the power to change the speaker's mood and salvage a day that was previously filled with regret or negativity.

  • Frost reminds us that nature has the ability to uplift our spirits and change our perspective. It serves as a source of solace and renewal, even in the midst of difficult or challenging times.

  • By paying attention to the small wonders of the world around us, we can find moments of joy and discover the potential for change and redemption in unexpected places.

  • Ultimately, the poem encourages us to embrace the transformative power of even the simplest moments and to find beauty and solace in the natural world.

  • It reminds us that amidst the challenges and struggles of life, there is always the possibility for renewal and a change in perspective, even in the form of a dust of snow shaken down by a crow.


Thinking About the Poem (Page 14)

1. What is ‘dust of snow’? What does the poet say has changed his mood? How has the poet’s mood changed?

Ans: A ‘dust of snow’ refers to ‘particles of snow.’

The poet says that a dust of snow dropped by a crow from the top of the hemlock tree has changed his mood.

The poet was sitting under the hemlock tree in a state of regret. Suddenly a dust of snow, which fell over his body from the branch of the tree, has brought about a change in his mood.

Q2. How doe Frost present nature in his poem?

Ans: Frost has presented a crow and hemlock tree from the nature and associated these two with his mood of regret. Crow and hemlock tree respectively symbolize sorrow. So the poet used the two images to match his mood of regret. The poet, on the other hand, has also made use of ‘dust of snow’ from nature to represent state of joyfulness.

Q3. What do the ‘crow’ and ‘hemlock’ represent joy or sorrow? What does the dust of snow that the crow shakes off a hemlock tree stand for?

Ans: The ‘crow’ and ‘hemlock’ tree represent the state of sorrowfulness. The dust of snow that the crow shakes off a hemlock tree represents the state of joyfulness. Here to show the contrast of his mood, the post has used the contrasting images.

CBE-Based Extract Questions

1. The dust of snow

From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart

A change of mood

(i) What has changed the poet's heart a change of mood?

The particles of snow from the hemlock tree gave the poet's heart 'a change of mood'.

(ii) What kind of a change did the poet experience in his mood?

Ans: The poet's mood has changed from being dull to pleasant.

(iii) What does 'the dust of snow' represent?

Ans The dust of snow represents the fresh and rejuvenating form of nature. This pristine form of nature has brought about a sudden shift in the poet's mood.

2. Has given my heart

A change of mood

And saved some part

of a day I had rued.

(i) What has caused a change of mood in the poet's heart?

Ans: The poet has experienced a change of mood when a crow sitting on a hemlock tree shook down the dust of snow on the poet, who was sitting under the tree.

(ii) What has the 'chage of mood' resulted in ?

Ans: The 'change of mood' resulted in saving the rest of the poet's day from being wasted.

(iii) How does the poet plan to spend the rest of the day?

Ans: The poet plans to make the best use of the remaining part of the day by being productive in his work. If the crow did not drop the dust of snow on him, he probably would spend the entire day regretting over the matter which made him sad and gloomy.

3. The way a crow

Shook down on me

The dust of snow

From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart

A change of mood

And saved some part

Of a day I had rued.

(i) Of the many symbols the hemlock tree represents, choose the one that Frost drew upon in all likelihood, for this poem. Symbol of

a) longevity.

b) togetherness.

c) healing.

d) protection.

(ii) Choose the option that lists the possible feelings of the poet prior to the experience shared in the poem.

1) reassured

2) disappointed

3) curious

4) demotivated

5) thankful

6) disheartened

7) impulsive

a) 1, 3 &7

b) 2, 4 & 6

c) 5 & 7

d) 1 & 3

(iii) Identify the option that DOES NOT use the word ‘rue’ correctly.

a) The film was a disaster and he rued his decision to act in it.

b) I am sure she rued the day she listened to a fortune-teller.

c) It wasn’t long before I rued my disobedience and my deceit.

d) Others finally rue the one who is dishonest and heartless.

(iv) Synecdoche is a poetic device that uses a part to represent the whole. E.g. That’s a great set of wheels! (Set of wheels has been used for car.)

Pick an example of synecdoche from the poem.

a) Has given my heart / A change of mood

b) The way a crow/ Shook down on me

c) The dust of snow / From a hemlock tree

d) And saved some part / Of a day I had rued

(v) Choose the option showing the reason NOT corresponding with “… a crow / Shook down on me / The dust of snow”.

a) The crow’s landing on the branch of the tree.

b) The shivering of the crow, due to the cold.

c) The readjustment of position of the crow on the branch.

d) The cawing of the crow hidden in the foliage.

CBE-Based Questions

1. Rationalise what you think the poet was probably doing when the dust of snow fell on him?

Ans: When the dust of snow fell on the poet in the poem "Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost, it can be rationalized that the poet was likely going through a difficult or troubled time. The mention of a day that the poet had "rued" suggests a sense of regret or sorrow. The falling dust of snow, triggered by the crow shaking the hemlock tree, interrupts the poet's thoughts and captures his attention.

In that moment, the poet becomes aware of the beauty and significance of this seemingly insignificant event. The dust of snow serves as a metaphor for a small, unexpected act of nature that has the power to transform the poet's perspective. It acts as a catalyst, interrupting the poet's negative state of mind and shifting his mood.

2. What does the presence of a hemlock tree tell you about the setting of the poem?

Ans: The presence of a hemlock tree in the poem "Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost provides insights into the setting and contributes to the overall atmosphere of the poem. Hemlock trees are typically associated with colder climates and are commonly found in regions with harsh winters, such as parts of North America and Europe.

The mention of a hemlock tree suggests a wintry or cold environment. It evokes a sense of starkness and solitude, as well as a connection to nature. Hemlock trees are often associated with forests or wooded areas, which further adds to the imagery of the natural setting.

Bonus Info: ( Not a part of the answer) 
 Hemlock trees have symbolic connotations. In literature and folklore, hemlock is sometimes associated with death or danger. In this poem, however, the hemlock tree serves as a backdrop for a transformative moment rather than a source of darkness. It is from this tree that the crow shakes down the dust of snow, symbolizing a small, purifying act of nature that brings about a change in the poet's mood.

Overall, the presence of a hemlock tree in the poem suggests a wintry, natural setting and contributes to the contemplative and transformative atmosphere of the poem.

3. The dusting of snow on account of the crow helped make the poet’s day better. How do you think the crow’s droppings might have impacted the poet?

Ans: In the poem "Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost, the dusting of snow caused by the crow shaking the hemlock tree is depicted as having a positive impact on the poet's day. The dust of snow represents a pure and pristine element of nature. However, if we consider the hypothetical scenario of the crow's droppings instead of the snow, it is likely that the impact on the poet would have been quite different.

The droppings of a crow are not typically associated with positive or pleasant experiences. In fact, they are often considered unsightly and unclean. If the crow's droppings had fallen on the poet, it would have created a contrasting effect to the uplifting mood brought about by the dust of snow.

Therefore, in the context of the poem, it is the dusting of snow from the crow's actions that brings about a positive change in the poet's day, rather than the hypothetical scenario of the crow's droppings.

4. The poem evokes a sense of black and white. Justify.

The poem "Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost does evoke a sense of black and white through its imagery and themes. Here are a few justifications for this interpretation:

1. Contrast of Colors: The poem highlights the contrasting colors of black and white. The crow, with its black feathers, shakes down the dust of snow, which is white. This contrast between the dark and light colors emphasizes the starkness of the scene and contributes to the sense of black and white.

2. Symbolism of Light and Dark: The blackness of the crow can be associated with darkness or negative emotions, while the whiteness of the snow represents purity or a positive change. This symbolism of light and dark reinforces the dichotomy of black and white, suggesting a contrast between negativity and positivity, or despair and hope.

3. Mood and Atmosphere: The poem's concise and straightforward nature, along with its focus on a single transformative moment, creates a sense of simplicity and clarity. This simplicity can be associated with the starkness of black and white. The poem's mood is also introspective and contemplative, enhancing the contrast between opposing emotions or states of mind.

4. Symbolic Representation: The black and white imagery in the poem can be seen as symbolic of life's contrasts and the choices we make. The encounter with the crow and the dust of snow represents a turning point, where a seemingly insignificant moment has the power to shift the poet's mood. This symbolizes the transformative potential in even the smallest experiences, highlighting the contrast between moments of despair and moments of redemption or salvation.

Overall, the poem "Dust of Snow" evokes a sense of black and white through its imagery, symbolism, and the contrasting emotions it portrays. This interplay of colors and themes reinforces the dichotomy between darkness and light, despair and hope, and adds depth to the overall interpretation of the poem.

5. The crow and hemlock are usually used as negative references in literature. How is this different in this poem?

Ans: Crows and hemlock trees are often associated with negative references in literature. However, in the poem "Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost, their portrayal differs from the typical negative connotations.

In the poem, the crow and the hemlock tree play pivotal roles in bringing about a positive change for the poet. The crow's action of shaking down the dust of snow from the hemlock tree serves as a catalyst for transforming the poet's mood and salvaging his day. This contrasts with the negative associations usually attributed to crows and hemlock trees.

While crows are often associated with darkness, omens, or even death in some literary contexts, in this particular poem, the crow becomes a harbinger of renewal and change. Its action of shaking the dust of snow symbolizes a small, purifying act of nature that interrupts the poet's negative state of mind and brings about a positive transformation.

Similarly, hemlock trees are typically seen as symbols of danger, poison, or even death due to their toxic properties. However, in "Dust of Snow," the hemlock tree serves as the setting for this transformative moment. It becomes a witness to the poet's change of mood, offering a connection to the natural world and emphasizing the potential for redemption and solace in even the harshest environments.

In essence, Frost subverts the conventional negative associations with crows and hemlock trees, presenting them in a more positive light within the context of this poem. By doing so, he emphasizes the transformative power of nature and highlights the potential for finding beauty and salvation even in unexpected or seemingly negative elements of the world.

For the explanation and CBE-based Questions of Fire & Ice, Click here


1 Comment

Monotosh Dey
Monotosh Dey
Apr 25, 2020

Hi. Nice content.

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