Treasure Island

Robert Frost

(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963 / San Francisco)

The Secret Sits


We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Roberto Echanes (8/5/2010 1:23:00 PM)

    This is a very mystic poem which can have several types of meaning depending on the insight and critical interpretation of the reader.
    First, the structure of the poem is in a two-lined stanza with end rhyme and observing metric rule which has been written in anapest trimetre.

    The voice could be an external voice used as a devise or the author's voice itself. The first aspect that has to be observed in the first line is that the voice foregrounds 'we', which is a clue to mean you, they and all creatures in the universe. Next, 'dance around in a ring', highlights that all creatures (including the speaker) are in an unceasing dance in a circle or ring. What is this ring? What is this dance? The dance and the act of dancing, like the moths moving around a source of light, represents life. We humans move around a nucleus, the nucleus of life, the eternal movement of life, perhaps in a vicious circle. In Buddhism this moving around represents the constant cycle of life, death and rebirth. Then, it foregrounds the expression 'and suppose'. Only creatures who do not know the truth, who are ignorant or do not have a clue of what life is all about are guessing, but do not really know.

    In the second line the poet/voice mentions a 'Secret'. This Secret is a symbol for something that is to be known or the centre of true knowledge or perhaps an omniscient entity who sits at the centre while all the living creatures are moving around Him. 'And knows' - this omniscient entity really knows what the 'truth' is, who we really are and what our destiny is. In my view this small poem is an allegory of life in which human beings should at one point in life stop dancing endlessly and move closer to the all-knowing secret to be freed from a vicious circle of suppositions in order to embrace true knowledge. (Report) Reply

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