A Patch of Old Snow, Robert Frost: Summary & Analysis

In "A Patch of Old Snow" by Robert Frost, the poet observes a seemingly insignificant patch of old snow and reflects on the fleeting nature of memory and the passage of time. Through concise language and vivid imagery, Frost explores themes of transience, forgotten experiences, and the traces of the past that linger in unexpected ways.

A Patch of Old Snow by Robert Frost

There's a patch of old snow in a corner
That I should have guessed
Was a blow-away paper the rain
Had brought to rest.
It is speckled with grime as if
Small print overspread it,
The news of a day I've forgotten --
If I ever read it.

Critical Analysis

"A Patch of Old Snow" captures a moment of reflection upon a small detail in the environment that triggers the speaker's contemplation. The poem begins with the description of a patch of old snow that resembles a piece of paper blown by the rain and left to settle in a corner. The snow, "speckled with grime," is likened to "small print," hinting at forgotten news or information.

The poem's brevity and simplicity mirror the fleeting nature of the memory the speaker is trying to recall. The snow's appearance as a "patch" serves as a metaphor for the fragmentary and incomplete nature of recollection. The speaker acknowledges that the news or memory associated with the snow has been lost to time, underscoring the transient quality of human experiences and the inevitable fading of memories.

"A Patch of Old Snow" invites readers to reflect on the ephemeral nature of memory and how even seemingly insignificant details from the past can trigger moments of contemplation and reflection. The poem emphasizes that, like the patch of snow, memories can become faded and obscured over time, leaving traces that may never fully be recaptured.

Themes of the Poem

  • Transience: The poem explores the fleeting nature of memory and experiences, highlighting how details from the past can become obscured over time.
  • Forgotten Experiences: The patch of old snow serves as a symbol for forgotten memories and events that have lost their clarity and significance.
  • Traces of the Past: The poem underscores how remnants of the past can unexpectedly resurface and trigger moments of reflection.

Stylistic Analysis

  • Concise Language: Frost's concise and straightforward language mirrors the brevity and simplicity of the memory being recalled.
  • Vivid Imagery: The description of the patch of old snow and its resemblance to a piece of paper creates a vivid visual image for readers.


  • Contemplation: The poem conveys a contemplative mood as the speaker reflects on the patch of snow and the memory it triggers.
  • Uncertainty: The speaker's uncertainty about whether they ever read the "news of a day" underscores the fading nature of the memory.


  • Metaphorical Language: The patch of old snow is metaphorically connected to forgotten memories and experiences.
  • Symbolism: The snow symbolizes the traces of the past that remain in the present, even when their original significance is lost.

Sound Devices

  • Consonance: The repetition of "s" and "r" sounds in phrases like "speckled with grime" and "small print overspread" creates a soothing and reflective auditory quality.

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