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The following stanza is from Robert Frost's Into My Own:

One of my wishes is that those dark trees,
So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,
Were not, as ’twere, the merest mask of gloom,
But stretched away unto the edge of doom.

(Emphasis mine.)

I am guessing that the "edge of doom" is referring to the end of time -- as in, The trees are stretching into the end of time and space. Is this reading correct? Where does the phrase the "edge of doom" come from? At first when I read it, I thought that the "edge of doom" was a dark reference (similar to "mask of gloom"), but it seems to be closer to a wedding vow, such as "Our marriage will last unto the edge of doom".

  • Great question! Welcome to the site. – user111 Jan 25 '17 at 1:07
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Your reading of the poem makes sense. It might help to know that the dark trees are symbolizing the future in this poem. The second line tells us that these trees rarely show a breeze. This means that we cannot predict the future.

In the fourth line, Frost expresses his wish that those dark trees in the first line were stretched away to the edge of doom. This means that he hoped that the future is stretched far away. So, the edge of doom means here far away (in time). This seems consistent with your view, since it is also used in that way in the sentence you quoted, "Our marriage will last unto the edge of doom".

Based on: Analysis of "Into My Own".

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  • This is a decent answer, but it isn't the only answer: even though it's accepted, I would encourage anyone with an interest in this question to write their own answer and post it here. – user111 May 27 '17 at 15:32
  • @Hamlet Even though this is my answer, I agree with you. I'm by no means a litterateur or someone who knows a lot of poetry, so I wouldn't be suprised if there are other or better answers. – wythagoras May 27 '17 at 15:45
  • my comment is not a criticism of your answer by any means: your answer is perfectly correct, and I hope you continue to participate on the site. It's just that there are other correct answers out there, and I want to make sure we get those answers. – user111 May 27 '17 at 15:47
  • @Hamlet I didn't take it as criticism. Of course, there are very often multiple intepretations of stories and poetry possible. – wythagoras May 27 '17 at 15:49
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The author could be alluding to Shakespeare's Macbeth (Act IV, Scene 1, with the witches) :

A shew of eight Kings, and Banquo last, with a glasse in his hand.

Macb. Thou art too like the Spirit of Banquo: Down:

Thy Crowne do's seare mine Eye-bals. And thy haire

Thou other Gold-bound-brow, is like the first:

A third, is like the former. Filthy Hagges,

Why do you shew me this? - A fourth? Start eyes!

What will the Line stretch out to'th' cracke of Doome?

Macbeth (Act IV, Scene 1, emphasis mine)

Here, Shakespeare is using the verb stretch in a very similar manner, having a character inquire of the witches whether something (in this case, a family dynasty of kings, each succeeding his father, which have appeared in an apparition) will last until doomsday.

The "Filthy Hagges" (i.e. the witches) could be being referenced or alluded to by Frost's gloomy imagery that could be an apt metaphor to describe a stereotypical witch's lair.

Earlier in this scene in Macbeth, we see some tree and forest related imagery, which could map to Frost's use of arboreal language:

Thunder 3 Apparation, a Childe Crowned, with a Tree in his hand.

What is this, that rises like the issue of a King,

And weares vpon his Baby-brow, the round

And top of Soueraignty? All. Listen, but speake not too't

3 Appar. Be Lyon metled, proud, and take no care:

Who chafes, who frets, or where Conspirers are:

Macbeth shall neuer vanquish'd be, vntill

Great Byrnam Wood, to high Dunsmane Hill

Shall come against him.

Macbeth (Act IV, Scene 1, emphasis mine)

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In Sonnet 116 of Shakespeare, we also find the phrase "the edge of doom":

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

Indeed, it suggests "the end of time", since according to the sonnet, love could not be altered by hours or weeks (weight of time), nevertheless Love will remain and bear the time out until the end of time and space.

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  • Are you saying that "the edge of doom" means the end of time in Robert Frost's poem too, or only commenting on the usage of the same phrase by Shakespeare? – Rand al'Thor May 27 '17 at 15:46
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The phrase “the edge of doom” comes from Shakespeare’s sonnet 116:

Loue alters not with his breefe houres and weekes,
But beares it out euen to the edge of doome

“Doom” means “fate” or “judgement” and here it is being used with the meaning:

Doom, n., 6. The last or great Judgement at the end of the world

Oxford English Dictionary

So that “to the edge of doom” means “until the end of the world”.

In the context of ‘Into My Own’ the phrase turns the dimension of space (the trees stretching away into the distance) into a metaphor for the passage of time until the end of the world, and the speaker’s journey through the trees into a metaphor for his life and poetic career. And just as the speaker in Shakespeare’s sonnet says that true love never alters, so the speaker in ‘Into My Own’ says that he will never alter:

They would not find me changed from him they knew—
Only more sure of all I thought was true.

One way to read this is that the speaker is determined to stick to his own style of writing poetry, regardless of the judgement or “doom” of his critics.

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  • (Habhoub spotted the reference in this answer but there are thematic points to the reference that need to be brought out.) – Gareth Rees Apr 21 at 19:01

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