Do Phoebes Weep?
Frost knew his birdsongs well enough that his weeping phoebes are, I suspect, an instance of poetic license. Even a city slicker would never mistake the Eastern Phoebe’s call for weeping! However, the Eastern Wood-Pewee, who can often be found in the same landscape with the phoebe, at the same time, does have a plaintive call that might be a kind of weeping. But substitute “pewee” for “phoebe,” and the poem’s last line falls flat. “Phoebe” both sounds better and brings into play the pastoral echoes of Shakespeare’s shepherdess in As You Like It and the mythological Phoebe in love with her shepherd Endymion. Here, the poet trumps the naturalist, and sense gives way to sound.