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Robert Frost American Poet 1874-1963

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Robert Frost 1874-1963

Poetry is "a way of remembering what it would impoverish us to forget,"

I first became aware of Robert Frost when I was 19 years old, a time in my life when I was neither reading nor writing poetry. I actually remember him reading a poem at JF Kennedy's inauguration. I don't really remember the poem but, I do remember being impressed. Of course it was

Gift Outright,

"
The land was ours before were the land's."
"Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(the deed of gift was many deeds of war)
to the land vaguely realized westward,
but still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
such as she was, such as she would become."

I quickly forgot about him however until forty years later while taking the online course, Understanding Poetry through Barnes and Noble. We read Birches and A Road Not Taken. I was taken with the simplicity yet emotional power of Birches with the understatement "One could do worse than be a swinger of birches". And recognized a line I knew by heart but had no idea where it had come from,

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I---
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
                          from the Road Not Taken (1916)

A little later, while studying Donald Hall's To Read a Poem, I was reintroduced to Frost in the first chapter titled "Good Poems". The first "good poem" was Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and there was no question in my mind that Hall was right. There were three things that stood out to me in this poem, the simplicity, the sound and the careful use of the perfect word in the perfect place. In researching I was not surprised to read this quote by Frost. "All poetry is a reproduction of the tones of actual speech." I was going to choose a line or two from this poem, but I just couldn't… It is the whole poem that rings in my ears.

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening (1923)

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake|
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

In preparing this post I read dozens and dozens of his poems which reinforced my impressions from In Stopping by Woodsand Birches, Frost was a master at simplicity, sound, placing the perfect word in the perfect position in the line.

He wrote about nature and how it influenced us. His images were audible as well as visible.

" A little Morgan had one forefoot on the wall,
The other curled at his breast. He dipped his head
And snorted at us. And then he had to bolt.
We heard the miniature thunder where he fled,
And we saw him, or thought we saw him, dim and grey,
Like a shadow against the curtain of falling flakes.
'I think the little fellow's afraid of the snow."
--------------- from The Runaway (1923)

"It is blue-butterfly day here in spring,"
---------------- from Blue-Butterfly Day (1923)

And he wrote about human relations in the simplest voice from experience of joy and pain. I thought to include several lines from various poems but instead will end with this one poem which again, I could not select a line or two. I found this very moving, very real, very painful, and very beautiful.

HOME BURIAL

He saw her from the bottom of the stairs
Before she saw him. She was starting down,
Looking back over her shoulder at some fear.
She took a doubtful step and then undid it
To raise herself and look again. He spoke
Advancing toward her: 'What is it you see
From up there always -- for I want to know.'
She turned and sank upon her skirts at that,
And her face changed from terrified to dull.
He said to gain time: 'What is it you see?'
Mounting until she cowered under him.
'I will find out now -- you must tell me, dear.'
She, in her place, refused him any help
With the least stiffening of her neck and silence.
She let him look, sure that he wouldn't see,
Blind creature; and a while he didn't see.
But at last he murmured, 'Oh' and again, 'Oh.'
'What is it -- what?' she said.
'Just that I see.'
'You don't,' she challenged. 'Tell me what it is.'
'The wonder is I didn't see at once.
I never noticed it from here before.
I must be wonted to it -- that's the reason.'
The little graveyard where my people are!
So small the window frames the whole of it.
Not so much larger than a bedroom, is it?
There are three stones of slate and one of marble,
Broad-shouldered little slabs there in the sunlight
On the sidehill. We haven't to mind those.
But I understand: it is not the stones,
But the child's mound --'
'Don't, don't, don't, don't,' she cried.
She withdrew shrinking from beneath his arm
That rested on the banister, and slid downstairs;
And turned on him with such a daunting look,
He said twice over before he knew himself:
'Can't a man speak of his own child he's lost?'
'Not you! Oh, where's my hat? Oh, I don't need it!
I must get out of here. I must get air.
I don't know rightly whether any man can.'
'Amy! Don't go to someone else this time.
Listen to me. I won't come down the stairs.'
He sat and fixed his chin between his fists.
'There's something I should like to ask you, dear.'
'You don't know how to ask it.'
'Help me, then.'
Her fingers moved the latch for all reply.
'My words are nearly always an offence.
I don't know how to speak of anything
So as to please you. But I might be taught
I should suppose. I can't say I see how,
A man must partly give up being a man
With women-folk. We could have some arrangement
By which I'd bind myself to keep hands off
Anything special you're a-mind to name.
Though I don't like such things 'twixt those that love.
Two that don't love can't live together without them.
But two that do can't live together with them.'
She moved the latch a little. 'Don't -- don't go.
Don't carry it to someone else this time.
Tell me about it if it's something human.
Let me into your grief. I'm not so much
Unlike other folks as your standing there
Apart would make me out. Give me my chance.
I do think, though, you overdo it a little.
What was it brought you up to think it the thing

To take your mother-loss of a first child
So inconsolably- in the face of love.
You'd think his memory might be satisfied --'
'There you go sneering now!'
'I'm not, I'm not!
You make me angry. I'll come down to you.
God, what a woman! And it's come to this,
A man can't speak of his own child that's dead.'
'You can't because you don't know how.
If you had any feelings, you that dug
With your own hand--how could you?--his little grave;
I saw you from that very window there,
Making the gravel leap and leap in air,
Leap up, like that, like that, and land so lightly
And roll back down the mound beside the hole.
I thought, Who is that man? I didn't know you.
And I crept down the stairs and up the stairs
To look again, and still your spade kept lifting.
Then you came in. I heard your rumbling voice
Out in the kitchen, and I don't know why,
But I went near to see with my own eyes.
You could sit there with the stains on your shoes
Of the fresh earth from your own baby's grave
And talk about your everyday concerns.
You had stood the spade up against the wall
Outside there in the entry, for I saw it.'
'I shall laugh the worst laugh I ever laughed.
I'm cursed. God, if I don't believe I'm cursed.'
I can repeat the very words you were saying ,
"Three foggy mornings and one rainy day
Will rot the best birch fence a man can build."
Think of it, talk like that at such a time!
What had how long it takes a birch to rot
To do with what was in the darkened parlour?
You couldn't care! The nearest friends can go
With anyone to death, comes so far short
They might as well not try to go at all.
No, from the time when one is sick to death,
One is alone, and he dies more alone.
Friends make pretence of following to the grave,
But before one is in it, their minds are turned
And making the best of their way back to life
And living people, and things they understand.
But the world's evil. I won't have grief so
If I can change it. Oh, I won't, I won't'
'There, you have said it all and you feel better.
You won't go now. You're crying. Close the door.
The heart's gone out of it: why keep it up?
Amyl There's someone coming down the road!'
'You --oh, you think the talk is all. I must go-
Somewhere out of this house. How can I make you --'
'If--you -- do!' She was opening the door wider.
'Where do you mean to go? First tell me that.
I'll follow and bring you back by force. I will! --'
                                          from North of Boston 1915

Among the many poets I admire, Robert Frost stands out for me as the poet that has most inspired me to sharpen my skills as a writer.

~~Tink


~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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I had posted the above at the old PMO. Frost always tops my list of favorite poets, so I thought I would post it again. I am now taking the Open Yale Course on Modern Poetry recommended by Joel, with Frost as the subject of Lecture 2 and 3 of the course.

 

On Stopping in Woods and Home Burial are already included above, two of the poems in the assigned reading for that course. Since I was looking them up for the course anyway, I include the others on the list here. It will make a nice anthology of Frost's work at this site. 

After Apple Picking from North of Boston 1914 

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing dear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.  

The Wood Pile from North of Boston 1914 

Out walking in the frozen swamp one gray day,
I paused and said, "I will turn back from here.
No, I will go on farther--and we shall see."
The hard snow held me, save where now and then
One foot went through. The view was all in lines
Straight up and down of tall slim trees
Too much alike to mark or name a place by
So as to say for certain I was here
Or somewhere else: I was just far from home.
A small bird flew before me. He was careful
To put a tree between us when he lighted,
And say no word to tell me who he was
Who was so foolish as to think what he thought.
He thought that I was after him for a feather--
The white one in his tail; like one who takes
Everything said as personal to himself.
\One flight out sideways would have undeceived him.
And then there was a pile of wood for which
I forgot him and let his little fear
Carry him off the way I might have gone,
Without so much as wishing him good-night.
He went behind it to make his last stand.


~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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The Need of Being Versed in Country Things from New Hampshire 1923

 

The house had gone to bring again

To the midnight sky a sunset glow.

Now the chimney was all of the house that stood,

Like a pistil after the petals go.

The barn opposed across the way,

That would have joined the house in flame

Had it been the will of the wind, was left

To bear forsaken the place's name.

No more it opened with all one end

For teams that came by the stony road

To drum on the floor with scurrying hoofs

And brush the mow with the summer load.

The birds that came to it through the air

At broken windows flew out and in,

Their murmur more like the sigh we sigh

From too much dwelling on what has been.

Yet for them the lilac renewed its leaf,

And the aged elm, though touched with fire;

And the dry pump flung up an awkward arm;

And the fence post carried a strand of wire.

For them there was really nothing sad.

But though they rejoiced in the nest they kept,

One had to be versed in country things

Not to believe the phoebes wept.

Putting in the Seed from Mountain Interval 1916

 

You come to fetch me from my work to-night

When supper's on the table, and we'll see

If I can leave off burying the white

Soft petals fallen from the apple tree

(Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,

Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea);

And go along with you ere you lose sight

Of what you came for and become like me,

Slave to a Springtime passion for the earth.

How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed

On through the watching for that early birth

When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,

The sturdy seedling with arched body comes

Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.

Birches from New Hampshire 1923

 

When I see birches bend to left and right

Across the lines of straighter darker trees,

I like to think some boy's been swinging them.

But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay

As ice storms do. Often you must have seen them 5

Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning

After a rain. They click upon themselves

As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored

As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.

Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells 10

Shattering and avalanching on the snow crust--

Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away

You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.

They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,

And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed 15

So low for long, they never right themselves:

You may see their trunks arching in the woods

Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground

Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair

Before them over their heads to dry in the sun. 20

But I was going to say when Truth broke in

With all her matter of fact about the ice storm,

I should prefer to have some boy bend them

As he went out and in to fetch the cows--

Some boy too far from town to learn baseball, 25

Whose only play was what he found himself,

Summer or winter, and could play alone.

One by one he subdued his father's trees

By riding them down over and over again

Until he took the stiffness out of them, 30

And not one but hung limp, not one was left

For him to conquer. He learned all there was

To learn about not launching out too soon

And so not carrying the tree away

Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise 35

To the top branches, climbing carefully

With the same pains you use to fill a cup

Up to the brim, and even above the brim.

Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,

Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.

So was I once myself a swinger of birches.

And so I dream of going back to be.

It's when I'm weary of considerations,

And life is too much like a pathless wood

Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs

Broken across it, and one eye is weeping

From a twig's having lashed across it open.

I'd like to get away from earth awhile

And then come back to it and begin over.

May not fate willfully misunderstand me

And half grant what I wish and snatch me away

Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:

I don't know where it's likely to go better.

I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,

And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk

Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,

But dipped its top and set me down again.

That would be good both going and coming back.

One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

 

 

The Pasture from A Boy's Life 1913

I'm going out to clean the pasture spring;

I'll only stop to rake the leaves away

(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):

I shan't be gone long. -- You come too.

I'm going out to fetch the little calf

That's standing by the mother. It's so young,

It totters when she licks it with her tongue.

I shan't be gone long. -- You come too.


~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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Into My Own from A Boy's Life 1913 (A Couplets Sonnet)

 

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.

 

I should not be withheld but that some day

Into their vastness I should steal away,

Fearless of ever finding open land,

Or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.

 

I do not see why I should e'er turn back,

Or those should not set forth upon my track

To overtake me, who should miss me here

And long to know if still I held them dear.

 

They would not find me changed from him they knew--

Only more sure of all I thought was true.

 

Mowing from A Boy's Life 1913

 

There was never a sound beside the wood but one,

And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.

What was it it whispered? I knew not well myself;

Perhaps it was something about the heat of the sun,

Something, perhaps, about the lack of sound--

And that was why it whispered and did not speak.

It was no dream of the gift of idle hours,

Or easy gold at the hand of fay or elf:

Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak

To the earnest love that laid the swale in rows,

Not without feeble-pointed spikes of flowers

(Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake.

The fact is the sweetest dream that labour knows.

My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.

 

The Tuft of Flowers from a Boy's Life 1913

 

I went to turn the grass once after one

Who mowed it in the dew before the sun.

 

The dew was gone that made his blade so keen

Before I came to view the leveled scene.

 

I looked for him behind an isle of trees;

I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.

 

But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,

And I must be, as he had been--alone,

 

"As all must be," I said within my heart,

"Whether they work together or apart."

 

But as I said it, swift there passed me by

On noiseless wing a bewildered butterfly,

 

Seeking with memories grown dim o'er night

Some resting flower of yesterday's delight.

 

And once I marked his flight go round and round,

As where some flower lay withering on the ground.

 

And then he flew as far as eye could see,

And then on tremulous wing came back to me.

 

I thought of questions that have no reply,

And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;

 

But he turned first, and led my eye to look

At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook,

 

A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared

Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared.

 

The mower in the dew had loved them thus,

By leaving them to flourish, not for us,

 

Nor yet to draw one though of ours to him,

But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.

 

The butterfly and I had lit upon,

Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,

 

That made me hear the wakening birds around,

And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground,

 

And feel a spirit kindred to my own;

So that henceforth I worked no more alone;

 

But glad with him, I worked as with his aid,

And weary, sought at noon with him the shade;

 

And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech

With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach.

 

"Men work together," I told him from the heart,

"Whether they work together or apart.

 

Death of the Hired Man from a Norht of Boston 1914

 

Mary sat musing on the lamp-flame at the table

Waiting for Warren. When she heard his step,

She ran on tip-toe down the darkened passage

To meet him in the doorway with the news

And put him on his guard. "Silas is back."

She pushed him outward with her through the door

And shut it after her. "Be kind," she said.

She took the market things from Warren's arms

And set them on the porch, then drew him down

To sit beside her on the wooden steps.

 

"When was I ever anything but kind to him?

But I'll not have the fellow back," he said.

"I told him so last haying, didn't I?

'If he left then,' I said, 'that ended it.'

What good is he? Who else will harbour him

At his age for the little he can do?

What help he is there's no depending on.

Off he goes always when I need him most.

'He thinks he ought to earn a little pay,

Enough at least to buy tobacco with,

So he won't have to beg and be beholden.'

'All right,' I say, 'I can't afford to pay

Any fixed wages, though I wish I could.'

'Someone else can.' 'Then someone else will have to.'

I shouldn't mind his bettering himself

If that was what it was. You can be certain,

When he begins like that, there's someone at him

Trying to coax him off with pocket-money,--

In haying time, when any help is scarce.

In winter he comes back to us. I'm done."

 

"Sh! not so loud: he'll hear you," Mary said.

 

"I want him to: he'll have to soon or late."

 

"He's worn out. He's asleep beside the stove.

When I came up from Rowe's I found him here,

Huddled against the barn-door fast asleep,

A miserable sight, and frightening, too--

You needn't smile--I didn't recognise him--

I wasn't looking for him--and he's changed.

Wait till you see."

 

------- "Where did you say he'd been?"

 

"He didn't say. I dragged him to the house,

And gave him tea and tried to make him smoke.

I tried to make him talk about his travels.

Nothing would do: he just kept nodding off."

 

"What did he say? Did he say anything?"

 

"But little."

 

------ "Anything? Mary, confess

He said he'd come to ditch the meadow for me."

 

"Warren!"

 

------- "But did he? I just want to know."

 

"Of course he did. What would you have him say?

Surely you wouldn't grudge the poor old man

Some humble way to save his self-respect.

He added, if you really care to know,

He meant to clear the upper pasture, too.

That sounds like something you have heard before?

Warren, I wish you could have heard the way

He jumbled everything. I stopped to look

Two or three times--he made me feel so queer--

To see if he was talking in his sleep.

He ran on Harold Wilson--you remember--

The boy you had in haying four years since.

He's finished school, and teaching in his college.

Silas declares you'll have to get him back.

He says they two will make a team for work:

Between them they will lay this farm as smooth!

The way he mixed that in with other things.

He thinks young Wilson a likely lad, though daft

On education--you know how they fought

All through July under the blazing sun,

Silas up on the cart to build the load,

Harold along beside to pitch it on."

 

"Yes, I took care to keep well out of earshot."

 

"Well, those days trouble Silas like a dream.

You wouldn't think they would. How some things linger!

Harold's young college boy's assurance piqued him.

After so many years he still keeps finding

Good arguments he sees he might have used.

I sympathise. I know just how it feels

To think of the right thing to say too late.

Harold's associated in his mind with Latin.

He asked me what I thought of Harold's saying

He studied Latin like the violin

Because he liked it--that an argument!

He said he couldn't make the boy believe

He could find water with a hazel prong--

Which showed how much good school had ever done him.

He wanted to go over that. But most of all

He thinks if he could have another chance

To teach him how to build a load of hay----"

 

"I know, that's Silas' one accomplishment.

He bundles every forkful in its place,

And tags and numbers it for future reference,

So he can find and easily dislodge it

In the unloading. Silas does that well.

He takes it out in bunches like big birds' nests.

You never see him standing on the hay

He's trying to lift, straining to lift himself."

 

"He thinks if he could teach him that, he'd be

Some good perhaps to someone in the world.

He hates to see a boy the fool of books.

Poor Silas, so concerned for other folk,

And nothing to look backward to with pride,

And nothing to look forward to with hope,

So now and never any different."

 

Part of a moon was falling down the west,

Dragging the whole sky with it to the hills.

Its light poured softly in her lap. She saw

And spread her apron to it. She put out her hand

Among the harp-like morning-glory strings,

Taut with the dew from garden bed to eaves,

As if she played unheard the tenderness

That wrought on him beside her in the night.

"Warren," she said, "he has come home to die:

You needn't be afraid he'll leave you this time."

 

"Home," he mocked gently.

 

------- "Yes, what else but home?

It all depends on what you mean by home.

Of course he's nothing to us, any more

Than was the hound that came a stranger to us

Out of the woods, worn out upon the trail."

 

"Home is the place where, when you have to go there,

They have to take you in."

 

------- "I should have called it

Something you somehow haven't to deserve."

 

Warren leaned out and took a step or two,

Picked up a little stick, and brought it back

And broke it in his hand and tossed it by.

"Silas has better claim on us you think

Than on his brother? Thirteen little miles

As the road winds would bring him to his door.

Silas has walked that far no doubt to-day.

Why didn't he go there? His brother's rich,

A somebody--director in the bank."

 

"He never told us that."

 

------- "We know it though."

 

"I think his brother ought to help, of course.

I'll see to that if there is need. He ought of right

To take him in, and might be willing to--

He may be better than appearances.

But have some pity on Silas. Do you think

If he'd had any pride in claiming kin

Or anything he looked for from his brother,

He'd keep so still about him all this time?"

 

"I wonder what's between them."

 

------- "I can tell you.

Silas is what he is--we wouldn't mind him--

But just the kind that kinsfolk can't abide.

He never did a thing so very bad.

He don't know why he isn't quite as good

As anyone. He won't be made ashamed

To please his brother, worthless though he is."

 

"I can't think Si ever hurt anyone."

 

"No, but he hurt my heart the way he lay

And rolled his old head on that sharp-edged chair-back.

He wouldn't let me put him on the lounge.

You must go in and see what you can do.

I made the bed up for him there to-night.

You'll be surprised at him--how much he's broken.

His working days are done; I'm sure of it."

 

"I'd not be in a hurry to say that."

 

"I haven't been. Go, look, see for yourself.

But, Warren, please remember how it is:

He's come to help you ditch the meadow.

He has a plan. You mustn't laugh at him.

He may not speak of it, and then he may.

I'll sit and see if that small sailing cloud

Will hit or miss the moon."

 

------- It hit the moon.

Then there were three there, making a dim row,

The moon, the little silver cloud, and she.

 

Warren returned--too soon, it seemed to her,

Slipped to her side, caught up her hand and waited.

 

"Warren," she questioned.

 

------- "Dead," was all he answered.


~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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Tinker

The Oven Bird from Mountain Interval

 

There is a singer everyone has heard,

Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,

Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.

He says that leaves are old and that for flowers

Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.

he says the early petal-fall is past

When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers

On sunny days a moment overcast;

And comes that other fall we name the fall.

He says the highway dust is over all.

The bird would cease and be as other birds

But that he knows in singing not to sing.

The question that he frames in all but words

Is what to make of a diminished thing.

 

For Once, Then, Something from New Hampshire

 

Others taught me with having knelt at well-curbs

Always wrong to the light, so never seeing

Deeper down in the well than where the water

Gives me back in a shining surface picture

Me myself in the summer heaven godlike

Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.

Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,

I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,

Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,

Something more of the depths--and then I lost it.

Water came to rebuke the too clear water.

One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple

Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,

Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?

Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.

 

The Silken Tent from The Witness Tree 1942

 

She is as in a field a silken tent

At midday when a sunny summer breeze

Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent

So that in guys it gently sways at ease

And its supporting central cedar pole,

That is its pinnacle to heavenward

And signifies the sureness of the soul,

Seems to owe naught to any single cord,

But strictly held by none, is loosely bound

By countless silken ties of love and thought

To everyone on earth the compass round,

And only by one’s going slightly taut

In the capriciousness of summer air

Is of the slightest bondage made aware.

 

Never Again Would a Birdsong be the Same from The Witness Tree 1942

 

He would declare and could himself believe

That the birds there in all the garden round

From having heard the daylong voice of Eve

Had added to their own an oversound,

Her tone of meaning but without the words.

Admittedly an eloquence so soft

Could only have had an influence on birds

When call or laughter carried it aloft.

Be that as may be, she was in their song.

Moreover her voice upon their voices crossed

Had now persisted in the woods so long

That probably it never would be lost.

Never again would birds' song be the same.

And to do that to birds was why she came.

 

The Most of It from The Witness Tree 1942

 

He thought he kept the universe alone;

For all the voice in answer he could wake

Was but the mocking echo of his own

From some tree-hidden cliff across the lake.

Some morning from the boulder-broken beach

He would cry out on life, that what it wants

Is not its own love back in copy speech,

But counter-love original response.

And nothing ever came of what he cried

Unless it was the embodiment that crashed

In the cliff’s talus on the other side,

And then in the far-distant water splashed,

But after a time allowed for it to swim,

Instead of proving human when it neared

And someone else additional to him,

As a great buck it powerfully appeared,

Pushing the crumpled water up ahead,

And landed pouring like a waterfall,

And stumbled through the rocks with horny tread,

And forced the underbrush---and that was all.

 

Fire and Ice from the New Hampshire 1923

 

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I've tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice.

 

Acquainted With the Night from a Further Range 1936 (Sheakespearean sonnet)

 

I have been one acquainted with the night.

I have walked out in rain --and back in rain.

I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.

I have passed by the watchman on his beat

And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet

When far away an interrupted cry

Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;

And further still at an unearthly height

One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.

I have been one acquainted with the night.

 

 

Desert Places from a Further Range 1936

 

Snow falling the night falling fast, oh, fast

In a field I looked into going past,

And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,

But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

 

The woods around it have it—it is theirs.

All animals are smothered in their lairs.

I am too absent spirited to count;

The loneliness includes me unawares.

 

And lonely as it is that loneliness

Will be more lonely ere it will be less--

A lanker whiteness of benighted snow

With no expression, nothing to express.

 

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces

Between stars—on stars where no human race is.

I have it in me so much nearer home

To scare myself with my own desert places.

 

Neither Out Far Nor In Deep from Further Range 1936

 

The people along the sand

All turn and look one way.

They turn their back on the land.

They look at the sea all day.

 

As long as it takes to pass

A ship keeps raising its hull;

The wetter ground like glass

Reflects a standing gull

 

The land may vary more;

But wherever the truth may be--

The water comes ashore,

And the people look at the sea.

 

They cannot look out far.

They cannot look in deep.

Btu when was that ever a bar

To any watch they keep?

 

Provide, Provide from a Further Range 1936

 

To wash the steps with pail and rag,

Was once the beauty Abishag,

 

The picture pride of Hollywood.

Too many fall from great and good

For you to doubt the likelihood.

 

Die early and avoid the fate.

Or if predestined to die late,

Make up your mind to die in state.

 

Make the whole stock exchange your own!

If need be occupy a throne,

Where nobody can call you crone.

 

Some have relied on what they knew;

Others on simply being true.

What worked for them might work for you.

 

No memory of having starred

Atones for later disregard,

Or keeps the end from being hard.

 

Better to go down dignified

With boughten friendship at your side

Than none at all. Provide, provide!

The Gift Outright from The Witness Tree 1942

 

The land was ours before we were the land’s.

She was our land more than a hundred years

Before we were her people. She was ours

In Massachusetts, in Virginia,

But we were England’s, still colonials,

Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,

Possessed by what we now no more possessed.

Something we were withholding made us weak

Until we found out that it was ourselves

We were withholding from our land of living,

And forthwith found salvation in surrender.

Such as we were we gave ourselves outright

(the deed of gift was many deeds of war)

to the land vaguely realized westward,

but still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,

such as she was, such as she would become.

 

Directive from Steeple Bush 1947

 

Back out of all this now too much for us,

Back in a time made simple by the loss

Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off

Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,

There is a house that is no more a house

Upon a farm that is no more a farm

And in a town that is no more a town.

The road there, if you’ll let a guide direct you

Who only has at heart your getting lost,

May seem as if it should have been a quarry—

Great monolithic knees the former town

Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.

And there’s a story in a book about it:

Besides the wear of iron wagon wheels

The ledges show lines ruled southeast-northwest,

The chisel work of an enormous Glacier

That braced his feet against the Arctic Pole.

You must not mind a certain coolness from him

Still said to haunt this side of Panther Mountain.

Nor need you mind the serial ordeal

Of being watched from forty cellar holes

As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins.

As for the woods’ excitement over you

That sends light rustle rushes to their leaves,

Charge that to upstart inexperience.

Where were they all not twenty years ago?

They think too much of having shaded out

A few old pecker-fretted apple trees.

Make yourself up a cheering song of how

Someone’s road home from work this once was,

Who may be just ahead of you on foot

Or creaking with a buggy load of grain.

The height of the adventure is the height

Of country where two village cultures faded

Into each other. Both of them are lost.

And if you’re lost enough to find yourself

By now, pull in your ladder road behind you

And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.

Then make yourself at home. The only field

Now left’s no bigger than a harness gall.

First there’s the children’s house of make-believe,

Some shattered dishes underneath a pine,

The playthings in the playhouse of the children.

Weep for what little things could make them glad.

Then for the house that is no more a house,

But only a belilaced cellar hole,

Now slowly closing like a dent in dough.

This was no playhouse but a house in earnest.

Your destination and your destiny’s

A brook that was the water of the house,

Cold as a spring as yet so near its source,

Too lofty and original to rage.

(We know the valley streams that when aroused

Will leave their tatters hung on barb and thorn.)

I have kept hidden in the instep arch

Of an old cedar at the waterside

A broken drinking goblet like the Grail

Under a spell so the wrong ones can’t find it,

So can’t get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn’t.

(I stole the goblet from the children’s playhouse.)

Here are your waters and your watering place.

Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.


~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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Tinker

Here is a link to listen to Robert Frost read some of his own poems.... Stopping by Woods / The Road Not Taken / Tuft of Flowers / Death of a Hired Man / Mowing / The Pasture / and After Apple Picking are a few of the poems he reads. I loved hearing where he put the inflection, where he ran on with stopping... the poems took on a new life for me. Enjoy.

 

http://town.hall.org/Archives/radio/IMS/Ha...4_harp_ITH.html

 

~~Tink


~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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tonyv

Thank you for this fantastic thread on Frost, Tinker. I have only recently developed an appreciation for Frost. Of course, I like Desert Places and Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening, but I think the one I like even more than those is Acquainted With the Night. I had not seen that one until now.

 

Such desolation is expressed in these poems ... I love it! Thank you for sharing this.

 

Tony


Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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Tinker

Hi Tony, I know many think Frost old fashioned but I connect with his work. Living in the country and having mucked a few stalls in my life time, I know Frost, I have lived Frost. He speaks my language. His pieces ring true.

 

He does write a lot of metered pieces but that gives a musical quality to the work. Robert Frost begs to be read aloud. Acquainted With the Night is a Terza Rima Sonnet, written with interlocking rhyme, and The Road Not Taken is written in Traditional Cinquains in the style of Victor Hugo, Out,-Out is blank verse, and Putting in the Seed and Oven Bird are two of his many sonnets. He is a master of form, yet his poems don't sound captive to the prescribed structure, another reason I love his poetry.

 

And to top it all off, he is a man who found a way to earn a living and support his family by being a poet.... Now to all of you poets out there, isn't that fact alone, enough to make you stand in awe of the man? icon_biggrin.png

 

~~Tink


~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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goldenlangur

Hi Tink,

 

 

I've read very little of Frost. But the thread you provide does seem fascinating and you describe his work with enthusiasm, which is quite infectious!

 

As for his earning a livelihood by his pen, well that is seriously admirable!

 

 

goldenlangur


goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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Lake

Thanks Tinker for this post. I especially like your words in appreciation of this poet.

 

When I first stated reading poetry, a teacher asked me which poet I like, I told him Robert Frost. He asked me why, I simply said it seemed I understand his poetry. It may sound very naive, but that made me a bit confident that there is some poetry I can understand. icon_smile.gif

 

I am now in the middle of reading Complete Poems of Robert Frost and enjoy it very much. As the poet said: It begins in delight and ends in wisdom.

 

Lake

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