My first memory of Robert Frost was at John F. Kennedy's
inauguration. The (then) 86 year old Frost was to read a poem
he penned for just this occasion, The Dedication. However, the
cold, the wind, and the glare got the better of him, so from
memory he recited The Gift Outright instead. At the time
(remember now, I was still 8 years old), I couldn't figure out
who this guy was, what he was doing, or why he was trying
to do it.
This was my first, and maybe best, lesson about the danger
of judging by first impressions.
Thirty some years ago, friend Grant had one of those large
hard bound tomes suitable for leaving on your coffee table.
Idly looking through it, I came upon Two Tramps at Mud
Time with illustrations. Robert Frost immediately went
to the top of my (very short) list of favorite poets. I have
posted the end of this poem previously, but I'm going to do
"But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes."
My second favorite Frost poem is Birches.
"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 it open.
I'd like to get away from earth for awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no 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."
There are a handful of other favorite Frost poems;
Bearer of Evil Tidings, Mending Wall, The Investment,
Revelation, The Woodpile come to mind, but let's close
this with the second half of Tuft of Flowers:
"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.
I left my place to know them by their name,
Finding them butterfly weed when I came.
The mower in the dew had loved them thus,
Leaving them to flourish, not for us,
Nor yet to draw one thought 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.'"
The good stuff.