Posts filed under ‘Robert Frost’

My November Guest

Robert Frost


My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.

It’s that time of the year in Philadelphia. Every time I step out of my apartment I’m reminded of this Frost poem, seeing the wet misery of the trees, the damp carpet of leaves underfoot, the gentle melancholy of the scene. It’s a time of year that cries out for a poem that celebrates “the love of bare November days / Before the coming of the snow” and I can’t think of one more evocative than this.


November 16, 2007 at 1:30 pm 1 comment

A Prayer in Spring

Robert Frost

Listen (to Hoon read)

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

Hoon has set this poem to a fugue on guitar by Handel.

Hoon writes,

The poem progresses from considering an orchard,
whose blossoms metamorphize from nothing else, to ghosts, to a swarm of bees,
until suddenly a humming bird appears;
and then pronounces that all these small wonders are an expression of God’s love,
as though we still lived in Eden.

In his poetic essay, The Figure a Poem Makes, Frost writes that:

The artist must value himself as he snatches a thing
from some previous order in time and space into a new order
with not so much as a ligature clinging to it of the old place where it
was organic.

So it should not seem too farfetched to suggest that the poem,
with its emphasis on taking pleasure in the moment,
and the small things of the moment,
appears to be inspired by the Sermon on the Mount:

Therefore … do not worry about your life
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns;

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;
and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.


April 25, 2007 at 6:22 pm 1 comment

To the Thawing Wind

Robert Frost

Listen (to Hoon read)

Come with rain, O loud Southwester!
Bring the singer, bring the nester;
Give the buried flower a dream;
Make the settled snow-bank steam;
Find the brown beneath the white;
But whate’er you do to-night,
Bathe my window, make it flow,
Melt it as the ices go;
Melt the glass and leave the sticks
Like a hermit’s crucifix;
Burst into my narrow stall;
Swing the picture on the wall;
Run the rattling pages o’er;
Scatter poems on the floor;
Turn the poet out of door.

Hoon writes,

‘One of the many short sweet lyrics in Frost’s first book, A Boy’s Will (1913).
(Frost was 39 at the time.)
Short lines, tetrameter, couplets,
till the end where a triplet of identical rhymes completes the piece,
as a whole it might be taken as the hallmark of a mere rhymer, but note,
as the poem progresses from stream-bank, to window, to room,
the movement from stream to window is graced by a quick metaphor
that compares the window’s glass to a sheet of ice,
which the speaker hopes will melt,
leaving the frame, like a hermit’s crucifix;
which slyly brings in the theme of the artist’s isolation,
which is not simply seasonal.’

Updated : The Kubla Khan post has been updated with Hoon’s reading and commentary.


April 20, 2007 at 7:42 pm 1 comment

Acquainted with the Night

Robert Frost


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.

See the Minstrels commentary here.

For form freaks: As the comments point out, this is a terza rima, but a pretty special one, not only because it's also a 14 line sonnet, but because it also (in a move faintly reminiscent of villanelles?), makes its first line its last. All in all, a stunning poem.

The other famous poem to use the terza rima in English (which Minstrels, amazingly, does not mention, thus giving me the opportunity to add value) is Shelley's Ode to the West Wind.

A note on the text: The Minstrels version, as well as a number of other versions I've seen on the Web, say "O luminary clock against the sky". That makes no sense, and is not how I remember it, so I'm pretty sure it's an error.

February 21, 2006 at 7:47 pm Leave a comment

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost

Listen (to Frost read)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

audio (Copyright (C) 1996 by the Library, University of California, Berkeley.)


January 24, 2006 at 12:10 am Leave a comment