April 14, 2011

Poet for April 14, 2011 - Robert Frost

Robert Frost is considered to be one of the, if not the, popular poets of the 20th century, regarded highly by critics and readers alike, with even a few instances of lines from his poems being quoted by people who have no interest at all in poetry even! (Never mind my observation that the lines they quote "Miles to go before I sleep" are quoted usually without knowing that in the context of those lines in the poem, Frost was talking about death. Sleep is not literally sleep but metaphorically refers to the final sleep. But time and again I see people use the lines to indicate they are having a full busy day and there are "miles to go" before they literally sleep! But on that note, though I'll be sharing the poem further below, perhaps this is a good time to provide this link to a page the the Univ. of Illinois English Department's wonderful website for Modern American Poetry that further elucidates the poem.)

I was traveling back from Europe yesterday and did not find to post this then and so, am updating this post on April 15th actually (though dating it for yesterday)..... so, without further delays, I'll lead you down the road to two of Frost's most famous poems.

Robert Frost (Born: March 26 1874, San Francisco, CA - Died: January 29 1963, Boston, MA)

First up, the aforementioned poem...  perhaps his most famous poem....

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost

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.  
And next up... another popular poem, with again, a last line - "Good fences make good neighbors" - which is often quoted in many places by people who may or may not have much interest in poetry. Here's the page about the poem at the Univ of Illinois site.

Mending Wall
by Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,   
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,   
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;   
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.   
The work of hunters is another thing:           
I have come after them and made repair   
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,   
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,   
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,   
No one has seen them made or heard them made,           
But at spring mending-time we find them there.   
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;   
And on a day we meet to walk the line   
And set the wall between us once again.   
We keep the wall between us as we go.           
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.   
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls   
We have to use a spell to make them balance:   
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”   
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.           
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,   
One on a side. It comes to little more:   
There where it is we do not need the wall:   
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.   
My apple trees will never get across           
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.   
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”   
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder   
If I could put a notion in his head:   
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it           
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.   
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know   
What I was walling in or walling out,   
And to whom I was like to give offence.   
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,           
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,   
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather   
He said it for himself. I see him there   
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top   
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.           
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,   
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.   
He will not go behind his father’s saying,   
And he likes having thought of it so well   
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

Actually, since I am a day late, here's a bonus. Instead of the promised two poems.. here's a third - Yet another very popular Robert Frost poem with lines that people quote often!
The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

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.
Also a link to the Univ of Illinois page about the import of this lovely poem, plus some interesting discussion around what the final line means.

 Note: I was initially tempted to NOT mention any of the above three poems as they are already very popular and instead to find some other less-famous but very good poems by Frost but I lack the time right now to dig deeper into his vast (and often intimidating - initimidating only because of how vast it is) oeuvre. So, instead, I've posted 3 of his most famous poems here and I'll leave you with a link to much more of Frost's poetry, thanks to the lovely Bartleby website.

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