Tag: Robert Frost

The used graveyard

Sunday, 2 November, 2014 0 Comments

Today is All Souls’ Day, an observance that dates back to the 11th century, when Odilo, Abbot of Cluny in Saône-et-Loire, decreed that all monasteries should offer prayers for the Dead on 2 November, the day after the feast of All Saints. The custom spread and was adopted throughout the Catholic Church.

A New England graveyard is no longer used because the local community has died out, but visitors still come to read the tombstones, out of curiosity. The inscriptions, however, warn those reading them that they must eventually join the dead. In this poem, Robert Frost gently mocks our unwillingness to face this fact.

In A Disused Graveyard

The living come with grassy tread
To read the gravestones on the hill;
The graveyard draws the living still,
But never anymore the dead.
The verses in it say and say:
“The ones who living come today
To read the stones and go away
Tomorrow dead will come to stay.”
So sure of death the marbles rhyme,
Yet can’t help marking all the time
How no one dead will seem to come.
What is it men are shrinking from?
It would be easy to be clever
And tell the stones: Men hate to die
And have stopped dying now forever.
I think they would believe the lie.

Robert Frost (1874 — 1963)

Graveyard


Begin the hours of this day slow

Sunday, 12 October, 2014 0 Comments

It’s a lovely October morning, filled with birdsong and yellowing leaves. A perfect morning, then, for a poem by Robert Frost. In his work, Frost steered clear of politics and religion. Nature was his mysticism and sensuality. The earth’s fertility and our relationship to the soil were central to his verse. In assessing his pastoral quality, critic M. L. Rosenthal wrote that Frost’s “lyrical and realistic repossession of the rural and ‘natural'” is the cornerstone of his enduring reputation.

October

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

Robert Frost (1874 — 1963)

October leaves


Provide, provide!

Wednesday, 7 December, 2011 0 Comments

“Infusing his speech with the type of language that has emerged in the Occupy protests, President Obama on Tuesday delivered his most pointed appeal yet for using taxes and regulations to level the economic playing field.” That’s what the New York Times tells readers in “Obama Strikes Populist Chord With Speech on G.O.P. Turf“. Typically, clownish media around the world ran with the story.

It would be no harm if the president, for once, tried to level the economic playing field by actually empowering people to provide for themselves and their families. As a politician, however, he is more interested in rhetoric than realism. Which brings us to Provide, provide! by Robert Frost. “Make the whole stock exchange your own! / If need be occupy a throne”, is the perfect couplet for the populist.

Provide, provide!

The witch that came (the withered hag)
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 being simply 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!

Robert Frost (1874 —1963)

In 1885 when Robert Frost was 11, his father died of tuberculosis, leaving the family with just $8. In 1894 he sold his first poem, “My Butterfly: An Elegy”, to the New York Independent for $15. After Frost’s mother died of cancer in 1900, he wrote poems, delivered newspapers and worked in a factory as a lightbulb filament changer to make ends meet. He provided.