If there are any poems I can remember studying in school, they are “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, ” “The Road Not Taken”and “Mending Wall, ” all by Robert Frost (1874-1963). While Walt Whitman has been called “American’s Poet, ” Frost has been called America’s most beloved poet.
For National Poetry Month, here are three poems by Robert Frost.
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 clear.
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.
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.
Age saw two quiet children
Go loving by at twilight,
He knew not whether homeward,
Or outward from the village,
Or (chimes were ringing) churchward,
He waited (they were strangers)
Till they were out of hearing
To bid them both be happy.
“Be happy, happy, happy,
And seize the day of pleasure.”
The age-long theme is Age’s.
‘Twas Age imposed on poems
Their gather-roses burden
To warn against the danger
That overtaken lovers
From being overflooded
With happiness should have it.
And yet not know they have it.
But bid life seize the present?
It lives less in the present
Than in the future always,
And less in both together
Than in the past. The present
Is too much for the senses,
Too crowding, too confusing—
Too present to imagine.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
An audio recording of Robert Frost reading “The Road Not Taken.”
The full text of “The Death of the Hired Man.” I would have included it here (it’s a personal favorite) but it is a very long poem.
How Frost became the first poet to read at a presidential inauguration (1961). (It likely helped that Frost was one of the earliest voices to predict John F. Kennedy would be elected President.)
“A Close Look at Robert Frost, ” essay by John Hollander, former chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Postings and News Updates:
Rae Armantrout won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry yesterday for her 10th book of poems, “Versed.”
The Poem A Day for Monday from the Academy of American Poets was “Postcard to I. Kaminsky from a Dream at the Edge of the Sea” by Cecilia Woloch, taken from her book of poems entitled Carpathia.
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