Friday, April 18, 2014

An American Poet

The Poetry of Robert Frost
- an introductory note

My introduction to the poetry of Robert Frost came in  a class in American Literature which was the focus of my Junior year of high school English.  It is there that I began to truly enjoy poetry while reading the major American poets like Bryant, Emerson, Robinson, Masters, Lindsay and others.  My favorite was Emily Dickinson, but it was in that class that I also began to appreciate another truly American poet, Robert Frost.  Imagine my surprise upon reading his biography and learning that his first collection of poetry, A Boy's Will, was first published in England.  Ezra Pound (who I had not discovered yet) read a pre-release copy of the book and proclaimed (to Harriet Monroe); "Have just discovered another Amur'k'n.  VURRY Amur'k'n with, I think, the seeds of grace."

The seeds of grace--while I did not have that opinion I began to realize, at least in a superficial way, the importance of the best of the poetry of Robert Frost in that class almost fifty years ago.  Currently I have begun to reread both in depth and more broadly through his poetry in an attempt to add more understanding to my enjoyment of his verse.  I hope to share some of my thoughts in the near future.  In the meantime here is one of the poems that impressed Ezra Pound and others back in 1913.  The poem's persistent exhibition of onomatopoeia is almost mesmerizing. The internal rhymes and constant alliteration seems to bring out the very sounds of mowing.


There was never a sound beside the wood but one,
And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.
What was it it whispered? I knew not well myself;
Perhaps it was something about the heat of the sun,
Something, perhaps, about the lack of sound—
And that was why it whispered and did not speak.
It was no dream of the gift of idle hours,
Or easy gold at the hand of fay or elf:
Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak
To the earnest love that laid the swale in rows,
Not without feeble-pointed spikes of flowers
(Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake.
The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.
My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.

-  Robert Frost  (from A Boy's Will, 1915)


Brian Joseph said...

I love Frost.

A few years ago I did something similar to what you are doing. I read or read many of his works very slowly over time with the intention of comprehending as well as feeling.

I really like Mowing. It is a great choice to post.

I like forward to your upcoming entries.

James said...

Glad you share a love for the poetry of Frost. My immersion in Frost's poetry is focused on a weekend retreat sponsored by the University of Chicago that will include lectures and small group discussion sections.
I hope to gather further thoughts about some of the poems I read for this weekend.