I listened to another in The Voice of the Poet series, this time on Robert Frost’s work.At a mere ten years old I remember being impressed when John F. Kennedy requested 85-year-old Robert Frost read a poem during his Presidential inauguration, whichby the way this was the first time poetry was part of that traditional ceremony. This was my first experience of poetry outside the antiquated brick walls of my elementary school building. Apparently Frost had intended to recite two poems but the copy of a new poem “Dedication” was difficult to read, so Frost recited “The Gift Outright” from memory.
Frost’s poetry is generally known his New England country charm. Many of his works address loss, limitation, loneliness, desolation, and extinction. Some works were happy, such as “The Objection of Being Stepped On”, which is the story about a hoe. Some poems such as “The Witch of Coos” are as scary as pieces by Edgar Allan Poe.
Frost demanded his poetry be formed from the actual rhythms and tones of colloquial speech as opposed to what he termed the “musicality” of Victorian verse. Having said that, many of his works have a cadence, and tonality, and a similarity in sound on the ear that reminds me of the traditional sing-song sounds of less modern works.
I’m surprised at how much I already know of Frost’s poetry. While I never was one to memorize poetry, I do remember a line from here and there. Some examples include
- He only says ‘Good fences make good neighbors’
(from “Mending Wall”)
- Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
(from “The Road Not Taken”)
- My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
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.
(from “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”)
“The Death of the Hired Man” was a very different poem from the others. The text are like an ordinary conversation between a husband and wife, in a surprising piece about minor irritations and fundamental humanity.
I laughed at the universality of the shortest poem, “Forgive O Lord”, which I’ve repeated here:
- Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee
And I’ll forgive They great big one on me.
It’s not surprising that Robert Frost received four Pulitzer Prizes for his work.