Harry Epworth Allen (1894-1958), "The Road to the Hills"
Bond and Free
Love has earth to which she clings
With hills and circling arms about --
Wall within wall to shut fear out.
But Thought has need of no such things,
For Thought has a pair of dauntless wings.
On snow and sand and turf, I see
Where Love has left a printed trace
With straining in the world's embrace.
And such is Love and glad to be.
But Thought has shaken his ankles free.
Thought cleaves the interstellar gloom
And sits in Sirius' disc all night,
Till day makes him retrace his flight,
With smell of burning on every plume,
Back past the sun to an earthly room.
His gains in heaven are what they are.
Yet some say Love by being thrall
And simply staying possesses all
In several beauty that Thought fares far
To find fused in another star.
Robert Frost, Mountain Interval (1916).
Harry Epworth Allen, "Summer" (1940)
The question immediately arises: where do you stand on this Love versus Thought business?
I suspect that Frost comes down on the side of Love, but one can never be sure when it comes to Frost. On the one hand, he titles the poem "Bond and Free," rather than "Bond or Free," so perhaps his view is that we are fated to continually move back and forth between Love and Thought. It is not a matter of either/or.
On the other hand, the final stanza seems to come down on the side of Love: "His gains in heaven are what they are" seems to suggest that the gains don't amount to much. "Simply staying" seems to be the way to go. Or so "some say." ("Some say" is a characteristic Frostian way of hedging: "Some say the world will end in fire,/Some say in ice.")
One commentator believes that a clue may lie in Frost's placing "Bond and Free" immediately prior to "Birches" in Mountain Interval, citing these lines in "Birches" as evidence that Frost opts for Love: "Earth's the right place for love:/I don't know where it's likely to go better." John Walsh, Into My Own: The English Years of Robert Frost, 1912-1915 (Grove Press 1988), page 250.
But, then again, the final lines of "Birches" suggest the back and forth of "Bond and Free":
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
Robert Frost, Ibid (italics in original).
Yes, of course: "Toward heaven." Which fits quite well with: "His gains in heaven are what they are." (Whatever that means!) Typical Frost: equivocal and sly.
Harry Epworth Allen, "A Derbyshire Farmstead"