Friday, November 19, 2010

"My November Guest"

I am of two minds about Robert Frost.  On the one hand, he drives me nuts when he dons his too-clever-by-half New England sage hat.  (Randall Jarrell -- who greatly admired Frost's poetry -- called this side of Frost the "Yankee Editorialist.")  On the other hand, there are the indispensable poems.  The classics, of course:  "The Road Not Taken," "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," "Birches," "After Apple-Picking."  But there are many others.  For instance:  "Neither Out Far Nor In Deep," "Desert Places," "Into My Own," "An Old Man's Winter Night," "Come In."

And, beyond the poetry and the personality, we should be grateful for Frost's friendship with Edward Thomas, and for his pushing of Thomas to begin writing poetry.  I continue to find the meeting of those two remarkable characters at that time and in that place to be something of a miracle.  I am aware that there is a danger of over-romanticizing their friendship, but I still shake my head in wonder that those two found each other.

Thus, for November, and in honor of Robert Frost:

            My November Guest

My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
   Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
   She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
   She talks and I am fain to list:
She's glad the birds are gone away,
She's glad her simple worsted gray
   Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
   The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
   And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
   The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
   And they are better for her praise.

Robert Frost, A Boy's Will (1913).

                       Eero Jarnefelt, "Lake Shore with Reeds" (1905)


Tim Kendall said...

I think that the 'New England Sage' tends to creep into later books, which have fewer great poems. He starts to make an appearance in Frost's fourth volume, New Hampshire. But I can forgive that book everything, because it contains 'The Witch of Coos'.

Stephen Pentz said...

Thank you, Tim. It is always a pleasure to hear from you.

I hope that I don't sound too harsh about Frost. Just as you can forgive 'New Hampshire' everything for 'The Witch of Coos,' I (as is no doubt true of many of us) forgive Frost for everything else because of the great poems he gave us.

Thanks again, Tim.