robert frost | my november guest

6 10 2007

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Poetry Dispatch No. 28 | November 15, 2005

My November Guest by Robert Frost

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,
For they are better for her praise.

from Collected Poems, Prose, and Plays.© Library of America

Robert Lee Frost (March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963) was an American poet. His work frequently employed themes from the early 1900s rural life in New England, using the setting to examine complex social and philosophical themes. While Frost’s poems continue to be popularly interpreted optimistically within the frame of an idyllic pastoral life, most modern literary criticism is preoccupied with their frequently pessimistic, menacing, and disingenuous undertones. A popular and often-quoted poet, Frost was honored frequently during his lifetime, receiving four Pulitzer Prizes.

Although he is commonly associated with New England, Robert Frost was a native of California, born in San Francisco, and lived there until he was 11 years old. His mother, Isabelle Moodie Frost, was of Scottish descent; his father, William Prescott Frost, Jr., was a descendant of colonist Nicholas Frost from Tiverton, Devon, England who had sailed to New Hampshire in 1634 on the Wolfrana.

Frost’s father was a good teacher, and later an editor of the San Francisco Evening Bulletin (which was eventually merged into the San Francisco Examiner), and an unsuccessful candidate for the city tax collector. The road not taken for young Robert might have been as a Californian editor rather than a New England poet, but William Frost Jr. died May 5, 1885, debts were settled, and the family moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts where William Frost, Sr., was an overseer at a New England mill. Frost’s mother joined the Swedenborgian church and had him baptized in it, but he left it as an adult.

Despite his later association with rural life, Frost lived in the city, and published his first poem in the Lawrence high school magazine. He attended Dartmouth College, long enough to be accepted into the Theta Delta Chi fraternity. Frost returned home to teach and to work at various jobs including delivering newspapers and factory labor. He did not enjoy these jobs at all, feeling his true calling as a poet.

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life — It goes on” — Robert Frost

In 1894 he sold his first poem, “My Butterfly: An Elegy” (published in the November 8, 1894 edition of the New York Independent) for fifteen dollars. Proud of this accomplishment, he proposed marriage to Elinor Miriam White, but she refused, wanting to finish college (at St. Lawrence University) before they married. Frost then went on an excursion to the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia, and asked Elinor again upon his return. Having graduated, she agreed, and they were married in Harvard University, which he attended for two years.

He did well, but left to support his growing family. Grandfather Frost purchased a farm for the young couple in Derry, New Hampshire, shortly before his death. Frost worked on the farm for nine years. He wrote early in the mornings, producing many of the poems that would later become famous. His attempts at farming were not successful, and Frost returned to education as an English teacher at Pinkerton Academy from 1906 to 1911, then at the New Hampshire Normal School (now Plymouth State University) in Plymouth, New Hampshire.

In 1912, Frost sailed with his family to Great Britain, living first in Glasgow, before settling in Beaconsfield, outside London. His first book of poetry, A Boy’s Will, was published the next year. In England he made some important acquaintances, including Edward Thomas (a member of the group known as the Dymock Poets), T.E. Hulme, and Ezra Pound. Pound would become the first American to write a (favorable) review of Frost’s work. Surrounded by his peers, Frost wrote some of his best work while in England.

As World War I began, Frost returned to America in 1915. He bought a farm in Franconia, New Hampshire, where he launched a career of writing, teaching, and lecturing. The family homestead at Franconia, which served as his summer home until 1938, is maintained as a museum and poetry conference site. From 1916 to 1938, Frost was an English professor at Amherst College, encouraging his students to account for the sounds of the human voice in their craft. Starting in 1921, and for the next 42 years (with three exceptions), Frost spent his summers and into late fall teaching at the Bread Loaf School of English of Middlebury College in Ripton, Vermont. The college now owns and maintains Robert Frost’s farm as a national historic site near the Bread Loaf campus.

Frost was 86 when he spoke at the inauguration of President Kennedy on January 20, 1961. He died a little more than two years later, in Boston, on January 29, 1963. He was buried at the Old Bennington Cemetery in Bennington, Vermont.

Harvard’s 1965 alumni directory indicates his having received an honorary degree there; Frost also received honorary degrees from Bates College and Oxford and Cambridge universities, and he was the first to receive two honorary degrees from Dartmouth College. During his lifetime, the Robert Frost Middle School in Fairfax, Virginia, as well as the main library of Amherst College, were named after him.

Poems

  • * After Apple-Picking
  • * Acquainted With the Night
  • * An Old Man’s Winter Night
  • * Birches
  • * Choose Something Like a Star
  • * The Black Cottage
  • * Blueberries
  • * A Cow in Apple Time
  • * The Code
  • * Come In
  • * The Death of the Hired Man
  • * Departmental
  • * Desert Places
  • * Design
  • * Directive
  • * Dust of Snow
  • * The Fear
  • * Fire and Ice (1916)
  • * For Once, Then Something
  • * The Generations of Men
  • * A Girl’s Garden
  • * Good Hours
  • * Good-bye, and Keep Cold
  • * Mending Wall
  • * The Mountain
  • * Neither Out Far Nor in Deep
  • * Dedication
  • * The Gift Outright
  • * Nothing Gold Can Stay
  • * Once By The Pacific
  • * Out, Out— (1916)
  • * The Oven Bird
  • * Pan With Us
  • * The Pasture
  • * Putting in the Seed
  • * Range-Finding
  • * The Road Not Taken
  • * The Rose Family
  • * The Runaway
  • * The Self-seeker
  • * A Servant to Servants
  • * Home Burial
  • * The Sound Of The Trees
  • * Spring Pools
  • * The Star-Splitter
  • * Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
  • * To E.T.
  • * The Tuft of Flowers
  • * Two Tramps in Mud Time
  • * The Wood-Pile
  • * Stars
  • * My November Guest
  • * Ghost House
  • * Tree At My Window
  • * What Fifty Said
  • * The Road That Lost its Reason
  • * Lure Of The West
  • * War Thoughts At Home

Poetry Collections

  • *North of Boston (David Nutt, 1914; Holt, 1914)
  • o ‘Mending Wall’
  • * Mountain Interval (Holt, 1916)
  • o The Road Not Taken
  • * Selected Poems (Holt, 1923)
  • o Includes poems from first three volumes and the poem The Runaway
  • * New Hampshire (Holt, 1923; Grant Richards, 1924)
  • * Several Short Poems (Holt, 1924)
  • o Several Short Poems (Holt, 1924)
  • * Selected Poems (Holt, 1928)
  • o -this seems to be a 2nd edition of the 1923 publication; cannot verify
  • * West-Running Brook (Holt, 1928? 1929)
  • * The Lovely Shall Be Choosers (Random House, 1929)
  • * Collected Poems of Robert Frost (Holt, 1930; Longmans, Green, 1930)
  • * The Lone Striker (Knopf, 1933)
  • * Selected Poems: Third Edition (Holt, 1934)
  • * Three Poems (Baker Library, Dartmouth College, 1935)
  • * The Gold Hesperidee (Bibliophile Press, 1935)
  • * From Snow to Snow (Holt, 1936)
  • * A Further Range (Holt, 1936; Cape, 1937)
  • * Collected Poems of Robert Frost (Holt, 1939; Longmans, Green, 1939)
  • * A Witness Tree (Holt, 1942; Cape, 1943)
  • * Come In, and Other Poems (1943)
  • * Steeple Bush (Holt, 1947)
  • * Complete Poems of Robert Frost]], 1949 (Holt, 1949; Cape, 1951)
  • * Hard Not To Be King (House of Books, 1951)
  • * Aforesaid (Holt, 1954)
  • * A Remembrance Collection of New Poems (Holt, 1959)
  • * You Come Too (Holt, 1959; Bodley Head, 1964)
  • * In the Clearing (Holt Rinehart & Winston, 1962)
  • * The Poetry of Robert Frost (New York, 1969)
  • * A Further Range (published as Further Range in 1926, as New Poems by Holt, 1936; Cape, 1937)
  • * Nothing Gold Can Stay
  • * What Fifty Said
  • * Fire And Ice
  • * A Drumlin Woodchuck

Plays

  • * A Way Out: A One Act Play (Harbor Press, 1929).
  • * The Cow’s in the Corn: A One Act Irish Play in Rhyme (Slide Mountain Press, 1929).
  • * A Masque of Reason (Holt, 1945).
  • * A Masque of Mercy (Holt, 1947).

Prose

  • * The Letters of Robert Frost to Louis Untermeyer (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1963; Cape, 1964).
  • * Robert Frost and John Bartlett: The Record of a Friendship, by Margaret Bartlett Anderson (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1963).
  • * Selected Letters of Robert Frost (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1964).
  • * Interviews with Robert Frost (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1966; Cape, 1967).
  • * Family Letters of Robert and Elinor Frost (State University of New York Press, 1972).
  • * Robert Frost and Sidney Cox: Forty Years of Friendship (University Press of New England, 1981).
  • * The Notebooks of Robert Frost, edited by Robert Faggen (Harvard University Press, January 2007)
  • Published as
  • * Collected Poems, Prose and Plays (Richard Poirier , ed.) (Library of America, 1995) ISBN 978-1-88301106-2.

Pulitzer Prizes

  • * 1924 for New Hampshire: A Poem With Notes and Grace Notes
  • * 1931 for Collected Poems
  • * 1937 for A Further Range
  • * 1943 for A Witness Tree

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