Sunday, April 22, 2007

For JT and everyone else who should know these

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

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.


The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

~Robert Frost

I was telling JT about this, and I realize now that I had it backwards. When I was in 8th grade our English class had the choice to memorize one of these and everyone (and I mean everyone) chose Stopping by Woods because it was shorter by four whole lines except for me, of course, being a) a showoff and b) already regretful. When I told JT I said it was the other way around because I could remember more of Stopping by Woods but I suspect that a) I've heard both over and over through the years and b) I memorize better by hearing than by saying --thus, I know everyone else's lines in plays before my own. I also thought the slightly morbid one would have appealed to me more then. Looking at them now I think TRNT is the better poem as well, as well as understanding it even more now than I did at a callow 13 or 14. The structure is harder but the rhymes are more subtle and therefore stronger. It is so easy to fall into singsong when reciting Frost because of his excellent use of meter, but TRNT retains it's beauty and has such a conversational tone in spite of it.

Frost rises and falls in favor, and he taught at my college and New Hampshire Public TV uses his poems as time filler between shows, so it's easy for me to forget what an amazing poet he was. Through the simplest of language he explored the big questions. What more can you ask of poetry?

1 comment:

Matt said...

Wallace Stevens called Frost "the most terrifying poet of our age."

I have to concur. What a terrible genius. (in every sense of both those words)