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The Need of Being Versed in Country Things -- Robert Frost

Guest poem sent in by Deepak Singh

My first real attempt at something like this so hopefully is isn't too bad.
(Poem #170) The Need of Being Versed in Country Things
  The house had gone to bring again
  To the midnight sky a sunset glow.
  Now the chimney was all of the house that stood,
  Like a pistil after the petals go.

  The barn opposed across the way,
  That would have joined the house in flame
  Had it been the will of the wind, was left
  To bear forsaken the place's name.

  No more it opened with all one end
  For teams that came by the stony road
  To drum on the floor with scurrying hoofs
  And brush the mow with the summer load.

  The birds that came to it through the air
  At broken windows flew out and in,
  Their murmur more like the sigh we sigh
  From too much dwelling on what has been.

  Yet for them the lilac renewed its leaf,
  And the aged elm, though touched with fire;
  And the dry pump flung up an awkward arm:
  And the fence post carried a strand of wire.

  For them there was really nothing sad.
  But though they rejoiced in the nest they kept,
  One had to be versed in country things
  Not to believe the phoebes wept.
-- Robert Frost
Commentary and Remarks:

Robert Frost (1874-1963) does not need much of an introduction.  A born and
bred New Englander he won the Pulitzer 4 times and was the first poet to
ever read poetry at a presidential inauguration (JFK's). It was during his
stay in England (1912-1915) that his career as a poet really took off.
There he met and was influenced by such contemporary British poets as Edward
Thomas, Rupert Brooke, and Robert Graves.  Early help in promoting his
poetry came from Ezra Pounds.

A lot of his work is principally associated with New England.  He was a
poet of traditional verse forms whose work went far beyond regionalism.
His poems were often dark and searching, his work infused with layers of
ambiguity and irony.  Someone told me this story about his meeting with
Robert Frost while he was in high school

  "I had an opportunity to spend an afternoon with Robert Frost, who was a
  warm yet sarcastic fellow. I told him thatI had spent two weeks in my
  class studying "Stopping by the woods.." and I told him the complex
  interpretation of the poem that my professor had presented. I asked him if
  it was really possible he had been thinking along those lines when he
  wrote it. He smiled and said that he had read about 8 different and
  mutually exclusive interpretations of that poem, and he enjoyed all of
  them, but asked me what mine was. I gave him something very simple, and he
  said he liked it as much as the others. What he was basically saying, I
  think is that what he was thinking when he wrote the poem will remain with
  him and perhaps even be obscure to him, and how we interpret it is up to
  us. There is no correct answer"

That does sum up Frost very well for me.  The poem in the above story was
not  "The Need ..." but a lot of Frost's poetry can be viewed from a similar

Frost was a farmer for many years and a lot of his poetry deals with rural
New England.  "The need for ... " in my opinion at least is a fairly simple
poem and that was one of Frosts strengths; he could show the hidden drama in
ordinary things.  Using New Hampshire as a backdrop, this poem goes a long
way into understanding life and death.  How life always "goes on" in the
country.  The scene is static yet Frost makes it tell a story, a simple yet
heartfelt one.


24 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Sunil Iyengar said...

Born in San Francisco, bred in New Hampshire.

Sunil Iyengar

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