Mondays With Frost: A Girl’s Garden

Today I wanted to share one of Frost’s poems from his 1916 Mountain Interval.

A Girl’s Garden

A neighbor of mine in the village
      Likes to tell how one spring
When she was a girl on the farm, she did
      A childlike thing.

One day she asked her father
      To give her a garden plot
To plant and tend and reap herself,
       And he said, “Why not?”

In casting about for a corner
      He thought of an idle bit
Of walled-off ground where a shop had stood,
      And he said, “Just it.”

And he said, “That ought to make you
      An ideal one-girl farm,
And give you a chance to put some strength
      On your slim-jim arm.”

It was not enough of a garden,
      Her father said, to plow;
So she had to work it all by hand,
      But she don’t mind now.

She wheeled the dung in the wheelbarrow
      Along a stretch of road;
But she always ran away and left
      Her not-nice load,

And hid from anyone passing.
      And then she begged the seed.
She says she thinks she planted one
      Of all things but weed.

A hill each of potatoes,
      Radishes, lettuce, peas,
Tomatoes, beets,beans, pumpkins, corn,
      And even fruit trees.

And yes, she has long mistrusted
      That a cider-apple tree
In bearing there today is hers,
      Or at least may be.

Her crop was a miscellany
      When all was said and done,
A little bit of everything,
      A great deal of none.

Now when she sees in the village
      How village things go,
Just when it seems to come in right,
      She says, “I know!”

“It’s as when I was a farmer…”
      Oh, never by way of advice!
And she never sins by telling the tale
      To the same person twice.

We’ve got a bit of a patchwork garden going here, and the images that are evoked when reading this poem are just priceless.

I have children of my own – one of whom has also in seasons past asked for her very own garden bed. Her best crop ended up being the bird seed she planted…

There are so many images conjured up with this poem – a child wanting to try something new, willing to do the grittiest of tasks but embarrassed if she is seen doing them, and somehow with the confidence of youth, feeling as though one try at something has made her an expert. I can certainly see myself in her!

One link to share this week. Robert Frost spent years at his Derry Farm home, and it is a Historical Site now. The website has wonderful information, about his life and his works. It is worth exploring. One link I wanted to include was the Teacher’s Resources, which includes lesson plans and ideas to incorporate Frost poems into various subjects.

Robert Frost’s Derry Farm – Teachers’ Resources

One resource listed, of interest to me, is using Frost in a more unconventional manner, to teach global warming, astronomy, botany, among other subjects. The link listed in the Teachers’ Resources is broken so here is the live link.

Robert Frost In The Petri Dish

Mondays With Frost: Hyla Brook

Here we are in the middle of June, so I though this poem would be fitting…

Hyla Brook

By June our brook’s run out of song and speed.
Sought for much after that, it will be found
Either to have gone groping underground
(And taken with it all the Hyla breed
That shouted in the mist a month ago,
Like ghost of sleigh bells in a ghost of snow) –
Or flourished and come up in jewelweed,
Weak foliage that is blown upon and bent,
Even against the way its waters went.
Its bed is left a faded paper sheet
Of dead leaves stuck together by the heat –
A brook to none but who remember long.
This as it will be seen is other far
Than with brooks taken otherwhere in song.
We love the things we love for what they are.

I love this… the image it evokes. Here in Florida, we aren’t even in summer officially yet and we are almost hitting 100 degrees F in the afternoon. We live close to a bog, and when I step outside in the evenings, I hear the noise of insects, crickets, and of course the frogs! I don’t know what kind of frogs we have in this area, maybe they are also the Hyla breed mentioned in the poem.

Last week, I shared a link to a fascinating article regarding a character attack on Frost. I had no idea some people felt so harshly about him. I’ve done some more reading, and I found a more detailed biography which speaks about Frost’s dark tone, and suggests the dark tone found in his later writing could be attributed to a decade-long series of personal tragedies.

Here is another story, this time in the Washington Post, about the Oates short story that took aim at Frost.

And here is the short story itself, published in the November 2013 edition of Harper’s Bazaar. I will say, it is tough reading a work of fiction about a real person. As you read, you are left wondering, where the truthful depiction ends and the fiction picks up. Taken with the various criticisms of Oates’s short story, it would appear that this picture of Frost is grossly exaggerated. But it is worth the read.

Mondays With Frost: The Tuft Of Flowers

Robert Frost has been my favorite poet since the 6th grade. We memorized Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening, stanza by stanza, over the course of several weeks. At the time, I found it tedious. But I never forgot the lines, and once I got out of that middle school funk, I found I liked the realness, the earthiness of Frost’s writing.

This is one of my favorite poems. I love the image it conjurs up. This connection to another person, through a simple gesture.

The Tuft Of Flowers

I went to turn the grass once after one
Who mowed it in the dew before the sun.

The dew was gone that made his blade so keen
Before I came to view the leveled scene.

I looked for him behind an isle of trees;
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.

But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,
And I must be, as he had been – alone,

“As all must be,” I said within my heart,
“Whether they work together or apart.”

But as I said it, swift there passed me by
On noiseless wing a bewildered butterfly,

Seeking with memories grown dim o’er night
Some resting flower of yesterday’s delight.

And once I marked his flight go round and round,
As where some flower lay withering on the ground.

And then he flew as far as eye could see,
And then on tremulous wing came back to me.

I though of questions that have no reply,
And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;

But he turned first, and led my eye to look
At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook,

A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared
Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared.

The mower in the dew had loved them thus,
By leaving them to flourish, not for us,

Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him,
But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.

The butterfly and I had lit upon,
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,

That made me hear the wakening birds around,
And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground,

And feel a spirit kindred to my own;
So that henceforth I worked no more alone;

But glad with him, I worked as with his aid,
And weary, sought at noon with him the shade;

And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech
With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach.

“Men work together,” I told him from the heart,
Whether they work together or apart.”

This is a brief biography of Frost, with a detailed bibliography at the end, put together by The Poetry Foundation. I have always found it fascinating that he only got the recognition as a poet, writing about New England, after he left the country and lived in England.

As an aside, I wanted to share a fascinating article out of Harvard. While I am familiar with his basic biography, I had no idea of any controversy or  animosity associated with Frost. This story certainly took me off guard. Now my attention is piqued and I want to follow this rabbit trail…

 

Marginalia: The Complete Poems of Robert Frost

In some circles, old books have been relegated to the scrap pile – good for nothing more than stylish decor for bookshelves (seriously, this is a thing…) or for crafting material. While I would certainly agree that there are some books that are worth little more than tinder, regardless of age or condition, I believe that older books can and do hold immense value.

Older books are often fine examples of the craftsmanship that was commonplace long ago. It just wasn’t as common to find quality literature in cheaper paperback form, like is the case today.

Older books also have HISTORY. I just love the idea of a book having been read, studied, and loved so many years ago. I know I have so many books in my personal library that are, to me, treasures, and I imagine someone long ago cherishing these older books in just the same way.

To truly make a book yours, to have a conversation with the author, often requires jotting down notes, writing commentary, underlining, referencing other works.

Part of the pleasure in discovering older books while booking (yeah, that’s a word now) is finding a previous owner’s notes. I am still kicking myself for not grabbing a pocket edition Shakespeare play (A Midsummer’s Night Dream if I recall) that was filled with ancient pencil notes throughout.

I love my copy of The Poetry of Robert Frost (left) – it’s paperback and has a 1979 publication date. But I recently found an somewhat older hardback, with a most recent copyright of 1964. This was a well-loved copy, with extensive notes throughout.

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A minor detail, but one that adds that “something” in a hardback.

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IMG_0578 The introduction, entitled The Figure a Poem Makes, and signed R.F. The previous owner’s notation drew me immediately to the paragraph on the left. “It should be of the pleasure of a poem itself to tell how it can. The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” sigh.

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The previous owner went through and notated all poems that were included in another student addition.

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One poem that isn’t included in this collection is pointed out.

IMG_0581The previous owner, at several points, make notations like this, connecting words to reinforce the relationship between them.

IMG_0582I have had a harder time deciphering some of the other commentary found throughout. The script is a little too sloppy.

IMG_0583Notations in Two Witches: The Witch of Coos. An interesting reference to the 1946 two-act opera The Medium, written by Gian Carlo Menatti.

IMG_0584Here in A Star in a Stone Boat, heavy notations. Connections made between words, and several illegible comments. I wish I could make out what the owner had to say about this poem!

IMG_0585Even the year of publication for each collection was added in by the owner.

I have so enjoyed going through this copy of Robert Frost and seeing how well-loved it was. And I am even further motivated to keep my own marginalia neat enough for future readers!