Could Give All To Time

To Time it never seems that he is brave To set himself against the peaks of snow To lay them level with the running wave, Nor is he overjoyed when they lie low, But only grave, contemplative and grave. What now is inland shall be ocean isle, Then eddies playing round a sunken reef Like the curl at the corner of a smile And I could share Time's lack of joy or grief At such a planetary change of style. I could give all to Time except except What I myself have held. But why declare The things...

Questioning Faces

The winter owl banked just in time to pass And save herself from breaking window glass And her wings straining suddenly aspread Caught color from the last of evening red In a display of underdown and quill To glassed-in children at the windowsill. DOES NO ONE AT ALL EVER FEEL THIS WAY IN THE LEAST 0 ocean sea, for all your being vast, Your separation of us from the Old That should have made the New World newly great Would only disappoint us at the last If it should not do anything foretold To...

Missive Missile

Someone in ancient Mas d'Azil Once took a little pebble wheel And dotted it with red for me, And sent it to me years and years A million years to be precise Across the barrier of ice Two round dots and a ripple streak, So vivid as to seem to speak. But what imperfectly appears Is whether the two dots were tears, Two teardrops, one for either eye, And the wave line a shaken sigh. But no, the color used is red. Not tears but drops of blood instead. The line must be a jagged blade. The sender must...

Willful Homing

It is getting dark and time he drew to a house, But the blizzard blinds him to any house ahead. The storm gets down his neck in an icy souse That sucks his breath like a wicked cat in bed. The snow blows on him and off him, exerting force Downward to make him sit astride a drift, Imprint a saddle, and calmly consider a course. He peers out shrewdly into the thick and swift. Since he means to come to a door he will come to a Although so compromised of aim and rate He may fumble wide of the knob...

New York Henry Holt 1928

West-Running Brook was originally divided into six sections I. Spring Pools (being the first eleven poems), II. Fiat Nox (Once by the Pacific through Acquainted with the Night), III. West-Running Brook (the title poem itself), IV. Sand Dunes (from the poem of that name through The Flower Boat), V. Over Back (The Times Table through The Birthplace), and VI. My Native Simile (the final seven poems). When 193os Collected Poems appeared three poems not previously part of the contents of...

Sitting By A Bush In Broad Sunlight

When I spread out my hand here today, I catch no more than a ray To feel of between thumb and fingers No lasting effect of it lingers. There was one time and only the one 5 When dust really took in the sun And from that one intake of fire All creatures still warmly suspire. And if men have watched a long time And never seen sun-smitten slime 10 Again come to life and crawl off, We must not be too ready to scoff. God once declared He was true And then took the veil and withdrew, And remember how...

The Selfseeker

Willis, I didn't want you here today The lawyer's coming for the company. I'm going to sell my soul, or rather, feet. Five hundred dollars for the pair, you know. With you the feet have nearly been the soul And if you're going to sell them to the devil, I want to see you do it. When's he coming I half suspect you knew, and came on purpose To try to help me drive a better bargain. Well, if it's true Yours are no common feet. The lawyer don't know what it is he's buying So many miles you might...

To The Right Person

In the one state of ours that is a shire, There is a District Schoolhouse I admire As much as anything for situation. There are few institutions standing higher This side the Rockies in my estimation Two thousand feet above the ocean level. It has two entries for coeducation. But there's a tight-shut look to either door And to the windows of its fenestration, As if to say mere learning was the devil And this school wasn't keeping anymore, Unless for penitents who took their seat Upon its...

The Lesson For Today

If this uncertain age in which we dwell Were really as dark as I hear sages tell, And I convinced that they were really sages, I should not curse myself with it to hell, But leaving not the chair I long have sat in I should betake me back ten thousand pages To the world's undebatably dark ages, And getting up my medieval Latin, Seek converse common cause and brotherhood (By all that's liberal I should, I should) With poets who could calmly take the fate Of being born at once too early and late,...

In The Home Stretch

She stood against the kitchen sink, and looked Over the sink out through a dusty window At weeds the water from the sink made tall. She wore her cape her hat was in her hand. Behind her was confusion in the room, Of chairs turned upside down to sit like people In other chairs, and something, come to look, For every room a house has parlor, bedroom, And dining room thrown pell-mell in the kitchen. And now and then a smudged, infernal face Looked in a door behind her and addressed Her back. She...

The Discovery Of The Madeiras

A stolen lady was coming on board, But whether stolen from her wedded lord Or from her own self against her will Was not set forth in the lading bill. A stolen lady was all it said. She came down weakly and blindly led To the darkening, windy village slip. She would not look at the fateful ship. Her lover to make the ordeal swift Had to give her the final lift And force her farewell step off shore. The way she clung to him the more Seemed to argue perhaps she went Not entirely without consent....

Robert Frost A Serious Step Lightly Taken Summary

Portents, presentiments, and premonitions Kitty Hawk, O Kitty, There was once a song, Who knows but a great Emblematic ditty, I might well have sung When I came here young Out and down along Past Elizabeth City Sixty years ago. I was, to be sure, Out of sorts with Fate, Wandering to and fro In the earth alone, You might think too poor-Spirited to care Who I was or where I was being blown Faster than my tread Like the crumpled, better- Left-unwritten letter I had read and thrown. Oh, but not to...

An Importer

What she brought back would amaze ye. Bamboos, ivories, jades, and lacquers, Devil-scaring firecrackers, Recipes for tea with butter, Sacred rigmaroles to mutter, Subterfuge for saving faces, A developed taste in vases, Arguments too stale to mention 'Gainst American invention Most of all the mass production Destined to prove our destruction. What are telephones, skyscrapers, Safety razors, Sunday papers But the silliest evasion Of the truths we owe an Asian But the...

Our Hold On The Planet

It didn't flash and roar. It didn't lose its temper at our demand And blow a gale. It didn't misunderstand And give us more than our spokesman bargained for And just because we owned to a wish for rain, Send us a flood and bid us be damned and drown. It gently threw us a glittering shower down. And when we had taken that into the roots of grain, It threw us another and then another still, Till the spongy soil again was natal wet. We may doubt the just proportion of good to...

Our Doom To Bloom

Shine, perishing republic What are the simple facts of Progress The Sibyl said, Go back to Rome 5 Of coats, oats, votes, to all mankind. In the Surviving Book we find 10 The state's one function is to give. The bud must bloom till blowsy blown And that's a fate it can't evade 15 Unless 'twould rather wilt than fade.

No Holy Wars For Them

States strong enough to do good are hut few. Their number would seem limited to three. Good is a thing that they, the great, can do, But puny little states can only be. And being good for these means standing by To watch a war in nominal alliance, And when it's over watch the world's supply Get parceled out among the winning giants. God, have You taken cognizance of this And what on this is Your divine position That nations like the Cuban and the Swiss Can never hope to wage a Global Mission....

Build Soil

The one you had the talk with, you remember, Hard times have struck me and I'm on the move. I've had to give my interval farm up For interest, and I've bought a mountain farm For nothing down, all-out-doors of a place, All woods and pasture only fit for sheep. But sheep is what I'm going into next. At thirty cents a bushel. Give me sheep. I know wool's down to seven cents a pound. But I don't calculate to sell my wool. I didn't my potatoes. I consumed them....

An Unstamped Letter In Our Rural Letter

Last night your watchdog barked all night, There, pointed like the pip of spades, The young spruce made a suite of glades Went streaking molten down the west. Now quivered toward each other, lipped That men have thought about in vain. The same sign Heaven showed your guest. Each knows his own discernment best. Things must have happened to you, yes,

The Black Cottage

We chanced in passing by that afternoon To catch it in a sort of special picture Among tar-banded ancient cherry trees, Set well back from the road in rank lodged grass, The little cottage we were speaking of, A front with just a door between two windows, Fresh painted by the shower a velvet black. We paused, the minister and I, to look. He made as if to hold it at arm's length Or put the leaves aside that framed it in. Pretty, he said. Come in. No one will care. The path was a vague parting in...

Too Anxious For Rivers

Look down the long valley and there stands a mountain That someone has said is the end of the world. Then what of this river that having arisen Must find where to pour itself into and empty I never saw so much swift water run cloudless. Oh, I have been often too anxious for rivers To leave it to them to get out of their valleys. The truth is the river flows into the canyon Of As sooner or later we have to cease somewhere. No place to get lost like too far in the distance. It may be a mercy the...

Serious Step Lightly Taken

The burrs were hills, the snake was a stream, And there might be a house we could buy With two wheels low in the ditch We left our boiling car And knocked at the door of a house we found, And there today we are. It is turning three hundred years On our cisatlantic shore For family after family name. We'll make it three hundred more For our name farming here, Aloof yet not aloof, Enriching soil and increasing stock, Repairing fence and roof A hundred thousand days Of front-page paper events, A...

The Whitetailed Hornet

The white-tailed hornet lives in a balloon That floats against the ceiling of the woodshed. The exit he comes out at like a bullet Is like the pupil of a pointed gun. And having power to change his aim in flight, He comes out more unerring than a bullet. Verse could be written on the certainty With which he penetrates my best defense Of whirling hands and arms about the head To stab me in the sneeze-nerve of a nostril. Such is the instinct of it I allow. Yet how about the insect certainty That...

America Is Hard To

Had the Queen backed him to a cruise. Remember he had made the test Finding the East by sailing West. But had he found it Here he was Without one trinket from Ormuz To save the Queen from family censure For her investment in his venture. There had been something strangely wrong With every coast he tried along. He could imagine nothing barrener. The trouble was with him the mariner. He wasn't off a mere degree His reckoning was off a sea. And to intensify the drama Another mariner, da Gama, Came...

One More Brevity

I opened the door so my last look Should be taken outside a house and book. Before I gave up seeing and slept I said I would see how Sirius kept His watchdog eye on what remained To be gone into if not explained. But scarcely was my door ajar, When past the leg I thrust for bar Slipped in to be my problem guest, Not a heavenly dog made manifest, But an earthly dog of the carriage breed Who, having failed of the modern speed, Now asked asylum and I was stirred To be the one so dog-preferred. He...

Some Science Fiction

The chance is the remotest Of its going much longer unnoticed That I'm not keeping pace With the headlong human race. And some of them may mind My staying back behind To take life at a walk In philosophic talk Though as yet they only smile At how slow I do a mile, With tolerant reproach For me as an Old Slow Coach. But I know them what they are As they get more nuclear And more bigoted in reliance On the gospel of modern science, For them my loitering around At less than the speed of sound Or...

Why Wait For Science

Sarcastic Science, she would like to know, In her complacent ministry of fear, How we propose to get away from here When she has made things so we have to go Or be wiped out. Will she be asked to show Us how by rocket we may hope to steer To some star off there, say, a half light-year Through temperature of absolute zero Why wait for Science to supply the how When any amateur can tell it now The way to go away should be the same As fifty million years ago we came If anyone remembers how that...

Something For Hope

At the present rate it must come to pass, And that right soon, that the meadowsweet And steeple bush, not good to eat, Will have crowded out the edible grass. Then all there is to do is wait For maple, birch, and spruce to push Through meadowsweet and steeple bush And crowd them out at a similar rate. No plow among these rocks would pay. So busy yourself with other things While the trees put on their wooden rings And with long-sleeved branches hold their sway. Then cut down the trees when...

Closed For Good

Much as I own I owe The passers of the past Because their to and fro Has cut this road to last, I owe them more today Because they've gone away And come not back with steed And chariot to chide My slowness with their speed And scare me to one side. They have found other scenes For haste and other means. They leave the road to me To walk in saying naught Perhaps but to a tree Inaudibly in thought, From you the road receives And soon for lack of sun, The prospects are in white It will be further...

The Pauper Witch Of Grafton

Now that they've got it settled whose I be, I'm going to tell them something they won't like They've got it settled wrong, and I can prove it. Flattered I must be to have two towns fighting To make a present of me to each other. They don't dispose me, either one of them, To spare them any trouble. Double trouble's I'll double theirs for both of them you watch me. They'll find they've got the whole thing to do over, That is, if facts is what they want to go by. They set a lot (now don't they )...

There Are Roughly Zones

We sit indoors and talk of the cold outside. And every gust that gathers strength and heaves Is a threat to the house. But the house has long been tried. We think of the tree. If it never again has leaves, We'll know, we say, that this was the night it died. 5 It is very far north, we admit, to have brought the peach. What comes over a man, is it soul or mind That to no limits and bounds he can stay confined You would say his ambition was to extend the reach Clear to the Arctic of every living...

In The Clearing

(New York Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962) The contents of In the Clearing was preceded, as an introductory element, by an excerpt from the poem Kitty Hawk (being lines 219-224 and 246-257, set without any indication of a break between the two segments and having one textual variation Is for Was in line 254). The book had two titled units Cluster of Faith (the five poems Accidentally on Purpose through that beginning Forgive, O Lord) and Quandary (being the last ten poems of the volume)....

Haec Fabula Docet

A Blindman by the name of La Fontaine, Came tap-tap-tapping down the village street, Now just ahead of him was seen to yawn A trench where water pipes were laying on. The Blindman might have found it with his ferrule, But someone overanxious at his peril Not only warned him with a loud command But ran against him with a staying hand. Enraged at what he could but think officious, The Blindman missed him with a blow so vicious And plunged himself head foremost in the trench Where with a glee no...

The Milky Way Is A Cowpath

On wings too stiff to flap We started to exult In having left the map On journey the penult. But since we got nowhere, Like small boys we got mad And let go at the air With everything we had. Incorrigible Quidnuncs, We would see what would come Of pelting heaven with chunks Of crude uranium. At last in self-collapse We owned up to our wife The Milky Way perhaps Was woman's way of life. Our un-outwitted spouse Replied she had as soon Believe it was the cow's That overshot the moon. The parabolic...

Pod Of The Milkweed

Calling all butterflies of every race From source unknown but from no special place They ever will return to all their lives, Because unlike the bees they have no hives, The milkweed brings up to my very door The theme of wanton waste in peace and war And so it seems a flower s coming out That should if not be talked then sung about. The countless wings that from the infinite Make such a noiseless tumult over it Do no doubt with their color compensate For what the drab weed lacks of the ornate....

Not Quite Social

Some of you will be glad I did what I did, And the rest won't want to punish me too severely For finding a thing to do that though not forbid Yet wasn't enjoined and wasn't expected, clearly. To punish me overcruelly wouldn't be right For merely giving you once more gentle proof That the city's hold on a man is no more tight Than when its walls rose higher than any roof. You may taunt me with not being able to flee the earth. You have me there, but loosely, as I would be held. The way of...

Robert Frost Maple

Her teacher's certainty it must be Mabel Made Maple first take notice of her name. She asked her father and he told her, Maple A4aple is right. But teacher told the school There's no such name. Teachers don't know as much 5 As fathers about children, you tell teacher. You tell her that it's m-a-p-l-e. You ask her if she knows a maple tree. Well, you were named after a maple tree. Your mother named you. You and she just saw 10 Each other in passing in the room upstairs, One coming this way into...

The Strong Are Saying Nothing

The soil now gets a rumpling soft and damp, And small regard to the future of any weed. The final flat of the hoe's approval stamp Is reserved for the bed of a few selected seed. There is seldom more than a man to a harrowed piece. 5 Men work alone, their lots plowed far apart, One stringing a chain of seed in an open crease, And another stumbling after a halting cart. To the fresh and black of the squares of early mold The leafless bloom of a plum is fresh and white 10 Though there's more than...

Accidentally On Purpose

The Universe is but the Thing of things, The things but balls all going round in rings. Some of them mighty huge, some mighty tiny, All of them radiant and mighty shiny. They mean to tell us all was rolling blind Till accidentally it hit on mind In an albino monkey in a jungle, And even then it had to grope and bungle, Till Darwin came to earth upon a year To show the evolution how to steer. They mean to tell us, though, the Omnibus Had no real purpose till it got to us. Never believe it. At...

Awishing Well

If but it were, he said, said he, And one thing more that may not be, This world were good enough for me. Some quaint dissatisfaction ate him. The one thing more I wish there were. (I don't care how the world gets by.) Like splashing phosphorescent paint, That ought to make the Sunday Press. But that's not like me. On much less From childhood has my heart been set. I wish I may, I wish I might When clever people ask me where I get a poem, I despair. I'm apt...

On A Bird Singing In Its Sleep

A bird half wakened in the lunar noon Sang halfway through its little inborn tune. Partly because it sang but once all night And that from no especial bush's height, Partly because it sang ventriloquist And had the inspiration to desist Almost before the prick of hostile ears, It ventured less in peril than appears. It could not have come down to us so far, Through the interstices of things ajar On the long bead chain of repeated birth, To be a bird while we are men on earth, If singing out of...

From Plane To Plane

Neither of them was better than the other. They both were hired. And though Pike had the advantag< Of having hoed and mowed for fifty years, Dick had of being fresh and full of college. Your trouble is not sticking to the subject, Pike said with temper. And Dick longed to say, Your trouble is bucolic lack of logic, But all he did say was, What is the subject It's whether these professions really work. Now take the Doctor They were giving corn A final going over with the hoe Before they turned...

Brook In The City

The farmhouse lingers, though averse to square With the new city street it has to wear A number in. But what about the brook That held the house as in an elbow-crook I ask as one who knew the brook, its strength 5 And impulse, having dipped a finger length And made it leap my knuckle, having tossed A flower to try its currents where they crossed. The meadow grass could be cemented down From growing under pavements of a town 10 The apple trees be sent to hearthstone flame. Is water wood to serve...

The Bearer Of Evil Tidings

The bearer of evil tidings, When he was halfway there, Remembered that evil tidings Were a dangerous thing to bear. So when he came to the parting Where one road led to the throne And one went off to the mountains And into the wild unknown, He took the one to the mountains. He ran through the Vale of Cashmere, He ran through the rhododendrons Till he came to the land of Pamir. And there in a precipice valley A girl of his age he met Took him home to her bower, Or he might be running yet. She...

Lost In Heaven

The clouds, the source of rain, one stormy night Offered an opening to the source of dew Which I accepted with impatient sight, Looking for my old sky-marks in the blue. But stars were scarce in that part of the sky, And no two were of the same constellation No one was bright enough to identify So 'twas with not ungrateful consternation, Seeing myself well lost once more, I sighed, Where, where in Heaven am I But don't tell i O opening clouds, by opening on me wide. Let's let my heavenly...

Never Naught Song

There was never naught, There was always thought. But when noticed first It was fairly burst Into having weight. It was in a state Of atomic One. Matter was begun And in fact complete, One and yet discrete To conflict and pair. Everything was there, Every single thing Waiting was to bring, Clear from hydrogen All the way to men. It is all the tree It will ever be, Bole and branch and root Cunningly minute. And this gist of all Is so infra-small As to blind our eyes To its every guise And so...

An Empty Threat

There wasn't always Hudson's Bay And the fur trade, I can just see my tent pegged, And me on the floor, Cross-legged, And a trapper looking in at the door With furs to sell. And between what he doesn't know And won't tell About where Henry Hudson's gone, I can't say he's much help But we get on. Except always John-Joe, My French Indian Esquimaux, And he's off setting traps In one himself perhaps. Give a headshake Over so much bay Thrown away In snow and mist That doesn't exist, Don't ask Joe...

The Planet Venus

A dated popular-science medley on a mysterious light recently observed in the western sky at evening My unexpected knocking at the door Started chairs thundering on the kitchen floor, Knives and forks ringing on the supper plates, Voices conflicting like the candidates. A mighty farmer flung the house door wide, He and a lot of children came outside, And there on an equality we stood. Thats the time knocking at a door did good. I stopped to compliment you on this star You get the beauty of from...

They Were Welcome To Their Belief

Care may have thought it was care. They were welcome to their belief, The overimportant pair. No, it took all the snows that clung 5 To the low roof over his bed, Beginning when he was young, To induce the one snow on his head. But whenever the roof came white The head in the dark below 10 Was a shade less the color of night, A shade more the color of snow. Grief may have thought it was grief. Care may have thought it was care. But neither one was the thief...

The Lovely Shall Be Choosers

The Voice said, Hurl her down The Voices, How7 far down Seven levels of the world. How much time have we She would refuse love safe with wealth and honor The lovely shall be choosers, shall they Then let them choose Then we shall let her choose Take up the task beyond her choosing. Invisible hands crowded on her shoulder In readiness to weigh upon her. But she stood straight still, In broad round earrings, gold and jet with pearls, 15 And broad round suchlike brooch, Her cheeks high-colored,...

Masque Of Reason

A man sits leaning hack against a palm. His wife lies hy him looking at the sky. man. i said the incense tree's on fire again. 5 wife. You mean the Burning Bush wife. I shouldn't be surprised. wife. There's a strange light on everything today. man. The myrrh tree gives it. Smell the rosin burning The ornaments the Greek artificers 10 The Star of Bethlehem, the pomegranates, i The birds, seem all on fire with Paradise. And hark, the gold enameled nightingales...

Masque Of Mercy

The Keepers wife Pulls down the window curtain on the door And locks the door. One customer, locked in, Stays talking with the Keeper at a showcase. The Keepers wife has hardly turned away 5 Before the doors so violently tried It makes her move as if to reinforce it. jesse bel. You can't come in (Knock, knock) The store is closed paul. Late, late, too late, you cannot enter now. jesse bel. We can't be always selling people things. 10 He doesn't go. keeper. You needn't...

The Onset

Always the same, when on a fated night At last the gathered snow lets down as white As may be in dark woods, and with a song It shall not make again all winter long Of hissing on the yet uncovered ground, I almost stumble looking up and round, As one who overtaken by the end Gives up his errand, and lets death descend Upon him where he is, with nothing done To evil, no important triumph won, More than if life had never been begun. Yet all the precedent is on my side I know that winter death has...