On Surmising
Bread Loaf School of English, 2 July 1956
Typed transcript, 35 p. Abernethy Manuscripts [Frost] / Tape Transcriptions. Transcribed by India Tressault '80.

[Reginald Cook introduces Robert Frost]

Robert Frost: What am I anxious about? I, uh, I know I, I'm, uh, I'm a great equalitarian. I spend most of my time with my equals. And I've been saying lately that I'd vote the Democratic ticket again if they'd run a plebeian [laughter]. I'm s—sick of all these aristocratic Democrats, from Jefferson down. Uh, I want a plebeian. And, we've had a few of 'em. I won't go into, that. But I was thinking of [laughter], I was thinking of it in literature, too. I suppose Thoreau was a plebeian. And I suppose one of my favorite c—plebeians was William Cobbett, that awful British plebeian, uh, that you ought to take a look at on my account. And, uh,' another one, I suppose George Borrow was one. That's the kind of person I mean. And we've had 'em in literature. I'd like to, I'd like to get 'em together sometime in a course. I'd like to teach a course of, real plebeians. And, not just Democrats. I'm sick of that. But everybody's a democrat in one sense of the word except for, on election day, and then' it's divided: into Democrats and Republicans. But, uh, [RF clears throat]…

I'd like to be with people that were at ease; or, uh, you know, weren't bothered, when I made, a, uh, made play with something in literature, like Cobbett, [unclear], or Thoreau. Or, like this: this is what I've been thinking of before I got here 'fore, Doc diverted me. Uh, been thinking that, when say, "Yet once more, O ye laurels," see, introducing myself [laughter] like that, I want to know—I want you to get it, you know [laughter].

And then, when I say, say that l think all my writing, see, all of my writing, has been not a wild surmise, but a mild surmise, see. No one has understood me who didn't un—didn't, don't know what I—m—what the play is there, w—what a mild surmise is. I've been talking of all sorts of things this winter, and, uh, one of them comes round to that so often so—we—uh, one of [unclear] they all come round to that. That's a kind of a summary of, of what I've been through this spring, last fall and winter, 'specially this spring. Uh, I, uh, a wild surmise and a mild surmise, surmise.

I was saying that the three greats in life, in our lives, the three greats are religion and science and gossip [laughter]. And the greatest of these is gossip [laughter] because it is both a wild and, and mild surmise, see. It's u—it's our guessing at each other. All day long, eh, and a—all our lives. Guessing at each other. And sometimes it's, you know, what it ought not to be, and sometimes it's what its got to be and sometimes it's what it ought to be. And it rises from the ordinary daily gossip into the columns of the newspaper, and thence into, into literature, drama and all the time it gets nearer what I mean by the mild surmise. It doesn't, it g—gets away from, uh, too much prejudice gets away from the fanatical and the hasty and gets up t—gets larger and larger. But it's still gossip and still surmise. Guessing at each other.

In our insecurity about it, and our fear for it, we think there might be some help from that other—one of the other two, from science. And they call that psychology [laughter]. They're thinking it might be a little scientific help in our gossip. And they call that psychology. [Unclear] pronounce it that way, for me. And the, uh, religion, you know, I won't go into that. I have some this, in the science. Uh, I like to say of science, that all science is domestic science, uh, it all has to do with our domestication in the universe during the plan—on the planet [unclear]. And, uh, and all, all its laboratories are glorified kitchens, you know.

But the, the thing I care most about is, is the mild surmise. And my, uh, uh,s—so that, so that you're going to misundis—be mas—misunderstood in it if you don't get the tone of it. Uh, I, th—there's a word so dreadful I can't, I wouldn't dare to say it to you if you were the right, my equals and knew how to take the tone in which I said it. And I rely on verse more than anything else on the higher, on the height of, height of literature where the play is up, up there. I rely on that for giving, conveying the poem in which I say, make my surmise about God and man.

Uh. The, uh, teacher has a, uh, one advantage that I've lost, I used to have it when I was a regular teacher. I could say something, anything I please, the first lesson of the year, and, and, and, trust the rest of the year to make you understand it. But when it's just like [unclear] in passing with me as it is most of the time now, much depends on my getting the right tone and being with the people who can catch the r—catch the tone, My, my equals, [unclear]. And, wh—you see your, your guessing, your guessing gets a little surer as it, a—as it sublimates, as it mounts. You, uh, you can say of a certain, of a certain character in a play, you know, that he might be drawn from somebody you know. And you could be wrong about the person you know, but there is such a thing, see. You get up into there is such a thing and you're up where you're safer and surer and greater and better and nobler [unclear] and everything else.

So I'm not going to make too much of that. [Unclear] I'm here to read to you, suppose, uh, [unclear] just for an illustration of, a, uh, momentary irre—illustration comes into my head. Uh we have to guess, we still guess, what made war—World War I, eh. We still guess what made World War II. We st—we're st—guessing now what's going to make World War III, uh, th—there's that [unclear] musing after the, after the First World War, how many books were written, uh, of the guess, uh, of the guess works kind, great guess works on where the, where the World War came from. Somebody went there, back to Greece and Rome for it.

Some went into the Teutoberg Forest for it, see, dug it up out of the Teutoberg Forest, with the help of Tacitus, I suppose. So on. And, and some knew all about the immediate Germans and, and with one of my surmises was that the Germans and, looked with envy for years on the British, on top of the world. And it wasn't that they couldn't get on top of the world in the, in the, an ordinary sense so's to sit on top of the world or stand on top of the world by sheer force, but what they envied was the, the, was the, w—was the, uh, serenity with which the British reclined on top of the world [laughter].

And, and the—they could buy Eton jackets and they could buy pipes and they could do all that but they couldn't get that, you know. And so they made a war about it. Didn't get 'em anywhere, did it? Still where they were. And that's still to be got, you see, we, we're in the same position now, We may be on top of the world, I don't know, [unclear] one of my guesses. I've heard some people guesses that way and we that's not my guess special, but I've heard it guessed that we were on top of the world. But are we at ease on top of the world? You see. [Unclear] it won't be, it, we won't be happy unless we are.

And that means when we write, uh, what I, what I think was the height of it all for the British, was what I might sum up in the golden, word Golden Treasury, the lyric poetry. And they got up there, you know, where the, the book witho—with—almost without animus, all up in spirit and high poetry. All way up in the high, highest guesses. That's a, I was once a—I, I must have been asked once years ago what I' was doing in England, And, I'd forgotten what I was doing. I, said, I tell all sorts of s—I have all sorts of theories. about that. And, [laughter] uh, [unclear] that's always the way when I'm r—r—uh, retrospective, I, I get up different things.

Somebody said, where did you learn to write? Well I told 'em once I'd, I learned from one person then from another, you know, I have a different one 'every time I'm interviewed. [laughter]. A—but I like, I said to somebody— and I saw that in writing somewhere lately, I saw it in print somewhere—that I said I'd come to the land of the Golden Treasury. That's what I went for. O—one of my theories was, I went to live under thatch [laughter]. But I went to—I said that once, the Golden Treasury. So that stays with me in some way a—among my guesses. That's just what I guess I was guessing it myself, you know, we're just the same, uh, guessing it ourselves. [Unclear] The beauty of it is the l—lambent way the mind plays over that guessing, eh.

All right. I, I was out there looking for a particular poem. And I wonder if I went and lost the place of it. No. [Unclear] It's on account of this. See. This is about different parts of the country from New England. Uh, I was just as much out of, out of my, uh, native heath as I was when I went to England. Out in the Ozarks.

And, uh, don't know how I happened to write this poem but was a g—a guess at somebody I saw, looking out the train window. And, goes on all the time. Another night in the tr—another poem I guess I, uh, almost forgotten that. An, other poem I, I'm looking out of a train window way out in Utah, and, uh, it's away in the night and I see one lonely light way off, you know, far from any other, all alone. I made a poem out of that, puttin' those people to bed [laughter], Uh, and this, uh, kind of country I was going through:

[Reads "The Figure in the Doorway"]

Let's, and I'm going to read another guess, uh. This is closer to rhyming. There are four, four rhymes to the stanza in this one. And this is, this is out of a, out of twenty years of my life, living with the, people that some of them have to take the Fifth Ame —take refuge in the Fifth Amendment now. They're dear friends of mine. Many of them, uh, all sorts and kinds, but, uh, that was the period. And I did my little mocking and they did theirs back at me.

We, and, uh, uh, this, this is about two of them. One in particular. But two of them that I was fondest of, two young people. One of them as a matter of fact, if you like to, me, to be specific. One of them was at Amherst and another was at Bryn Mawr. And the time was about 1917, see. And, uh, this is my, see you s—I've introduced it all right.

[Reads "The Lost Follower"]

I just simply use those, and then I'm going to leave my theme just to show you what, how we do it, uh, all the time in our talk and thoughts, in our writing and, and [unclear]. And the, the, the, how deep that thing always was to me. Two words in Keats were terribly deep to me, and, and, I, I got to suspecting t—one of them as a word that had dominated English literature for a hundred years after him. Uh, "She stood in tears amid the alien corn." And that is such a high poetric use of that word "alien," that it just got to all the poetics that wrote for a hundred years. You'll find them doing it, trying something tha—with that word, for a hundred years there.

And, uh, uh, I said the only way I got away from was, uh, remembering it was the name for, uh, what Ellis Island people. Get back to Ellis Island. I, I never was tempted to use it. But this wild surmise is another wonder, you know, how deep that goes. I suppose I never said that word to my—[unclear] ran f—through that: "Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—/Silent, upon a peak in Darien." With—out something so, you know, beyond any symbolism or anything like that, or echoed with, just as with always some deep h—howling in my nature.

All right, uh, now… see… [unclear]. Read another one that I haven't read much of any… [unclear] this one if I can see it all right. Kind of dim. [Unclear] Dim so—uh, the typewriter's rather dim, I guess, I won't risk it. 'S another one. [Unclear] This, uh, these a—uh, this's a recent one, too. I may, may get my courage up [unclear]. [Unclear] This is called "One More Brevity," and,

[Begins to reads "One More Brevity"]

Shall I say one more thing and start that over again that I—so it won't have to be a footnote [laughter]? Uh, uh, i—you know, when I speak of this, the, like to be with people that I don't have to write footnotes to, in the world [unclear] and mine are those [unclear], my crowd, my equals, my crowd are those I don't have to write footnotes to, see. Uh, and the, uh, the, the other, the footnotes are if I use them would be a condescension to the people that, uh, that can't keep up with me. That's humanitarian [laughter].

This, this one, now, for instance, this making play with Sirius, you s—[unclear] I've known peo—I've kno—I knew somebody that walked nights with me a great deal, and he'd never seen Northern Lights. Well, we walked in the city, as it happened, the city lights kept him from seeing anything, and, he ne—he didn't know stars, he didn't know, he didn't [unclear] the sky had never bothered him. We talked about other things we found our, found our way to somewhere else. But,

[Continues to read "One More Brevity"]

And… Then some of the little ones, the older ones that I say. [Unclear] just this word "surmise." I never used it in, in talking about it at all. That's brand new for me tonight, I've got, prodded that out of, out of Keats. Uh, but, uh, i—i—for instance, I've t—[unclear] two or three times this winter, and in public places down in Washington, I've been asked to say a particular poem, and it has to do, uh, with my guess about the Revolutionary War, see. That's why I was asked to do it. The word wasn't, f—the word "guess" wasn't used, [Unclear] it was just people interested in my guess about the Revolutionary War. Some people guess that the revolution—that the British were to blame for the Revolutionary War, and others guess that we were. That fellow in Maine there, I always forget his name, he guesses we were, He writes history book—history novels, historic novels, to prove that we were to blame for the Revolutionary War. That's all rot. But I—this is my guess, see. It's a simple matter. It begins with the first line, is the whole business. Uh,

[Reads "The Gift Outright"]

And the [unclear] the, the deeds, uh, were many deeds of war, little, little deeds, you know, like Battle of Be—Bennington, one called King's Mountain — named after a King —down in North Carolina. I we—I, I, I ou—the, went by that within a year, in a fast train, look as if where I get most of my knowledge nowadays, looking out train windows, I guess. [Unclear] whizzing by a little empty station, there wasn't a truck there. There was nobody there. There wasn't anything. [Unclear] I just happened to look up from, uh, the book—uh, magazine or something, and it said on the station, King's Mountain. That was one of those great little battles. Before the French had anything to do with it [unclear]. The deed of gift was many deeds of war.

All right, now, uh, something else. Uh. "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, as 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 kept 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,
See the tone of that is absolutely saving. You got to look out for it, though. See. "I shall be telling this with a sigh…" you know. And, uh, then, uh… See, no, [unclear] do something a little. [Unclear]

I've read you two that I haven't read very much lately, see if I can't find something else. [Turning pages] Mmm… Here's one. Po—it's the only political poem in the book. It's, uh, it's a wicked one. This one's called, uh, uh, "Haec Fabula Docet."

[Reads "Haec Fabula Docet"]

[Laughter] Uh, that's a, uh, you see I wouldn't have written that if it hadn't been for my own, uh, own badness, see. See I b—I behaved very badly all through [unclear] the New Deal, and [laughter], and I, and like a b—like the Blindman in that poem. Now I'm buried.

Uh, here's another wicked one, just happened to see it here, It's called "An Importer." Uh,

[Reads "An Importer"]

[Laughter] See, I shouldn't write that.

Then, uh… Let's read some of the old ones, uh. Here's two stanzas of, uh, just let me read two little stanzas of a, a kind of a village, village evening. I had for my winter evening walk—
No one at all with whom to talk,
But I had the cottages in a row
Up to their shining eyes in snow.
And I thought I had the folk within:
I had the sound of a violin;
I [had glimpse—]had a glimpse through curtain laces
Of youthful forms and youthful faces.
That's all. I just like to say that. That's an old memory of Plymouth. I had for my winter evening walk—
No one at all with whom to talk,
But I had the cottages in a row
Up to their shining eyes in snow.
That's when snows were deep. See, that changes.

[Reads "After Apple-Picking"]

Now the, shall I read one of the longer pieces, I guess. Let me read one or two l—one or two more little ones like this, I heard this bird the other day. There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says [the leaves,] that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past,
When pear and cherry blooms went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that [unclear] fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

And, then, here's a, a crude, a cruder, crude old-timer, [unclear] I wrote many years ago. I really had in mind, uh, the giant animals on the, on the, uh, monument to, Prince Albert Memorial in London. It's called "The Cow in Apple Time." Uh, uh, and it's supposed to done in the heroic vein, like this: Something inspires the cow of late
To make no more of a wall than an open gate,
And think no more of wall-builders than fools.
Her face is flecked with pomace and she drools
A cider syrup. Having tasted fruit,
She scorns a pasture withering to the root.
She runs from tree to tree where lie and sweeten
The windfalls spiked with stubble and worm-eaten.
She leaves them bitten when she has to fly.
She bellows on a knoll against the sky.
Her udder shrivels and the milk goes dry.
That's the heroic.

Well, I guess I'll read you "The Death of the Hired Man." Shall I? Or shall I read this verse? This is one of the earliest I ever wrote. "The Tuft of Flowers." And… this's in rhyme couplets and it's one of the farming ones. And it has in it a line that I used to think from. I didn't see it when I wrote it but I've thought about it a good deal since. The line says, "From sheer morning gladness at the brim." Just so you notice that as we go by it. Has a lot to do with it all.

That's where we—that's where the poetry transcends sociology, eh, and reform and everything like that. Reformers and everything. I sat the other day by, in, in my travels by, uh, a William Lloyd Garrison, and, trustee of a col—noted college. It's strange. I'd never met, never been so close to the, the abolition word as I was sitting beside him. William Lloyd Garrison. Handsome man, old-time New England face. I didn't go into politics with him [laughter]. "The Tuft of Flowers."

[Reads "A Tuft of Flowers"]

See, I, I wrote that back in the nineties, and I was thinking both ways at once, then. [Unclear] Together and alone. Some people make a business of talking lonely and get a great deal of sympathy from doing that. Scientists as well as poets.

All right, I guess I—now I'll read you "The Death of the Hired Man" that I haven't read for quite a while. [Unclear] [RF clears throat] Mary sat musing on the lamp-flame at the table,
Waiting for Warren. When she heard his step,
She ran on tiptoe down the darkened passage
To meet him in the doorway with the news
[And,] And put him on his guard. [Uh,] "Silas is back."
She pushed [Warren with her] outward [ ] through the door
And shut it after her. [Uh,] "Be kind," she said.
She took the market things from Warren's arms
And set them on the porch, then drew him down
To sit beside her on the wooden steps.
"When was I ever anything but kind to him?
But I'll not have the fellow back," he said.
"I told him so last haying, didn't I?
If he left then, I said, that ended it.
What good is he? Who else can harbor him
At his age for the little he can do?
What help he is there's no depending on.
Off he goes always when I need him most.
He thinks he ought to earn a little pay,
Enough at least to buy tobacco with,
So he won't have to beg and be beholden.
'All right,' I say, 'I can't afford to pay
Any fixed wages, though I wish I could.'
'Someone else can.' 'Then someone else will have to.'
I shouldn't mind his bettering himself
If that [were] what it was. You can be certain,
When he begins like that, there's someone at him
Trying to coax him off with pocket money—
In haying time, when any help is scarce.
In winter he comes back to us. I'm done."
[Uh,] "Sh! not so [ha—]loud: he'll hear you," Mary said.
[Uh,]""I want him to: he'll have to [sooner] or [later]."
[Uh,] "He's worn out. He's asleep beside the stove.
When I came up from Rowe's I found him here,
Huddled against the barn door fast asleep,
A miserable sight, and frightening, too—
You needn't smile—I didn't recognize him—
[I,] I wasn't looking for him—and he's changed.
Wait till you see."
"Where did you say he'd been?" [Uh,] "He didn't say. I dragged him to the house,
And gave him tea and tried to make him smoke.
I tried to make him talk about his travels.
Nothing would do: he just kept nodding off."
'What did he say? Did he say anything? "But little." [Uh,] "Anything? Mary, confess
He said he'd come to ditch the meadow for me."
"Warren!" "But did he? I just want to know." "Of course he did. What would you have him say?
Surely you wouldn't grudge the poor old man
Some humble way to save his self-respect.
[He,] He added, if you really care to know,
He meant to clear the upper pasture, too.
That sounds like something you have heard before?
Warren, I wish you could have heard the way
He jumbled everything. I stopped to look
Two or three times—he made me feel so queer—
To see if he was talking in his sleep.
He ran on Harold Wilson—you remember—
The boy you had in haying four years since.
He's finished school, and teaching in his college.
[But] Silas declares you'll have to get him back.
He says they two will make [—lay this—uh, would be a, make] a team for work:
Between them they will lay this farm as smooth!
The way he mixed that in with other things.
He thinks young Wilson a likely lad, though daft
On education—you know how they fought
All through July under the blazing sun,
Silas up on the cart to build the load,
Harold along beside to pitch it on."
"Yes, I took care to keep well out of earshot." "Well, those days trouble Silas like a dream.
You wouldn't think they would. How some things linger!
Harold's young college-boy's assurance piqued him.
After so many years he still keeps finding
Good arguments he [sight—]sees he might have used.
I sympathize. [I,] I know just how it feels
To think of the right thing to say too late.
Harold's associated in his mind with Latin.
He asked me what I thought of [laro—la—of] Harold's saying
He studied Latin, like the violin,
Because he liked it—that an argument!
He said he couldn't make [the,] the boy believe
He could find water with a hazel prong—
Which showed how much good school had ever done him.
He wanted to go over that.
[Uh,] But most of all He thinks if he could have another chance
To teach him how to build a load of hay—"
I know, that's Silas' one accomplishment.
He bundles every forkful in its place,
And tags and numbers it for future reference,
So he can find and easily dislodge it
In the unloading. Silas does that well.
He takes it out in bunches like big bird's nests.
You never see him standing on the hay
He's trying to lift, straining to lift himself."
[Uh,] "He thinks if he could teach him that, he'd be
Some good perhaps to someone in the world.
He hates to see a boy the fool of books.
[Uh,] Poor Silas, [uh,] so concerned for other folk,
And nothing to look backward to with pride,
And nothing to look forward to with hope,
So now and never any different."
Part of a moon was falling down the west,
Dragging the whole sky with it to the hills.
Its light poured softly in her lap. She saw it
And spread her apron to it. She put out her hand
Among the harplike morning glory strings,
Taut with dew from garden bed to eaves,
[As if she played so—unhear—]
As if she played unheard some tenderness
[That,] That wrought on him beside her in the night.
"Warren," she said, "he has come home to die:
[Uh,] You needn't be afraid he'll leave you this time."
"Home," he mocked gently. "Yes, what else but home?
It all depends on what you mean by home.
Of course he's nothing to us, any more
Than was the hound that came a stranger to us
Out of the woods, worn out upon the trail."
"Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in."
And she says, "I [sh—]should have called it
Something you somehow haven't to deserve."
Warren leaned out and took a step or two,
Picked up a little stick, and brought it back
And broke it in his hand and tossed it by.
"Silas has better [claims] on us you think
Than on his brother? Thirteen little miles
As the road winds would bring him to his door.
Silas has walked that far no doubt today.
Why doesn't he go there? His brother's rich,
A somebody—director [of] the bank."
"He never told us that." "We know it, though." "I think his brother ought to help, of course.
I'll see to that if there is need. He ought of right
To take him in, and might be willing to—
He may be better than appearances.
But have some pity on Silas. Do you think
[If he had any, uh, uh, pride in claiming—you'd think]
If he had any pride in claiming kin
Or anything he looked for from his brother,
He'd keep so still about him all this time?"
I wonder what's between them." "I can tell you.
Silas is what he is—we wouldn't mind him—
But just the kind that kinsfolk can't abide.
He never did a thing so very bad.
He don't know why he [i—]isn't quite as good
As [anybody,] anybody. Worthless though he [were]
He [wouldn't] be [ ] ashamed to please his brother."
"I can't think Si ever hurt anyone." "No, but he hurt my heart the way he lay
And rolled his old head on that sharp-edged chair-back.
He wouldn't let me put him on the lounge.
You must go in and see what you can do.
I made the bed up for him there tonight.
You'll be surprised at him—how much he's broken.
His working days are done; I'm sure of it."
"I'd not be in a hurry to say that." "I haven't been. Go, look, see for yourself.
But, Warren, please remember how it is:
He's come to help you ditch the meadow.
He has a plan. You mustn't laugh at him.
He may not speak of it, and then he may.
I'll sit and see if that small sailing cloud
Will hit or miss the moon."
It hit the moon.
Then there were three there, making a dim row,
The moon, the little silver cloud, and she.
Warren returned—too soon, it seemed to her—
Slipped to her side, caught up her hand and waited.
"Warren?" she questioned. "Dead," was all he answered. Then I won't leave it on that. It's about time to stop but I want something [unclear]. Uh, [Unclear]

[Reads "Desert Places," "Provide, Provide" and "Etherealizing"]

[Laughter] [Unclear] And then… uh, let's see, one more [unclear]. Let's say one or two of the… don't ask me afterwards, why didn't I say some—somebody tell me now, the last one, what'll I say? So I can see if I know it. Somebody [unclear]—you tell me. What are they saying? Huh? [Voice in background, inaudible] [Unclear]

RC: "One of my wishes…"

RF: What?

RC: "One of my wishes…"

RF: I don't know it.

RC: How about "Come In"?

RF: "Come In," all right. That's charac—

RC: "Directive."

RF: You don't know—

RC: "Directive."

RF: Yes—

RC: "Directive."

RF: Yeah. All right. [Unclear] Everybody ought to smile at, when Doc asks for "Come In." That's his specialty, isn't it [laughter]. Doc and the thrushes. Uh, shall I say "Come In" or "Directive"?

RC: "Directive."

RF: But I've only got… which will be… Oh, somebody find it for me [unclear].[Unclear] Uh, I lost it…[Unclear] Somebody got a book [unclear]? [Voice in background, unclear] [Unclear] Let's look it up in the [unclear]. W—waste no more time.

RC: You've got plenty of time. You've got all night [unclear].

RF: [Unclear] I'll read "Directive" to you. This is one that I, uh, th—th—one of my diffidences about poems like this and, to read aloud. I'm not afraid to but I'm a little diffident about it, I feel, some of them, you know, [unclear]. "Directive."

[Reads "Directive" followed by "Come In"]

See, will I say just this about the symbol, uh, that you're working at all the time in poetry? Uh, every single one of the poems has its, has its design symbol, see. But there are some people want to know what's eating you. That's what they mean by symbol. See, what do you mean and that you didn't know you meant? That's what's eating you. [Applause]

??: [Very quietly] "Birches."

RF: That what I have to say? Or s—or "Mending Wall." Somebody say. Only one. What?

??: [Very quietly] "Birches."

RF: "Birches."

[Reads "Birches"]