Robert Frost: That's kind of a tall order, you know, something to live up to, I suppose. Been, uh, it's been my luck to kick around in education as much as in any—anything, and. I don't see why I shouldn't say a word about education tonight, uh. The, uh, the word integration has a special meaning in education, hasn't it? And I suppose that since the very beginning of my curious career in teaching, I've been in every department there is. I'm a living, walking case of integration [laughter]. I've taught Latin, solid geometry, I've taught all the rest of things, uh, philosophy.
It always amuses me that I've got ter—I'm terrible critic of, of schools and school people. I said to somebody once that I'd taught philosophy. Who—what philosophy did you teach? See. You'd know a school person would say that [laughter]. I said, "My philosophy!" …I had one teacher in philosophy—two that might be said to be teaching their own philosophy. Nobody asked them who they, whose philosophy they taught, and. Then I've been in it so long that's, that's, uh, uh…
…you can put your finger on five or six items that come from different quarters of the universe in it. Not of out o—out of any department. There ought to be that. And, that's the satisfaction you have as, as you write the, as you write the poem or the essay, that, that you snatch s—things that didn't know you had, you know, with the feeling what, uh, that's another, I've taken another step, you know, I summon something I didn't, almost didn't know I had. I command, I have a command, and.
Now that's what the, uh, I been hearing a lot about, I went out to Pittsburgh about education, and I s—I went on, on a condition there. I on—I said I'd go only, see, if I was gonna be able to holler near the pile. Eh. That meant the pile, you know, that's out there, in the. And I hollered near the pile. And I seemed to make some impression on everybody but the pile [laughter]. There were editorials about it and all that, and, but I haven't heard of any money yet. Not for me, you know, but where I want it, in the educational world. I don't want it for the, the damned colleges, you know. I want it for the high schools, you know. I want it where it belongs, for the American high schools.
And I tell 'em just one thing about that, one of these little things that, that, uh, that I, one little thing, that I sit round with, with town and gown all over the United States, graduating the teachers and graduate school, and all, And I only, in the last year I've only met [unclear] this town and gown, mind you, both school and the town that I'm in, these beautiful towns, college towns. I've only met one high school teacher in the year. Invited in. "They're not of our class," Eh. Something wrong. If you go to Exeter, you go to Andover, course you're right, th—that high school level, [unclear] they're all college level, the teachers are. I meet them, the whole business, and. But I've only met one high school teacher in the year. Something. Just that.
And now I, I'm not, uh, I hear Barzun, uh, talking about, uh, uh, critic—criticizing our system as, as if it ought to be like the French. That's his point of view, really. It's good, it's brilliant, and, but it's all that one thing. He wants to speed it up and harden it up, both. And I'm not interested in either hardening it up or speeding it up. I'm interested in toning it up. And the way I'd tone it up is, uh, elevate the, the high schools in some way. Socially or some way. And I went out with a plan to do something about that, And we'll see what comes of it. Nothing will, probably.
Nothing much comes of, of it all. They just like to hear me talk. I once [laughter] was asked to, I, I was once asked to lecture at Chicago, I remember, years ago when Manley and a lot of them were there, that, uh, the great gang, the great days. And as I was put on the train, uh, in, in the night, they, uh, this was many years ago, thirty, forty years ago, and, uh, I, the, uh, president's secretary said to me, "You know, you weren't asked out here to, for your poetry. People, uh, these, these, these old timers here, Manley and all of them, like to hear you rail about education." [Laughter] That's all. I went to bed on that. I didn't sleep [laughter]. The—they s—they were all, they were all western, you know. They hadn't accepted me as westerner then. And, but it isn't railing exactly. I know what I want, uh.
For instance, I, I could have a, a whole plan of integration, see. Get it right while you wait, see [laughter]. The, the, the first thing of all is that, uh., the aim is the ability to generalize. Not to be afraid of being, uh, s—uh, as a good, uh, a r—an unscrupulous generalizer, that, that is the one that doesn't stick at trifles, you know. And to learn to be sweeping about history and all, art and everything. Have things to say. And, uh, now there's only two ways to, there's on—there are two things about that. You could, uh, what you call general education, is now run as if all the generalizing was to be done by certain heroes in the depart—depar—in the, uh, in the faculty. They do all the generalizing.
And, now that's all right if it set the example to, to all the graduating students and everybody else that, that what their, their end in life is to do some of their own. And to resent a little being given all the generalizations. I just as soon have a thou—thousand of brick backed up o—and dumped on to me and let me put it in, any sh—into the shape I want, you know. That's mine, my shape in the shaping is mine. And I remember I early felt that.
But I could admire a great generalizer, and there are some very fine ones going, you know. But it seems to me they steal the whole show, and they, they, they make us forget that the object is to, is to, is to set others generalizing. Just use that word, stick that word. Let's hear you generalize. Now I've heard people sittin' 'round say wh—that all un—generalizing's unsafe. There's a tone of that in good society.
But what are you, what are you doing, you know, but saying things, you know, at the risk of your, risk of your judgement and taste, all your, you're venturing in taste and judgement. And you, and you take your facts from, and the, the, the, the s—the extent, you know, of whe—of your resource, resources, Where you get it. Get it in life, you get it in looking out the window, you get it looking in the bookcase, and you get it in school and you get it in business, and you get it in the newspaper. There was a gay time in our, in education when the real, uh, real professors didn't read the newspapers. And I heard, used to hear that w—back when I was younger. "No, I don't know what goes on in the newspaper." [Laughter] That, that, that sort of thing. Then the next you knew, some of these sociologists hung a newspaper on the wall and lectured from it [laughter]. And, and so it, so it went.
But the integration is, would be—might be like this. Suppose I s —claim for the English department that it might be the clearing house, the place where everything came tumbling together that way, and put in order by, by, you know, the orderly mind. And, uh, uh, the English department.
Then let the other departments be a little, a little narrow, a little down to the, to the mere thousand of bricks that I'm talking about. Thousand of bricks. Let 'em be. And, uh, r—uh, and then how would you manage it.
You'd, you'd say, uh, that you're, you, you're supposed to be generalizing in what you write, e—whether you write stories or essays or, or poems. There ought to be in, in everything you write some sign that it, uh, that you come from almost everywhere. Nobody can tell where you got it. "Who you been reading?" if they say to me. You know, "Who you been reading?" [Laughter] You know, eh. Catch, uh, uh, that swallows you, you know, who you li—somebody say, "You been reading Browning?" You know, that, how I've always, uh, you never got anything out of me that way. I wouldn't even show resentment, I feel it so deeply [laughter]. Uh, and the, I don't want to be traceable. [Unclear]
But now suppose the English department were run that way, as a place where the writing was s—sh—uh, [unclear] supposed to show that you were all over the place in the college and all over the world, you know, outside the athletics and everything you do. Wouldn't know where your figures came f—n—one wouldn't be able, wo—would always find your, uh, uh, your figures unexpected and from, and, and out of different levels and out of different times in your life, eh. And then, I'm, oh, long time ago, I, I got a college president to agree with me that, that, uh, that we would do this if I'd come and do it with him, that we would treat the English department, the writing of it, as a kind of clearing house where everything showed. And, the, uh, the various departments would, could put in their claim, see the writing too, you know. Have something to say about, about, about it, where it, you know, about it's untraceability. Partly me, a little of me, and a little of somebody else, and so on. But I'd do it, I'd go so far as to say that in, in the writing, scattered over the college, uh, there ought to be an English department with a policeman's right to go and take papers out of any department and, and, and, and mark 'em for, for the, for not writing, talking anybody's jargon, any departmental jargon, you know. [Unclear]
Well, that's all, I'm not going to talk too much about that, about any of it. But, the, I'm sure that, oh, dear the, uh, these hurried-up judgements they're making now, reports on education, they're just absolutely worthless. I do—I haven't seen anything that, that excited me at all. The root of it all is that, how you, how you're getting young people to the point, somewhere before college ends, of making some, of, of, of valuing themselves on an occasional generalization they make of their own. And keep, keep that word for me. I l—I'd rest it on that. And I, I said down at Smith College once [unclear] one of these raids, in one of these raids, I, uh, Miss Drew I think was there. I s—I, my speech was on, "How can you tell when you're thinking?" [Laughter] And, and that's the way you can tell when you're thinking, one of the ways.
[Unclear] Do you ever make a generalization that's a little concatenation of som—of things, you know, that are picked up God knows where, you know? Did you ever make one, little song and dance, you know, little, little rigamarole, you know. Do you make—do you have 'em? And you, literary ones, or political ones, uh, I, uh, sometimes they're trivial, you know. Sometimes they don't go very deep.
Uh, uh, one of the last ones I talked in, uh, down in, let's see where did I do that, One of my talks was on, uh, uh, the two great towers, Babel and anti-Babel [laughter]. See. Where'd I get those. Got one out of the Bible and I got one down in New York, that Rockefeller built [laughter]. The tower of anti-Babel. To undo what Babel did, you see. Babel scattered us all into various languages, and I advocated doing, this was in fa—again, uh, everything ends up with me in favor of the English department [laughter]. I said, let us strengthen the English department so that if the world it comes to that, that they achieve the undoing of Babel and we have just one language so that it, uh, let's, let's have it so that it'll be English, see. So that my poetry won't have to be translated [laughter and applause]. Well you see that's just the rigamarole, that doesn't, you don't expect anything done about that, You expect to annoy somebody and please somebody else.
See, that's all, and, uh, uh, and, then I was thinking the other day how sick I was of, of the word "evolution." It's [unclear] I have to report that it's wo—it's going, going, you know, subsiding somewhat. You don't hear it much as you used to. Uh, but, [unclear] I never was satisfied in all the years of evolution talk by the, uh, Huxleys and all, uh, different gener—three generations of Huxleys, I never was satisfied that there wasn't a terrible gap still between animal life and, and human. See. Still unsatisfied. Uh, there's something, you know, about us.
And my [laughter] my th—heh, heh, heh, my theory is, uh, that just casually this way, you know, my little rigamarole again. My theory is that when, uh, that when animal, when, uh, the f—first animal and vegetable, when the meat and vegetables, we'll say, when them—meat and vegetables were ready, we arrived on a saucer [laughter]. And this saucer thing is in our instincts, you know, We want to go saucering now, [laughter] to the next place. There's something about it. And all the early country people I lived with drank their tea out of saucers. There's something about saucers [laughter]. Same as there is about us. Eh. Well, see, th—I don't set that up to make any difference to you. It's, it'll offend some of you and please some of you, uh, s—some of you fundamentalists from, [unclear] Tennessee [laughter]. Yeah, looking round, looking round at something.
But then what's all this got to do with poetry? Well, i—it does just this. That I think poetry again is, is the great clearing house. It's where, where you don't want to, uh, you don—you don't want to just recite and set to verse as I s—as people did at one time, you know.
They tried to write the, the great evolutionary poem, attempts were made. They think—well, Lucretius did it, why shouldn't we have one, we—just Darwin in it. And they used to come in, I used to look at 'em, dreadful things [laughter], and, but the whole thing was already worked out, you see, it was n—there's no, there was no great, the generalization was done in a few minutes by Darwin on the Voyage of the Beagle, where he got the sea sickness he never got over [laughter]. Uh, and, just that one, one little gleam he had, one of these things. And then he went on, scatter it, uh, making it, making everything come tumbling into it, you know, the way I'm saying. Out of everywhere. He never rested, uh, from it. He didn't have much more, did he? He still didn't seem to want, he seemed to be, think that it was necessary to fasten that on people. [Unclear]
Well now I g—gonna say poems to you. And I've always had to say, you know, after these talks, that they're, they're ju—they're, they got nothing to do with the poems I'm going to read. No, they don't lead up to the poems, anyway, they're not preface. They're just, they're just me little in, uh, my little preliminary indulgence. I want to have a little fun out of this, I don't want to [laughter] keep, don't want to keep just repeating these same poems. And the, the, uh, [unclear] if I, no, I've said enough.
The, uh, but I, uh, had, sometimes they're very deep and serious to me, the, for instance my, my annoyance at, [unclear] with some word does it oftentimes, sets me off on one of these rigamaroles, little frame-ups, uh, a little frame-up. And one, one that I've thought a great deal about is my antipathy to everybod—uh, every, to the word "agnostic," see. See. I know what's the matter with that. I, I got, I got, I thought just the other day, just settled it, why I've always said.
Someone said to me, uh, uh, beautiful lady said to me not so very long ago, uh, said, uh, uh, we were saying what we all were, and I was saying that historically speaking, I'm a Congregationalist, see, historically. And, uh, we were carrying on and, uh, she said she was an atheist. Well I said, "Thank God you're not a p—not an agnostic." And she said, "Well I had a suspicion you would felt, feel that way about agnostics," And then, then I'll go on. I won't go into that [unclear] evening. Tell you why I object to agnostics. But, [unclear].
All right, here goes the poems. Too bad you can't retaliate [laughter]. Talk back at these things. I, I have a notion to go w—go way back and just say some of the, uh, some of the early ones and scatter, uh, wander down through my poems. Isn't it strange that, uh, at the e—other end of this, uh, they, the thought part of it that seems to be so important to me, that goes on all the time wherever I am, wherever I walk, wherever I read, and, uh, tha—that's nothing I work at, you know, it's just something I, that, uh, it's what you, almost as bad as reverie, eh. Aimless, sort of, Always going on.
But at the other end of the extreme of that is my love of just the, the neatness and littleness of a, of a little poem, you know, and the rhymes of it [unclear]. And, uh, the little, just, I, I've made some people angry by talking about that entirely of an evening, about, I, I, have a little ivory box that I had in San Francisco th—many years ago. It's, uh, uh, it's, uh, Japanese. It's very p—couple of inches. And it's a little box with a c—slide cover, carved, and in it, two layers of pieces. And they fit together, i—[unclear] little of puzzle, it's not much of a puzzle. But the firs—the lower layer is two pieces to make the square, the next one is four pieces to make the square. And they're, you see where the two would have to be, the others you'd have to think about a little.
But they're very like a poem to me, with two sentences in one stanza and four sentences in the other stanza. But just stanzas. And the poem is the box, eh. And, that I, I talked about that once at one of these occasions and somebody got very angry at me. Said, "That's all you, poetry is to you." I said, "Yah." [Laughter] And, the little rhymes that [unclear] saw a very pretty poem by a, a little girl the other day, a really pretty poem about, uh, uh, wishing on a star, and, uh, cloudy night, and how was she going to wish for a star to wish with, Eh. Too cloudy [laughter]; no stars to wish. And, uh, but she didn't, and sh—the first little stanza of it set you to hoping that she was going to get out of the two stanzas all right. But she didn't. The last stanza she had to give up on. [Unclear]
Very lucky little rhymes in the first one and then the little one she couldn't, didn't quite get. And she knew it. And she was a nice little girl and, I said, "I wish you'd had the same luck with the second stanza you had with the first." It's a pretty little idea, the poem is. It's a poem. It's one of the little frame-ups, pretty little frame-up. But sh—and she, she said, yes, she knew she didn't have the same luck. Luck, superstition. That's why I'm not an agnostic [laughter]. See.
[Unclear] Suppose I said a little one to you, uh, the, uh, our friend Ciardi is coming here pretty soon. I've seen him so, so we've made our peace with each other. I don't know, he isn't here yet, is he. He's not around. Uh, he'll be on the scene pretty soon, uh. Ciardi's been t—taking, uh, made a public spectacle of me [laughter], uh, uh, that's all right, it's very fine what he did. But it's am—amusing that, that he thinks that my little poem that maybe I'll say to you first, [unclear] you may have seen it, you, in the Saturday Review if you never saw it anywhere else, uh. It, uh, goes like this, "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening." And if eve—ever I was guilty of loving the poem, see, and the tink—[unclear]:
[Reads "Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening"]
Now you see, we won't go into that but if you just, uh, that's ju—that's just a, it's, uh, you'd hardly call such a slight thing an orgy [laughter and applause], Little, in the rhymes in the. And then, he calls that, uh, I, I believe Ciardi and others have said, so—some people have said it's a suicide poem. That's going some [laughter]. And, uh, uh, they, uh, but he thinks it i—is, d—has a death, it's a death poem, And you can see how you could say, uh, the life is lovely, dark and deep, see, but I have promises to keep. I've got Heaven to go to, you know [laughter], [unclear]. And you could do that. That analogy's in it. Many others.
You could say it just the same as I could right now, that we're, this is lovely, dark, and deep situation, but I, I've got this, uh, I've got something, teach a class tomorrow. I, I've promises to keep. Company of an evening, one o'clock in the morning, two o'clock. It's an appropriate thing to say that stanza is [laughter]. It's lovely, dark, and deep. But I got to be getting along. And it doesn't mean that you're going to do anything bad. It sounds rather good to me that, uh, they some, I can see anyone might turn it the other way, like the old saying, you know, I used to be afraid to go home in the dark, but now I'm afraid to go home at all [laughter]. Tha—they think it's like that…
…and all this metaphorical play's all. But now here's a little death poem just for the fun of it [laughter]. It's a real death poem, uh, uh, it's called, I guess I call it, "Away!" "Away!" uh, "Away!", uh, and that would make you sus—suspicious to begin with [laughter]. And just let's go, take the little rhymes for the fun of it for me.
That's very, of the moment, that one is. The—uh, that's a real dea—uh, unmistakably a death poem [laughter].
All right. Then, th—these lyr—lyrics, "The Road Not Taken." You see you can, you can go along over these rhymes just as if you didn't know they were there, as if you all but forget, forgot they were there, like this. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I c— Yeah. Just a minute. Two roads— My mind's still on the other. Two roads [dive—]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. And, you see that talks past the rhymes [unclear] almost, you know, hi—hides them as it takes them. And you can—that's the kind of perso—thing that you'd like, you'd feel complimented to have anyone say to you, "I c—uh, when I read that I can j—I just hear you talking." I wish they could. My…
Then, way back, very early, uh, this little one that, see if I [unclear]. Now, I'm gonna… see, where is that? I'm not sure I know that one. It's called "Mowing." And not, not in the meter that I usually use but just the same talk. "Mowing." Uh, There was never a sound beside the wood but one,
And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground
What was it it whispered? I knew not well myself.
Perhaps it was something about the heat of the sun,
Something, perhaps, about the lack of sound—
And that was why it whispered and did not speak.
It was no dream of the gift of idle hours,
Or easy gold at the hand of fay or elf:
Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak
To the earnest Love that laid the swale in rows,
Not without feeble-pointed spikes of flowers
(Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake,
The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.
My [s—]long scythe whispered and left the hay to make. Now you see, that one line in there again, there's always one line, something: "The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows." That had a lot to do with my career. It's just my wish to, my satisfaction in, in, in gloating, the fa—gloating. Just gloating. The poetry is gloating. It's not getting up things, fanciful things. I had no business to mention fay and elf in it. I seem, I always feel sorry about that. But the, that's, uh, the, to the, Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak
To the earnest love that laid the swale in rows,
Not without feeble-pointed spikes of flowers
(Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake.
The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows. The fact is the dream. The fact is the dream, "My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make." I've just seen a whole essay to disprove that: [laughter] the fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows. That's all right, you see.
[Reads "Tree at My Window" followed by "Once by the Pacific"]
And, you know, o—one of the things that comes over you once in a while is how, how m—uh, much can you say in poetry without being at all expressive in the tones. Can you write poems poker-face, see th—the tones of which will be poker-face? And is there some object in doing that? I think there was, the way things are going. They've got a poker-face sound, so many of 'em. Sometimes something very good said, you know, but there's no, they don—they don't act up enough for me. And, well, th—and then you get it, you know, there's danger of acting up too much. You're somewhere between the devil and the deep sea all the time.
Uh, uh, what happened to… I, browsing around. See, the, then going back again to [unclear] that earliest book of all that I had my beginnings with. The, things like this. Here's one i—in which if you, if you want to, the, want me to tell you something personal about the form of it, too. Uh, I was very much aware that I was giving it a prayer sound, see. "O hushed Octmo—October morning mild." I wouldn't have put "mild" after that if I hadn't been, you know, being prayerful. "October." O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
[Tomorrow,] Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are [touched] with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost
For the grapes' sake along the wall. That's one of the very earliest I ever wrote, way, way, way, way, way back, Uh, th—I, and then, I want one called "Reluctance." This, uh, this, uh, is a, think of these, most of these that I'm saying to you are, have been strung all through my books. But they all are in that, that last one I was, that "Away!" one I said. It is the same thread of, down through the years. The same play. Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home, And lo, it is ended. The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping. And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
>The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
>But the feet question, "Whither?" All, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end The, I had, that was one of my first fortunes. I, I remember out, my old friend, I, I made a friendship out of that with an old, [unclear] famous pirate named Thomas Bird Mosher. Some of you may know of him, He pirated, pirated European poetry and published it in America [laughter], and paid, and paid the poets over there, in England, uh, but went over the heads of their publishers. And he was much disliked by the publishers. But he was quite a friend of mine. And he once sat down beside me. He printed that somewhere, way back early in my time.
But he sat down by me after I had had three books. And he said, "Robert, you're going to tell me frankly, have you written more than that one poem?" [Laughter] He died pretty soon, I didn't have to kill him [laughter].
Then, uh, I'd like to stir up old ones like that tonight. [Unclear] In the new ones, you see, the sa—the same thing.
Let's just see for the tone, Uh, this is again, uh, uh, reminds me a little of that "October" in the address it has in it, [unclear] "Choose Something Like a Star."
[Reads "Choose Something Like a Star" and begins to read "The Broken Drought"]
And, then, uh, here's, here's one in the irrita—now this one that, uh, shouldn't be in a book necessarily, but it was out of the irritation, uh, certain time there where all the people were talking, you know, the, kind of the other thing. And it's "A Case for Jefferson," I called it.
[Reads "A Case for Jefferson"]
See, that's that period [laughter]. That's, that's what they call dated. We won't insist on that, But it's just as true as the gun, you know, These fellows all denying it now, they've all gone to cover about it. [Unclear] just so sure, [unclear] I, I said to a person very high up in the government lately, uh, I said, "As long as all my educated friends and Mrs. Roosevelt, see [laughter], think [laughter], think that socialism is inevitable, can't be avoided, [unclear] has got to come," I said, "why don't you and I join in and hurry it up and get it over with, It couldn't last." [Laughter] And he said, "I wouldn't favor that policy." [Laughter]
His policy is drag his feet. And I think it's got to come [unclear]. And, uh, those things I cared about more than, uh, have cared about, uh, but not the way I care for rhyme and meter [laughter]. He—here's a little more recent one, too. Uh, it's in, in the book but it's the, one of the last things in the book, I guess, it's here, It's called "Closed for Good." It's just about a road which been abandoned, an abandoned road, Again, watch the rhyme for me, my sake, to please me.
[Reads "Closed for Good"]
Well, haven't I been about, uh, long enough? Has been a long time, Much talk tonight. Let's see, uh, what do you say, Doc? What shall I say? Say, say so—I haven't said a bit of blank verse, have I. Blankety-blank [laughter]. Uh, I'll say… let's, you know, now take one like this, uh, let's see if I, if I can lay my hands right on it, uh. Now, there, I thought I'd open to it. Just again for something I do with a rhyme that nobody would get at all except seeing it. [Unclear]… Just a minute, see one more attempt [fumbling through book]. No, it isn't where I thought it was. It's got away. But it, uh, yes, I would like to find it and I've forgotten it's name. I guess I'll give it up. Uh, not, take… take this one I'll say [tape noise].
It's another one that people have bothered around about the meaning of, uh, and got more, and I'm glad to have 'em get more out of it that I put in, of course [laughter]. That's all right. I, I do that myself, see. I get more out of them as year goes on, Uh, uh, the very first line strikes this note:
[Reads "The Most of It"]
And, uh, I had, uh, uh, get literary again, in parting. I, I met, uh, uh, a critic the other night, in—out in California, uh, who said to me that all people's writing, prose or verse, will be found to be an e—an effort of, of their inner nature to get their own name into the writing. Uh, he said no, "For instance in that poem of yours," he said, " 'And forced the underbrush,' " see, this deer forced the under-brush. That looks innocent enough to me but he said, "That's the name 'Frost' trying to get in." [Laughter] This is the subconscious, you know. Uh, [unclear] and then he went, he went to work to our amusement to show us how all words that could be—any word could become another word while you waited [laughter].
He, he wrote [unclear] two words about, say, eleven Ii—seven, eleven to twelve letters in it, you know, two of 'em. He says, thoughtfully, you know, he says, "Now those—we treat them as an equation." Said, "Now that 'o' over there cancels that 'o' over there and that 'a' cancels that [laughter]. By Grimm's Law we can dismiss that word." That word will become something else.
And, and, when he got through he grinned and said, "See, they're the same word." They didn't start the same but they ended up the same. You know who that is. Uh, I said to him, "Oh," you know, uh, "I been reading you." Uh, and, uh, uh, he said, "I, I think your trying to sound grim." I said, "It's a grim piece," you know, Hawthorne's, one of Hawthorne's things. "Oh," he said, "I've done worse things than that." Says, "I can darken everything." [Laughter] Smiling, pleasant fellow, you know, You know him, some of you. [Unclear]
One more poem. Blank verse, shall I say, or do you want me to… uh, well, somebody say it. I, I always get chided for not saying "Birches" if I don't say it. Uh, take, take this o—[gap in tape]
…[unclear] uh, always loved to show the young people that there's no sharp line between good and evil. So you don't think it was good over here and bad over there, surely. And they had to admit they didn't. Good thing [laughter]. And, uh, they, they couldn't be. But I, I'm a member of, this is the way this, um, that Ameri—uh, this is what it emerged into, uh. "There Are Roughly Zones." Roughly zones. There's no sharp division but roughly zones between telling the truth and not telling the truth. Roughly [unclear].
[Reads "There Are Roughly Zones"]
…shall I end on the limitless traits in the hearts of men? [Applause] Can I run out somewhere [unclear].
??: Excuse me? [Unclear] maybe a couple more. There's "After Apple-Picking," "Design," or something.
RF: You find them for me.
Reginald Cook: I'll find them.
RF: Find "Design" for me, will you? I'll say "After Apple-Picking." This… I don't know these, exactly. "After Apple-Picking" I can find easily enough.
RC: This is "Design."
RF: Yeah, I guess I'm gonna… uh, [unclear].
RC: [Unclear] you want me to look up "After Apple-Picking"?
RF: No, I'll find that. Now this, this is one that, that I, uh, wrote and lost, forgot I had. Years ago I wrote it and them somebody turned it up and it got, began to get credit and so I put it into the book. Uh, it's called, ion—it's very much, uh, uh, it's undramatic in the speech entirely. It's one of those poker-f—it's a kind of a poker-face piece.
This is the kind of poem that I'm never sure of because I think it's too observing, see, how observing do you want to be? And I always wanted to be very observing, but I've always been afraid of, afraid of my own observation, nature stuff and. I'd rather be observing in the psychologically i—rather see into people and see into what's the matter with agnostics. And, uh, but I, I, this one is a ver—just a piece of very special observation.
And then he said the other one I was to say to you is, Doc says, I ought to say one… [unclear]. I thought I knew right where it was. [Unclear] Huh. Where is it [unclear]? It's right there, isn't it, in that book [unclear] first part [unclear]. Right there.
RF: What? [Whispering in background] Well, maybe [unclear]. This is called "After Apple-Picking," and this again is, is dangerously observing. Uh, My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
[I,] I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall [and,] and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure [of a r—]of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
[The r—]The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep. Why don't I end on that? [Laughter and applause]