While I was traveling from Boston to Middlebury, Frost got on the coach at Rutland and I sat down with him and talked until we arrived at Middlebury. He was in a very congenial mood and talked about poetry, education, the arts, and writers.
He spoke about how men are drawn into life; how some are affected by luck and others by what he called "a lure." When I added that the success would depend upon the nature of the lure, he agreed, repeating the phrase "nature of."
He referred to people who are too much out in society as tending to become like "variorium editions" of other people. He said significantly: "You have to secrete in order to secrete."
He referred to "The Thatch" (West-Running Brook, 1928). He said it evoked a memory of England in what he called "those black pre-war days" in the black country (near Malvern Hill) where he lived in a straw-thatched cottage, at "Little Iddens," in the Dymock region, Gloucestershire. (See L.Thompson: Robert Frost I, pp. 445-56) At night he walked the floor in the dark room where the thatch fell to his elbows, and brushing by and trampling about, he frightened the birds that sheltered there, scaring them out into the strangeness of the night. This helped to settle his own melancholy—that some other living thing had to face its kind of blackness while he faced his kind.
He recalled things that had come as "favors": (1) Once he came upon purple cliff brake (Pellaea atropurpurea) on a dry cliff's edge over a favourite vantage spot. (2) Out of a great New England sunset an owl banked in the wind and spread itself across the window in a sudden Shadow and then fell away. (See "Of a Winter Evening," Saturday Review of Literature, April 12, 1958; title changed to "Questioning Faces" in In the Clearing, 1962.)
Education, he said, is "turning things over in my mind."
Of his poetry, he remarked: "I don't seem to have some big piece of resistance."
Those who get a great deal from reading and literature, he described as "people who know how to lend themselves to the great fears." Arts are "scares," because there is within us a need to have "scares." An incident or event scares us to some disciplined emotional response.
Francis Thompson's "Hound of Heaven" is the "escape of a person who needs to be caught."
Life is "a pursuit of a pursuit of a pursuit." (See "Escapist-Never" in In the Clearing.)
Of Longfellow—"He hasn't been thought thick enough. He is more like water color than oil."
Santayana's "high priest of Beauty is Truth."
Goodness and badness he called "pigments" in the arts.
He liked the philosopher-poet Santayana's little piece on Mercury. (Later Soliloquies, "Hermes, the Interpreter," 1918 – 1921. Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies: University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1967.) Santayana analogizes with "ulteriors or ulteriorities."
A poem, he said, gets started and develops from "ecstasy at some surprise in your mind," and ideas, emotions, words are already present which you hadn't suspected.
One of his locutions: "and near as I could come to tell you…"