Before mid-May, 1931, on a buoyant, sunny spring day, Nita packed a lunch and we drove the back way, via Poultney and Dorset, to South Shaftsbury, Vermont, to visit the Frosts.
Arriving at South Shaftsbury about two-o'clock, we phoned the Frosts from the General Store. Mrs. Frost answered and, after making sure that a call would not disturb Robert Frost, we headed for his farm off the main drag. At the center of South Shaftsbury town, we made a sharp turn by the General Store, and his turnoff was about a mile up a dirt road. We followed a cart path for a couple of hundred yards, and there, sheltered in a notch of the folding hills—hence "The Gully"—was the farm.
A large dog ran towards us barking excitedly. Small wonder for the farm was remote and cars were seldom seen. Frost came to meet us. As the porch is not high he seemed tall and broad. He greeted us with familiar cordiality and informal hospitality and appeared sincerely glad to see us.
Mrs. Frost greeted us inside, shaking our hands cordially, quickly putting us at ease. We passed through the dining room and into the sitting room. It is a long room with a southern exposure and with a fine large fireplace directly in the center on the northern side. From the walls hang J.J. Lankes' woodcuts and modern paintings, including a portrait of Aroldo du Chêne's head of Mr. Frost sculptured in 1920. The western wall is flanked with bookcases with full shelves. Cut in the western wall is a large window. A door opens into a northwest room against whose walls are many more bookcases and another fine fireplace. This, said Frost, was his study or work room. In the pauses of our talk, I felt how delightfully home-like it was here, and how persuasive the cordiality. Frost talked vigorously.
Conversation does not perceptibly tire him, but rather seems to enliven him. I had the impression ideas had been stored up for such occasions. One thing reminded him of another; he divagated; he skimble-skambled.
What happens to words in poetry? he asked. The difference between the words of prose and those of poetry consisted in the renewal of words. which took place when these words were aroused by emotion. In poetry there was a "suggestion of making" in the words.
A poem, he said, was like an "angle-iron"; suggesting that it had different slants and each reader took what he wanted from it. He praised Emily Dickinson highly, calling her poetry "gnomic." Emerson he referred to as "the father of them all"; he "commissioned more men to their work than any one else." He praised highly Emerson's "Uriel" and "Musketaquid."
Frost's conversational range has a wide arc. Tagore suggested the problem of internationalism. Though he acknowledged the significance of internationalism he thought each nation should keep its identity like the pigments on an artist's palette, each original, distinct, and inimitable in its own right. John Gould Fletcher and Ezra Pound were summarily dismissed as "incorrigible expatriates," and Masefield's name suggested the disappointing later work. Frost lambasted Sandburg's "awful sentimentality." Poe lapsed too frequently into "cacophonous" expression, but Longfellow, for whom Frost has a tender place in his regard, had strength. He told of slyly reading Longfellow's poems before a group at Bryn Mawr without his elite audience detecting whom he had been reading. Longfellow's poetry was applauded unwittingly.
After our talk we walked up the incline to his vantage-ground from a hilltop, where we looked toward Manchester. Woodchuck runways threaded the pasture grasses. On the west, looking down the valley, was the Taconics and, on the east the granitic range of the Green Mountains. At an opening on his 150-acre farm, we viewed a fine stand of white birches thick as arrows in a quiver, across the field.