On Puritanism and Philosophy
Bread Loaf School of English, 28 July 1955
Typed transcript, 32 p. Abernethy Manuscripts [Frost] / Tape Transcriptions. Transcribed by India Tressault '80.

Reginald Cook: That's right. That's right.

Robert Frost: [Unclear] Ask me anything you'd think you're likely to be asked about. I'll tell you. [Unclear] all this. I wish you would ask me some things. That's what I'm here for, you know, I, I go that, I have a present thing happens to me at Dartmouth every year. I go over there and talk in the evening, and then I get questions the next morning about my talk, by six hundred boys. Six hundred questions. And, Mr. Jenson knows all about it. I see him back there. And, uh, they, I talk about religion and politics, history, Tom Paine, anything comes into my head. And then they ask me why I write poetry [laughter]. That's the first question, isn't it. And they wonder why, and I wonder why.

RC: Well, that's a good one. Why?

RF: I noticed Einstein saying the other day just before he died, to a friend of his, uh, this is in Scientific American, a very interesting talk. He said that, it was very hard to tell anybody about why he thought of anything. He said, somebody else could, after you're dead can probably tell better why he thought anything [unclear]. And that means something like, uh, what, uh, uh, Dr. Johnson said about the insincerity of letter-writing. This ver—now see you think you get nearer anybody in his letters, uh, uh, that he wrote in his lifetime, than any other way. Dr. Johnson said not. Said you're always fixing yourself up to be something, you know, nice, especially if they're gonna be ever, if you begin to get the idea that you're gonna be, that they're gonna be published [laughter].

And, [unclear] he talks about the various poses, the pose—Pope's pose, uh, uh, of hating his poetry. Said he really didn't mean that. All he thought about it was his poetry. All he thought about it [unclear]. Had a writing table on his bed all the time. Woke up to a writing table. Thought about poetry. And then his contempt for public opinion. Went into fits when anything went—when somebody didn't like what he'd said, you know. Passionate, passionate hater of, of his critics. And, didn't care at all. All that kind of stuff that people get to talking. I never—just thought about the letter-writing. I don't like to write letters but [unclear] I got a good excuse now that I came on that [laughter]. [Unclear] [laughter].

[Unclear] While you're thinking about gettin', getting ready to ask me questions, I said I'll say a little about the Puritans tonight. I've let myself in for that. You know a schoolboy may be defined as a, as a person who can tell you everything he knows in the order in which he learned it, and he never gets loose from that, you know, all his life he just stays that way. And, uh, uh, what he wants to get, uh, [unclear] he could be broken, you know, if he could be really broken, he'd know that, that someday he's got to get loose, and get what they call sweeping, just run over things in a—in, 'cording to his own feelings and his, what's survived, you know, and what he's liked and disliked [unclear] and making his sweeping, no matter how, if it's a little, a little, you know, little, uh, twisted [unclear] like, like, like a picture, like, like a painting that isn't nature, it's better than nature.

And then a teacher is a person, uh, [unclear] that's what a schoolboy is. The teacher is a person who enjoys leading the conversation where you don't show up well [laughter]—the opposite, or like lady, you know, a hostess, or, in a, in, in polite society, uh, very opposite from that. Now I've been with this, this sort of thing, you see, I'm, I'm, I, I'm emancipated. I've been left free for many years and I can talk about the Puritans without any, any obligations at all.

For instance, the first thing comes into my mind, how many years I've thought of the Puritanism of Greeks and Romans, and, before it dawned on me that other people had seen that, too. I just hadn't had that called to my attention. I thought there was no such thing as pagan puritanism, but of course, that's terri—I just thought I was the only one that's [unclear]. Of course everything about Diana, and everything about, and Minerva, had something to do with chastity and all that, and restraint.

And, and, uh, then I, I remember when I first in Catullus came on the story of Attis, who from sheer hatred of love, it said that in that, "sheer hatred of love," you know, destroyed himself and then was sorry, went to the shore and wept at the shore and then the goddess chased him back to, in, out of, off the shore right to the, to the [unclear]. [Unclear] The pu—in their, s—streak, purity, purity, purity. Then, just, then, uh, then, uh, skipping along, uh, "Milton! though shouldst be living at this hour." I wonder how many times that will be said in the history of England, history of America? Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword and pen.
Fireside, the heroic wealth of field and bower,
[is it,] Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness.
We are selfish men.
So on. And, when you say the name, Milton, you name, name, the name that will be forever. Puritanism. The great poet of Puritanism; not only the political one but the thinking one, too.

The—the, you, you have to get those two things separated. The, uh, most people are very narrow minded about it, you know, they just think about Puritanism that landed here in America and the political thing that, uh, that, uh, uh, that executed a king and so on. And, uh, all that. But it's a whole s—way of thinking. It's what brought on, you began to see it in the mockery of, of Chaucer, that light way he took it, and in the s—in the, in the severity of, of, uh, uh, Langland, see. But you saw it, saw it ri—rising, rising there, something [unclear] happened to the, to the corruption of the Church. And, but that's not, uh, [unclear]. I always think of it this way.

It's, uh, two, two things I think about, uh, in connection with it. One is that it is that in you that fears your own pleasure, see, distrusts your own pleasure. Greeks had that, too. They had their way of talking about that, that you, and my, I can remember my mother had a way of talking about it [unclear] when things were going too well, you know, that you were too happy. And that you wouldn't be, you know. Not, she wouldn't say luck because she was religious. But it, you, you'd spoil your luck, the Greeks would have said. You better throw something away that you value, and that you better be careful. [Unclear] walk easy.

That's, that's, that's in it. Fear of your own pleasure. And then, more than that, that's almost like superstition in it, that, that gets down to that, that level, you have, uh, you're always got, got that around you. I've got it around me. And, uh, then the other one is, the greater one, that, uh, uh, there ought to be in you something that forbids yourself. I, I, somebody who knew Hull very well — who just died — and who saw a lot of him, said that once when he was talking with him, and with Roosevelt in the next room, President Roosevelt. He said, "There's a man in there I'm very fond of but he needs somebody to hold him."

You see. He would have taken the presidency as many times as you would give it to him, in, in contradistinction to George Washington, who had checks within himself. There were no checks in Roosevelt. He was, he wasn't, he wasn't that much of a Puritan. And, you'll hear people say that, "Oh, get all you can and let those—let the others get all they can and you'll hold each other in balance." That's not it. This, there ought to be something in you that hates to be checked, that would, it's, is hurt to be checked. You want it [unclear] of, that you would, that you were bad not to need to be checked. You ought to have been self-checked. That's Puritanism, too.

What happened, uh, in, I didn't bring it, I should have brought Milton with me but I didn't have one. And, I should have read some little places that I remember him, but it's just well to take it that, that way. Uh, the Comus is the, is the great poem of it. You don't need anything else, You don't need the Paradise Lost, see, it's all lies in there. And, the, the, uh, the ideas of the two things, the rout of Comus and the, the Puritan family, the Puritan girl and Puritan boy and brothers and, and the things are said over and over again. It's interesting in there, just take what I, what stays with me. It says in there, I probably—did you ever notice this about, uh, your memory? That, uh, through the, in course of years you corrupt in a pretty fair way, you know, corrupt a line. It's got to be something else with you entirely.

I remember thinking years ago that it was in one line in Milton, uh, "Shall I go on? Or have I said enough?" See, that makes a line. "Shall I go on," [unclear] I, I like to think of it as, as two such lovely tones of, of inquiry. "Shall I go on? Or have I said enough?" And that's what I think makes poetry, you know. That's very high line of poetry. But it isn't a li—i—it's, it's half in one line and half in the other, I saw [unclear]. I made it into one line and put it on the blackboard once with somebody [unclear]. But that comes to the same thing [unclear] it's on, it's on the iambic meter. "Shall I go on?/Or have I said enough?" Uh, "Shall I go on?/Or have I said enough?"

You see, pretty [unclear]. And the, the, the other li—other lines in it [unclear], uh, the Rout of Comus, in the Rout of Comus. You get, uh, "We that are purer fire/Imitate the starry fire. We sit up all night [unclear] tipsy." And, uh, the word "tipsy" occurs, I can't go on with that. But those two lines always say to me, I always think of The Rout of Comus as a purer fire, as they think because they stay up all night, sleep all day, c—Court of King Char—Charles II and, uh, Hollywood and, uh, Las Vegas. All that. That's the Rout of Comus. And, I knew a very, a very p—rather a puritanical lady, let's see if I can say, Louise Imogene Guiney, who, uh, adored Charles II and, uh, some way she straightened that all out for herself, that he was pure, in, in his way [laughter]. [Unclear] she lived in England on his account. She wrote about it. She was the poet who said, To fear not sensible failure,
Nor covet the game at all
Those two lines. "To fear not sensible failure." And the, she [unclear] when she said, "fear not sensible failure," though you better have other people point out the sensibleness of it than talk it yourself too much. "Fear not sensible failure," it's silly to say that "covet the game at all" 'cause that's a game [unclear] as if you didn't want anybody [unclear]. Uh, that's false.

Then let's see if I, I remember something else in it. Says, uh, and I misquoted that, I'm sure. Uh, "None but the good can give good things." And that isn't quite right. I, I hope that's what, I shall loo—look that up, [unclear]. I was thinking about that this afternoon. "None but the good can give good dee—give good gifts," is the way I remembered. But I know it's "things," and I know that "none" is in the wrong line. I've got a picture of it. It's in the other line. "None, but, but such as are good—" no, I can't get that quite right. But anyway that's the idea. "None but the good can give good things."

And, that, that thing I got into my head when I was very young and it, it's bothered me all the years that a man can be a rotter and, and, and yet give good things—give great poetry, give good, give good thoughts, noble thoughts, though he's a terrible person like, like Verlaine or some of these drug fiends. People like that, feed on. Uh, it's a ve—it's a very Socratic sentiment. Socrates gave me that idea a good deal [unclear]. Only out of the good can good come. And that isn't true, uh, Emerson says, uh, "Out of the good of evil born." He, he found it out [unclear]. That great man, the President of the United States, may be the, you know, might be the son of a criminal, and, uh. In fact, I, I knew [unclear] I, I knew, uh, a great judge of the Supreme Court—the Supreme Court's one of my greatest admirations—one of the greatest things in the world is, uh, all the world's institutions. That I no—I knew Cordozo very well, was with him alone some, uh, one of the greatest, gentlest, noblest people, son of a political criminal, and it's thought that that isolated him somewhat, it made him a quite, a solitary man. But he lived just for the, the law and his books, that he had a, was saddened by that, by his father's faults. I don't know how bad a man [unclear]…

…I've known other cases, other cases like that. I, I've no—known one very recently. A personal friend of mine who was born near an interesting city, it was part of his education [unclear]. His political, he was a, he was some sort of a, money, thief or something like that. Big way. Uh, "None but the good can give good gifts." He gave the s—he gave the city that I'm thinking of — I won't go into names — he's been run—I [unclear] so lately. He gave the city a fine administration and was talked about. Very attractive man.

Then they, then you've got all this, this, uh, Court of, and there's the, uh, [unclear] Rout of Comus, rout, you hear them, uh, loud in the woods, you know, in that thing, uh, uh, and, uh, and you think of Silenus again, you [unclear], you see, go to the classics, as Silenus and Falstaff. Silenus and Falstaff. See that's the other thing. And very attractive [unclear]. One of the, one of the, kind of laugh we give that kind of person. It's a special laugh, wicked laugh, eh, uh, a laugh, it's. I [unclear] you do it with little children, see, the first sign of, of, of, of no—of, of, uh, uh, kind of cunning, not cuteness but cunning craftiness in a little boy somewhere, somebody being shrewd beyond his years, you know, in the, in the, in the grocery store or somewhere and hear him speak up [unclear] and how the men all exchange glances. He's a comer, he's comin' [unclear] he's a good one.

Then I, uh, let's see what else I've been thinking about Puritanism. [Unclear] So many [unclear] you see, they don't look at it large enough. This, what's the name of the Italian historian, and—

??: Vico?

RF: What?

??: Zico?

RF: No, it's some, someone who lived [unclear] a book on, on Roman period [unclear]. Kind of forced stoicism [unclear. Then, uh, we, we get it all narrowed down to a certain kind of people that came late to America, and, uh, uh,uh, a little late, and we kind of like to have something onthe [unclear] on the Plymouth Rock people and the Mayflower people, so they like to talk about witchcraft and Salem.

And they think they've got something on 'em, on, on Puritanism. Well they had very, a little something, but it, it's awfully little. There were 90,000 people executed in Europe, uh, for witchcraft, in, according to Voltaire, 90,000, while we were doing it to twenty or thirty in Boston.

It was a form of intellectual, intellectuality, you see. It was very, very sophisticated people thinking about witches at that time. And it didn't get over here except in the very, in the very cultivated Boston where there were more, uh, there were more college e—educated people. Didn't you know that? The time [unclear]. Everybody had been to Emmanual or somewheres, you know, in Cambridge. They all came over here. And, uh, uh, uh, Sam Morrison is my authority for that. It was the most collegiate community the world ever saw. And they picked up this thing, except.

Somebody asked me if I believe in God, you know, they, they're asking that question round. This, this I believe. I didn't answer them, I could have said, "Yes, I believe in God, but I don't believe in what he told the Jews to do to witches." [Unclear] It's in there, right there, what He told them, and. The, uh, but that was very, that was very intellectual at that time, thinking about that, the—this question of witchcraft. And i—it's always haunti—haunting you a little bit, you know.

What are these, what are the mysteries? Are you incapable of believing in any mysteries? Do you, did you ever see a witch? And I often said in public [unclear] "I could na—I could name twenty I've known." [Laughter] I could right now and claim, tell you the incident in their, in their lives, you know. Very, uh, fascinating one lately, uh. Friend of mine, uh, on the Boston Post, editorial writer, great friend of mine. He, uh, was out visiting, uh, another friend of mine near Gloucester, and they, they both noticed a sign that pointed to a, a, uh, spiritualist church, into the woods. And they had noticed that several times.

They said, "Let's go in there and see it. What is this place?" And they went in there and looked for it, and, uh, a s—a very sturdy, uh, sort of a fish wife sort of a person, came out, spoke to 'em, came out of a kind of a hovel, or a little house, and, they said what they were looking for and she said, "I'm it." [Laughter] And, and she said, "But I don't go with any of this crowd that come out from Boston." I don't know who they were. And she says, right off, she said, "Are you on the Boston Post"? See, like that. Startled him [laughter]. And she said, "Your paper won't let the, won't carry my advertisements."

Just like that. She was supernatural without any question [laughter]. The other papers just as well. And you're always coming on those things. What do you say to them? Well you just, there's a sort of a shrug you have for that, you know. Men used to quote Shakespeare: "So I've heard and do in part believe it." [Laughter] Get out [unclear] say that. When I came on that I, that relieved me a good deal to, to say that.

Well, I think that's enough about, about it all. I could go along wi—with more. For instance, uh, uh, what did, what's the history of it. Let's stop and think a minute. Suppose it's gone, Su—the political movement's gone. Well, first thing it did was e—execute a king with great dignity on both sides."In Bethlehem Common [unclear]," you know. Great stuff, wonderful, great places in poetry, "On that memorable scene." Uh, then, see the other party, the, the Rout of Comus, they executed a couple of queens I think, back in [unclear] time.

We—and there's no dignity at all, and that's divorces and things like that. Had all the divorces they wanted [unclear]. But the Puritan movement, uh, was just—executed one king. Then it started this thing here, this [unclear], this New England thing that scattered teachers like you all over the United States. I remember th—a couple of senators in Washington talking together, one from New England and one from Virginia. And u—the Virginian said, "See those mules. Are th—uh, are they from New England?" And the, the New Englander said, "Yes, they're school teachers going down to teach school in Virginia." [Laughter]

That's [unclear]. That, that's [unclear] part of the Puritan movement, that school-teacherism. And, uh, [unclear]. And, uh, the, uh, and then, without any question, uh, uh, I [unclear; tape somewhat garbled] I had a visit the other day from a very distinguished judge, Learned Hand, who said, said to me that he rather had his doubts about what the Supreme Court had just done. And I said, "I haven't." And he said, but he said, "My people were anti-abolitionists." [Unclear] I said, "Mine were worse than that. They were Copperheads." [Laughter] "Uh, they were wrong. And your people were wrong." They were, uh, an anti-abolitionist, uh, is a person who couldn't stand the abolitionist, reformer. Uh, I have a kind of a, eh, uh, I, just something in my bones that's, uh, uh, finds it hard to get rid of it, you know, and fanatics and people like that. But still I know that the needling that that kind of people do to the world, Puritanical needling [unclear] make this, make, make the Supreme Court do unanimously what it did the other day. [Unclear] needling of that kind.

My friends in the South [unclear] that I'm very fond of, uh, some of them, they don't think they, they think they could have done it all themselves without being needled. [Unclear] [laughter]. I hate to be disagreeable but it [unclear] it's the Puritanical thing. So it's been a great story, uh, I'm not, I don't belong, uh, uh, not to any Church. But historically I should be a Congregationalist. My people were all Congregationalists and the his—the history that we would, my people were here, uh, early, that way.

And, uh, I never see a Congregational Church but that I think I ought, must, must declare myself. I haven't done it yet but [unclear] [laughter]. [Unclear] Prettiest little one [unclear] do something about it. Just for the sake of his—for the history of the family. We were Congregationalists, I guess. My mother was a Swedenborgian [laughter].

…[Unclear] Congregationalists, the Kingdom of Hell. [Unclear] There's a place in there where — and I wish I had those words — where Milton said that evil will become scum on the surface and settle into dregs, and goodness will no longer be mixed with it. [Unclear], you know, [unclear]. That's one thing th—in there. Then another interesting thing is he talks like a, a socialist. You can go and see that. That's a, a kind of Puritanism, I think. And I'm going to say something else. Marx was a Puritan. Karl Marx. And, uh, he says, uh, I, I, as I remember it, uh, Comus is saying, uh, that you're got to…[unclear] all things in the world, they're all [unclear], and be, and not be as if you were, uh, nature's bastard instead of nature's son. That's [unclear] nature's bastards. You must enjoy what's all poe—all, it will be too much, [unclear] we'd be just overwhelmed with wheat and everything, you know, if we don't eat it.

And, uh, uh, the answer to that is, one of the brothers, I guess, said that. The answer to that is that if things were properly distributed so that the, so that everybody had just as much as, was good for him, there wouldn't be too much, see. It's the trouble with the time was that the, the rich had all the [unclear], court had everything. [Unclear] Terribly democratic, terribly socialistic. It's the same problem of the s—the socialistic problem is the, always the panacea. The panacea is, somebody turns up with a new way to manage the distribution so we'll all have the same culture, and all have the same food, and all have the same everything.

Get the distribution right. That's in, right in Milton there, in the Comus . Should have brought the book. Somebody see to that. I'm, uh, as a school boy, another thing about school boy. I, I noticed this when I taught the high school, that that meant, when I trained the, uh, sometime when I trained the debate club that went out to debate. And I told them, never say an idea is your own, see, 'cause that doesn't count anything with the judges. Always say, "As so-and-so said it." [Laughter] [Unclear] Uh, uh, uh, you find that out, uh.

[Unclear] then I, uh, nice to go on reminiscing [unclear]. I, uh, I put on plays sometimes, I'd forgotten that. I put Comus on once. And I had a puritanical venture with that.

I, uh, uh, I didn't ask for anything. I went to the city and bought some masks, some horrible masks, swines' heads and things like that for the rout of Comus. And, uh, rent them, didn't buy 'em. And, did this all on my own. And I did it, uh, and I put on the play without the permission of the head of the school. He was a, gray old member of, of the Church and a, quite a, an old scholar. And I hadn't thought of asking his permission to do this. I think I even sold tickets, uh, without getting permission. I had no idea. I was thoughtless. And I met him on the street one day and he said to me, "I understand you're giving a play." And I said, "Yes, sir." [Unclear] Then I, he said, uh, "Milton's Comus." And I said, "Yes." He said, "What have you for the scene in Circe's palace?" And I said, "I haven't much of anything." But he said, "Don't you want the church's silver service for that?" [Laughter]

This is Puritanism at its worst [laughter]. The, you're always, you know, people, some people are looking for illiberality and I'm always moved [unclear]. Tears came to my eyes. We used it. [Unclear] We set out a great scene [unclear] all the silver service, community service. Nobody made any trouble. [Unclear] Some of the lines almost come back to me. [Unclear] I probably missed [unclear] some of the girls and boys said it.

I had quite a l—quite a sinister boy—looking boy with dark, deep eyes that I used for Comus, and very, very… [Unclear] I haven't seen him all these years. [Unclear] I'd like to see how Comus came out, whether [unclear] to the top of the scum or went to the bottom of the dregs [laughter]. "Out of good is evil born [unclear] Cherub's scorn." Well, now, that's my part of it. And, anybody that wants to speak up or doesn't want to speak up and has s—to make himself speak up. [Unclear]

RC: Sounds to me as though you make these Puritans real humanists with that second point about the self-check. Irving Babbitt would feel pretty good about that, wouldn't he?

RF: Yes, he was a Puritan. That's, of course, sure… You, your… your conscience is something like, i—is related to… well as your eyes are related to your sense of touch, you know, they, they a—they reach further, they're an extension of touch so that you can know long before you bump into anything, see. So this, this sort of fear, this puritanical fear of being rebuked is ahead of it, you know, anticipates anybody else's rebuke. You'd rather be self-rebuked, you, that's what your conscience is, something that rebukes you with a gallows.., with a shotgun.

So. Then… uh, you know, again they, uh, one of the Puritan, very Puritan [unclear] classical things, you know, to balance things, is, is the way e—every single election we have in this country is sort of a liberation, of balancing of scales between freedom and equality. The equality is the mercy thing and freedom is the justice thing. Freedom means, you know, freedom is to achieve, win, freedom to win, and that has to be checked by, see, mercy or equality keeping us together. And all—every election i—is, is about that. And sometimes one party is more on the mercy side, for instance the Republican Party gave us the s—the sh—Sherman Anti-Trust Act which is an equalitarian thing, and the, uh, then the New Deal time from Wilson on — the Democratic Party — is more on the mercy side, the equalitarian side.

But it's always about that, almost every—we want to be as equal as we can without checking a—ability too much.

And we want to be as equal as we can in school without checking of the ability too much. We don't want to give everybody "A." But we want—and some people stay in school that ought not to be there. We [unclear] we have the courage to fire 'em out but in equalitarian mercy we keep 'em. Until people say the schools are beginning to deteriorate from mercy [laughter].

The, another thing the, of course, the Puritans g—gave us, uh, they gave us the great counter-revolution. Loyola, and all that. They pass out of history just the same—sort of same [unclear] this fear, this fear, political thing that gave way to that time. We all may go back to the Roman Church in the end. I'm not saying we won't. But the, the, the tremendous, tremendous blow it struck [unclear] over there, three, four, three, four, five hundred years there. That'll be forgotten. Just historically. Then there's this people way that I'm talking about. It's always there.

Sometimes when I don't think I know any good Puritans in that—in the Protestant Church I go s—I go see my Catholic Puritans. [Unclear] One I'm speaking of, the, the one that [unclear] amusing one on the Boston Post, one of the most learned people, readiest of wits, Irish, and, uh, he's the one that was recognized by the spiritualist woman as an editor of the Post, He is Puritan, old Puritan. He wouldn't, he, he wouldn't dislike the word; he understands. He, uh, uh, he would say, for instance, I often hear him use the word "prudence." Uh, he said, uh, as St. Thomas says, he'd say, the, the virtue of all virtues is prudence. And that's it in this thing between freedom and equality, uh, the prudent thing. The Supreme Court does something about it, but we all have something to do about it, voting every so often. That will be liberating. Not vibrating, liberating.

Prudence. Exercise of prudence. I have heard, uh, [unclear] I asked somebody else put three words together, interesting words. But prudence was one of those. Courage, prudence, and justice. [Unclear] That's a nice trio. [Unclear] Prudence has something has [unclear]. They have something to do with each other, all of them. "And now the matchless deed's achieved,/Determined, dared, and done." Now you can ask me anything.

RC: Uh, I think it would help Mr. Frost, maybe, if you'd come up here [unclear].

RF:[Unclear] [Voices unintelligible]

??: I can't remember the [unclear] but it's about [unclear]. What kind of flower was it?

RF: What kind of what?

??: What kind of flower was it that you didn't see from that railroad train? [Laughter]

RC: [Unclear] train. [Unclear]

RF: Yes. Oh, I don't know [unclear].

??: You didn't ever find—

RF: No, I think it was probably, uh, uh, probably lupine. [Unclear] I never went back. That's the point of that. That's the trouble with cars and everything w—and trains and everything. They just carry you by things you want to look at.

??: I'd have thought you might have seen it sometime. I just thought you might have seen it sometime when you weren't looking for it.

RF: No, it was in a strange place so I didn't come back. That… And I'm not—that, that brings you to a kind of thing that, that, that makes my—shows the difference between me and the scholars. If I'd been a real scholar I'd gone back. Thoroughness, you know. I miss some things. I miss, I miss some words.

I, and, uh, now and then, a, a classical reference in Milton [unclear] don't do anything with. [Unclear] But I don't like them unless I know them, uh, uh, you know. Score by the sentence, knowing it, you know, Not score by looking up, looking it up. I don't like anything I have to look up.

[Much noise] There are things probably in Comus. It's terribly readable, you know, that is it's very literal. Here and there somebody… [Unclear] somebody that you don't know much about. I know Sabrina chiefly at Amherst College. She was a [unclear]

…uh, you know, and everybody using the w—misusing the word "relative," you know. Everything's relatively so, you know, and, uh, what I say about Puritanism is only relatively so [laughter]. Spoiled everything with that silly word. [Gap in tape] [Laughter] And, uh, uh, Marx, the only trouble with Marx was, uh, uh, that he used the word [unclear], uh, talked about capital and he didn't know what capital was. But all of that—all that capital is, is the dollar ahead, or the tools ahead. Hammer or anything ahead.

That's all it is. And the whole question of, uh, he, he just, uh, gets you all at sea about that. If he'd ever—if he'd ever just cleared that up as to who should be the cus—keeper of the tool ahead. But he thought he knew something different about capital. All it is that simple matter. Fifty cents I've got in my pocket is capital. I've got [laughter] I've got some things ahead, that's capitalism, and that's security [laughter]. [Unclear]

And then, let's see who else is still there.

RC: Freud.

RF: Freud. Oh, yes, as I said [unclear] a man who's minding each other's business. [Unclear], you know. Sex is in that. That's a small part of it. [Unclear] We watch each other and we think that, uh, we like to say that our, our private life is nobody's business [laughter]. That's the way we protect ourselves, we're always screening. My private life is nobody's business. Doesn't matter how many wives and mistresses and things I have, all of it. But that's just, that's econom—but it's about your money, and everything. The income tax people, it se—seems now that they're going to open up our income tax reports again. For awhile they shut 'em off. [Unclear] they're going to open again. Everybody's business, see. That's the ruling passion in there. And that's what holds us together. That's fraternity.

RC: Uh, aren't you leaving out a quip? What about Sir James Frazier, The Golden Bough?

RF: Uh, that's, those are, those are minor people [laughter], [Unclear]

RC: Pretty important minor ones.

RF: Yes, they are rather important minor ones, They're down to bush leagues and everything [laughter]. That kind of stuff, uh, it all comes under the Darwinian thing, you know. That's [unclear], people, there're a whole string of those people, uh, like Huxley and, and [unclear]. One of 'e—one 'em wrote a book on the evolution of the idea of God, where it started from. Whole big book. Another one on the evolution of the idea of love. [Unclear] That [unclear], Grant Allen is the name of one of 'em. I saw those around when I was [unclear]. Didn't bother me any.

The, uh, [unclear] the thing I was, was saying, what you say to these people as they come along. You say, "Yeah, it's all very well." There is evolution, there is the real—some things are relatively s—did you notice in the newspaper it gets, uh, science gets into the newspapers as it never did years ago. It's, it's ver—very, very remarkable. The, uh, the, uh, uh, light is apparently going ten miles a second faster than it used to go. It just, somebody's just found that out [laughter]. And that was supposed to be the only absolute there was, the speed of light. And it's apparently the last—lately it's been going a little faster [laughter]. The thing now is the sec—out of, uh, what is it—eight hun—

RC: [Unclear]

RF: [Unclear] 186,000—

??: Thousand, yes.

RF: [Unclear] Somebody said that [unclear]. No, it's me [unclear]. Speed of light. But Einstein treated that as an absolute. That knock Ein—that knocked Einstein into a cocked hat [laughter].

If you want to read a pretty thing about a great, uh, about a very charming man, uh, whatever he—right or wrong and all that, you go to the last number but one of the Scientific American and, uh, an interview with him just before his death by a man quite, quite in this all with him, philosophically and scientifically very great, very beautiful thing. Very moving. Very, very lofty person. Even his, even his, uh, his uncertainty is, is very attractive. This little formula, you know, for everything. He just felt this way about it. He hopes he [unclear]. And he was dying, see.

One of his friends that I, I happen to know [unclear] supposed to be one of those in it all who [unclear]. I said to him, "You all happy about, about him, and what he concluded?" He said, "We think he got away on the wrong foot." And that's what Einstein said in this article. He sa—he says that Planck — uh, that other great man that he admired so much — that Planck, right in the middle of his career, got afraid that he, got afraid that he'd got away on the wrong foot and he changed hims—his whole life about it, went off on another tack entirely. [Unclear] Find that kind of a mind there.

[Unclear] You know I, uh, I've been talking lately about something that might interest you. I just made up my mind that I wouldn't, that I never had clashed with anybody if I could help it, either from cowardice or whatever you want to call it. I never, I never ran a class that way. But I, I, I knew a great teacher, re—uh, re—reputedly a great teacher, who threw one apple of discord into the class per day. He could start a row. And he, uh, but it was for about ten boys out of fifty. The others looked sullen most of the time. I peeked in once and a while. But they, a lot of them took right hold of it and loved all that sort of thing. But I always noticed that I would rather not clash with, with the Jews or anybody else.

And, uh, the, I always s—say this to myself, that I hope I'm broad enough and large enough, that I've been broadened and enlarged enough in the years so that I'm not, so that I can listen to almost anything without losing my temper or my self-confidence. I said that over at Dartmouth, uh, first I said that I, that I've been liberalized long enough so I could listen to almost anything without losing my temper or my self-confidence. And then my next step is, I say, I let any—I'll accept anybody's say-so, anybody's premises. See. I'll let them have their say, and then I, I take it my way. Give me time and I can do it without, without any, you know, without hurting each other. [Unclear] Say "Yes, yes, yah, I see, uh huh."

For instance, when, when I heard that, that, uh, God made man [unclear] I remember taking that when, I thought, I wondered if my mother was greatly disturbed by all that Darwinianism. And, and I remember saying to her, I don't know just how old I was — it's easy to lie about those things—somewhere around fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, I said to her, "You think, don't you, that, that it doesn't make any great difference if God, uh, to say that God made, give up saying that God made man out of mud. He m—all you have to say is that He made 'em out of prepared mud." He worked it up through other animal life, so it comes to same thing, you see.

You've said the Darwinian thing, just [unclear] haven't got any further, any further. And the same about many things, you say, uh, I don't know, something lately, oh, for instance, they say that all the best people left New England when, when the Revolution started, and went to Canada. All right, you know. I wouldn't qu—quarrel—never quarrel with premises. Except the premise is they all went to Canada. Haven't been heard of since [laughter]. [Unclear] You know what happens to 'em? They—if they'd amounted to anything, they'd naturally go to the capital of the empire, see. [Unclear] they, they, they naturally drift to England.

And Australia just the same, New Zealand. They have a hard time. I, I had a visit from, uh, uh, a man named Ian Donnelly, editor of a big newspaper out, New Zealand. And he just said, he said that, that there's something's always out of [unclear]. Home is England. Uh, we learn that the—Kipling says, "We learn from our English mothers to call Old England home. For generation after generation they say home. And, that's, that, that's maybe nice, you know. I'm not, I haven't even said it's bad. Then the other possibility is that nothing good ever comes of the best people. Now that's mean. That's… [unclear] worst something usually comes.

Somebody said to me the other day I, I mustn't, uh, I mustn't talk [unclear] how some boys s —singing on the street in, uh, selling cookies, in, in St. Petersburg, maybe, it was built then, I guess. Peter [unclear], uh, Peter the Great. Peter heard him singing sweet voice, just a boy. He became one of the great men of the empire. Somebody said, "Well, you mustn't tell this st—that kind of story too much, tell about how some rich man amounted to something." "Well," I said, "I often do: Roosevelt." You see you could, I say how many, uh, don't you think it's a funny thing about those things.

How many disadvantages does a man have to have to become great? Does he have to be born in a log cabin, oh, oh, you know, Let's see, let's see. I think it's a great disadvantage to be born too rich. Here's a man born very rich. Born—uh, only son, very domineering mother — there's three disadvantages he's got already. Then he goes to Groton [laughter]. [Unclear] Then he goes to Harvard — that's five disadvantages [laughter]. Still he's nobody. No— hasn't made him yet. And then he goes to, down and hangs around in Washington for some years, and up in New—uh, Albany and all that, and nobody thin—he, they all get used to him. And that's a great disadvantage. Everybody gets to say, "He's an old story." Got to be an old story.

And God says to Himself, you know, then, uh, said, "What can I do for that man to make him great? I've set my heart on making something of that boy." And He said, "I've ca—given him all these disadvantages and nothing to it yet." And He gives him polio. And then he becomes one of the world's great men. That's the other kind of story that, log cabin you. [Unclear] Don't want to confuse you [laughter].

RC: You know, someone was interested in what happened down in South America, Mr. Frost. Maybe it's too long a story.

RF: Not very long. I, I got back to the farm just as fast as I could [laughter]. [Unclear] supposed to go. Uh, I went, uh, I flew, say four—fourteen, fifteen thousand miles, they tell me, all told. And I didn't want to fly. was afraid of it, to fly. But I went. Very heroic [laughter]. [Unclear] Didn't mind it except when we were taking off and landing [laughter].

And then I got down there among the, among them all. I saw a little bit of a revolution. 'Twas just, I saw a few cars tipped over and bur—in the street and burned, you know.

And, the night I spoke down there, everybody was warned on my account to keep off the street [laughter]. [Unclear] I took it to heart [laughter]. [Unclear] streets were dangerous [unclear] so I didn't have very good audience. But I had a time to, uh, in the thing I went for was not that. That was an incidental talk.

I went for a convention of intellectuals. I was, I was supposed to be there the week before among the, among the literary people, the authors, [unclear] writers. But I got delayed in [unclear] and I got among the intellectuals [laughter]. [Unclear] They were all worried about the United States. They were from all, all countries south of a certain line. Let's see, they were, It—Italy was there, Spain was there, Portugal was there, and the South American countries. And nobody from England, nobody from Germany, and nobody [unclear].

Person I liked best, the w—one that talked some English, uh, that I could communicate with best and had ideas nearer mine, was a c—count from Portugal. And, very nice man. Some of 'em were too remote from me. I could understand some French but I can't talk French. But everybody was despairing of, putting their hands out this way and looking to Heaven, despairing of the materialism that America was leading the world. And they didn't mean a—they said they, they, they were just sorry about it, they were anxious about it.

And I, I read their speeches, and had them interpreted to me. Girl from, a girl from Donald Davidson's classes out in Tennessee was the interpreter down there. She lives down there but she's been up here, educated, spoke good English. She did pretty well but I, I had an idea there was some of it I was misunderstanding. It's always that way! They just said you would, you know, just America, materialism. How can we save the world from materialism?

I, I, I didn't go with any written address. And I, I, uh, talked about our materialism as long as they wanted to talk about it. I didn't, I accepted the premises, you know, as usual. I didn't quarrel with anybody. I just said I was sure we were anxious about it, too, because in everybody's bathroom wherever I went there were scales to weigh yourself [laughter]. [Unclear] prudence comes in, you see. Pleasure of food, and pleasure of not weighing too much [laughter]. [Unclear] St. Thomas was right.

Well, it was all right. We—they put, you know, they talk this—about us this way, and they, that old Rivet, who was one of the great old French anthropologists, uh, so learned, so attractive, so handsome, so aged, very splendid man. After we'd done all this, he did it, too. He put his arms around me, French style, you know, which was nice. There was no, no acrimony in any of it. The, uh, the man — that's Rivet — he's the one I'd remember longest. The Italian didn't like him very well. Didn't like his style. Very brilliant paper he read.

But he had a formula for, for combining to save the world from American materialism, combining Marx—Marxism and the Roman Church [laughter]. Amazing person. That's not new. I've heard that. Uh, didn't astonish me enough. You see you get led off to change your emphasis from, this, from Thomas Aquinas to St. Augustine. You might do something with that. [Unclear] casuistry.

And then we, then I, uh, uh, I saw just a little. I didn't need to see Rio. I'd seen so many pictures of Rio all my life that it looked really stale to me [laughter]. Mountains sticking right up out of the water like that, Oh, everybody's seen them [unclear]. Uh, uh, and I didn't feel, I didn't get anything out of that, But I, I got a good deal out of Sao Paolo. Those are both cities of about three million. Big cities. And, uh, uh, Sao Paolo is just like Chicago or Dallas; it's a huge, humming city, city, tall buildings over it all and I, I could point to that, too. It was there where this went on. And over the city, over that great city, was a four-letter word in, in, uh, in, uh, neon lights. Four-letter word right over the whole city, at night: "Gulf" [laughter]!

[Unclear] Uh, they also find this. I went to see the, I didn't go to see anything. Then I, then because I was there they said you might as well come over and, Lima. Might as well [laughter]. Just, just seven or eight or nine hours, I guess, flying over the highest mountains on the continent. And I said, "They going to do that in the night?" [Unclear] all the flying in night. I hadn't seen anything. I hadn't seen the Amazon River or anything. And they said, "Oh, no, you can't do th—this is dangerous [unclear]. They have to see where they're going." [Laughter].

[Unclear] That was, that's the, the thing per—I like the cities, you know, to see them, perhaps, you know, but, uh. I should have gone to see, see, you get that far at the government's expense, [unclear] why don't you see something. Uh, I kept saying that to myself. But I kept thinking the, uh, whether the deer got into my garden [laughter]. [Unclear] I'm not a traveller. The, uh, I, uh, saw the whole underneath, I saw the wild parts of, uh, of Brazil that I'd never dreamed of seeing, you know. You saw places, uh, it'd be something that, unbroken wilderness. You couldn't tell whether it was trees or what it was. It was just nothing in it.

And then there'd be a little thing that looked like a loaf of bread, shaped like a loaf of bread. And, uh, part, uh, you could interpret that into a, a community house. That's where savages live. And the trodden ground around it marked it, you know. And you could see little threads of paths off from it. They looked just like threads. Nothing there, no animals, no—that is, no pack animals. Be just human, human feet. And, uh, then we came to, we saw a pass down below us. Saw one automobile scooting along the road, That's so very high we would, very near it. And then we were, we almost touched the volcano tops that we crossed. They, we went and looked into 'em. They to—tipped, tipped the plane around, came around so we could look down.

We thought of, then I thought of the, the, uh, joke in the, uh, the boner you know, Boy said what a, uh, if you look into a volcano you can see the creator smoking [laughter]? We looked into two volcanoes. Saw the smoke in one of them, the other didn't look [unclear]. They both looked very quiet. [Unclear] Oh, of course that's all, that was all, we were right up among glaciers and peaks and all, just nothing but glaciers and peaks and, and, volc—two, the two that misty and then the other one we looked down into.

And then we were very near, uh, this, uh, city of [unclear], uh, it's where, it's where the poetess… See, what is the name of that city, uh? It's a, it's a very famous little, small city. Marble city. Could see that. Well, I c—I'm not going to be able, I, slipped my mind right now, some reason. Then we went down into Lima, and Lima's a beautiful city under cloud all the time, We had to pene—we had to make a cl—uh, that kind of landing there, right down through cloud. But it's a very interesting city, never rains there but it's cloudy all the time.

And you, you go out ten miles to night clubs and places like that, and day clubs, you go out to day clubs where the sun is, up in the, just up the mountains a little ways [unclear] from the Humboldt current. Uh, went to one of those [unclear]. And then I, I w—I saw one of the ancient [unclear] nearby the [unclear]. Uh, had a half, half an afternoon in a, in an ancient city that had probably had half a million inhabitants, and all adobe, all adobe, and, uh, uh, the graves all around. Mounds, you know. And I saw a skirt, the edge of a skirt, the cloth flutter in the wind, and I pulled it and I pulled it, got more and more skirt, pulled it. Pretty soon I pulled out a lady [laughter].

I brought home a few pieces of things and, stick in my pocket. I didn't do much of that, The, I, I had a, an i—an unlawful adventure, I think. I, uh, I said to an archaeologist there who was a very, very fine man. I said, "What I would like out of this country is a little piece of gold, um, you know, the Inca gold." And I said, "I suppose that never gets out." He said, "Sometimes it does." Nothing else was said. And, I, I think, I got in the mail without anything to mark it in any way from whom it came or any-thing, a little thin piece of gold ornament, a little piece of a—little bit of a gold ornament. Very thin gold. Must have come from him. He didn't say a word, Not a word, not a word. [Unclear] But it's very tiny [laughter]. [Unclear] sent it as a joke [laughter].

So that's all there was to that. There was nothing about, I saw, I saw, uh, uh, Dulles when I came back, and was supposed to tell him, you know, what to do about [laughter]. [Unclear] Said he'd do what he could. And I said, "Oh, I've heard that line before." When he said [unclear] do anything he could I said, "I've heard that line before. Do something." See. And I, I, you know what I told him to do? I told him to be nicer to the, the, the cultural relations people down in those places. They haven't, they haven't diplomatic standing. They have no ri—they can't go through red lights [laughter]. That's enough of me. Unless you've got something serious to ask. [Unclear]

RC: You ought to have told him to take that "Gulf" sign down.

RF: No, [RF laughs] no, he couldn't do that [unclear] [laughter]. They like that. The other sign that was all over everything, it wasn't over the city but it was sprinkled all over every building, every, every, every store, and everything, uh, is, Coca-Cola. That's [unclear]. And there wasn't a car on the street. The, crowdin' cars. You ran for your life down there. And, uh, but [unclear] they're rich, those cities are rich, oh, terribly rich, And somebody said, "Did you go slumming?" No, I didn't have time to go slumming. There are slums down there, too, I've heard. But I just—you could see, very rich city. Cars and — all American, all ours. More ours than Italian or British or any of your continental cars. Just, just swarming cars. Cadillacs [laughter]. [Unclear]

Then I, you want one more story before I go? I, uh, uh, [unclear], I, I, boy came to me at Amherst College. His name was Adcock. Greek name. And he said I—he'd known me there but he was now at Harvard, uh, studying philosophy. And he asked me what I thought of the philosophy department at Harvard, and I said I had no way of judging it. It had been my favorite department when I was there. And he said, "Well, I can't stand it." He said, "They're nothing but a lot of epistemologists. There aren—there isn't what I mean by a philosopher there." And I said, "That so?" And I said, "Why do you s—stand it, then?" And he said, w—said, "I don't want to be a quitter, do I?" And I said, "Well the Bible says, 'quit ye like men.'" [Laughter]. Says, "Where would I go?" And I said, "Oh, anywhere." This was long before I went to Brazil. Year or two ago. Three years ago. Four years ago. I said, "Anywhere. Brazil." And, and I found him in Brazil [laughter]. He was already, instead of a philosopher he was a great authority on precious and semi-precious stones. He gave me a few. Rewarded me for sending him to Brazil [laughter]. [Unclear] All right, shall we quit? [Applause] [Unclear] [Laughter]