Additional Poems by Robert Frost
My November Guest
My Sorrow, when shes here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.
Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
Shes glad the birds are gone away,
Shes glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.
The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.
Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.
from A Boy's Will (1914)
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 long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.
from A Boy's Will (1914)
Im going out to clean the pasture spring;
Ill only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I shant be gone long.You come too.
Im going out to fetch the little calf
Thats standing by the mother. Its so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I shant be gone long.You come too.
from North of Boston (1915)
The Death of the Hired Man
Mary sat musing on the lamp-flame at the table
Waiting for Warren. When she heard his step,
She ran on tip-toe down the darkened passage
To meet him in the doorway with the news
And put him on his guard. Silas is back.
She pushed him outward with her through the door
And shut it after her. Be kind, she said.
She took the market things from Warrens arms
And set them on the porch, then drew him down
To sit beside her on the wooden steps.
When was I ever anything but kind to him?
But Ill not have the fellow back, he said.
I told him so last haying, didnt I?
If he left then, I said, that ended it.
What good is he? Who else will harbour him
At his age for the little he can do?
What help he is theres no depending on.
Off he goes always when I need him most.
He thinks he ought to earn a little pay,
Enough at least to buy tobacco with,
So he wont have to beg and be beholden.
All right, I say, I cant afford to pay
Any fixed wages, though I wish I could.
Someone else can. Then someone else will have to.
I shouldnt mind his bettering himself
If that was what it was. You can be certain,
When he begins like that, theres someone at him
Trying to coax him off with pocket-money,
In haying time, when any help is scarce.
In winter he comes back to us. Im done.
Sh! not so loud: hell hear you, Mary said.
I want him to: hell have to soon or late.
Hes worn out. Hes asleep beside the stove.
When I came up from Rowes I found him here,
Huddled against the barn-door fast asleep,
A miserable sight, and frightening, too
You neednt smileI didnt recognise him
I wasnt looking for himand hes changed.
Wait till you see.
Where did you say hed been?
He didnt say. I dragged him to the house,
And gave him tea and tried to make him smoke.
I tried to make him talk about his travels.
Nothing would do: he just kept nodding off.
What did he say? Did he say anything?
Anything? Mary, confess
He said hed come to ditch the meadow for me.
But did he? I just want to know.
Of course he did. What would you have him say?
Surely you wouldnt grudge the poor old man
Some humble way to save his self-respect.
He added, if you really care to know,
He meant to clear the upper pasture, too.
That sounds like something you have heard before?
Warren, I wish you could have heard the way
He jumbled everything. I stopped to look
Two or three timeshe made me feel so queer
To see if he was talking in his sleep.
He ran on Harold Wilsonyou remember
The boy you had in haying four years since.
Hes finished school, and teaching in his college.
Silas declares youll have to get him back.
He says they two will make a team for work:
Between them they will lay this farm as smooth!
The way he mixed that in with other things.
He thinks young Wilson a likely lad, though daft
On educationyou know how they fought
All through July under the blazing sun,
Silas up on the cart to build the load,
Harold along beside to pitch it on.
Yes, I took care to keep well out of earshot.
Well, those days trouble Silas like a dream.
You wouldnt think they would. How some things linger!
Harolds young college boys assurance piqued him.
After so many years he still keeps finding
Good arguments he sees he might have used.
I sympathise. I know just how it feels
To think of the right thing to say too late.
Harolds associated in his mind with Latin.
He asked me what I thought of Harolds saying
He studied Latin like the violin
Because he liked itthat an argument!
He said he couldnt make the boy believe
He could find water with a hazel prong
Which showed how much good school had ever done him.
He wanted to go over that. But most of all
He thinks if he could have another chance
To teach him how to build a load of hay
I know, thats Silas one accomplishment.
He bundles every forkful in its place,
And tags and numbers it for future reference,
So he can find and easily dislodge it
In the unloading. Silas does that well.
He takes it out in bunches like big birds nests.
You never see him standing on the hay
Hes trying to lift, straining to lift himself.
He thinks if he could teach him that, hed be
Some good perhaps to someone in the world.
He hates to see a boy the fool of books.
Poor Silas, so concerned for other folk,
And nothing to look backward to with pride,
And nothing to look forward to with hope,
So now and never any different.
Part of a moon was falling down the west,
Dragging the whole sky with it to the hills.
Its light poured softly in her lap. She saw
And spread her apron to it. She put out her hand
Among the harp-like morning-glory strings,
Taut with the dew from garden bed to eaves,
As if she played unheard the tenderness
That wrought on him beside her in the night.
Warren, she said, he has come home to die:
You neednt be afraid hell leave you this time."
Home, he mocked gently.
Yes, what else but home?
It all depends on what you mean by home.
Of course hes nothing to us, any more
Than was the hound that came a stranger to us
Out of the woods, worn out upon the trail.
Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.
I should have called it
Something you somehow havent to deserve.
Warren leaned out and took a step or two,
Picked up a little stick, and brought it back
And broke it in his hand and tossed it by.
Silas has better claim on us you think
Than on his brother? Thirteen little miles
As the road winds would bring him to his door.
Silas has walked that far no doubt to-day.
Why didnt he go there? His brothers rich,
A somebodydirector in the bank.
He never told us that.
We know it though.
I think his brother ought to help, of course.
Ill see to that if there is need. He ought of right
To take him in, and might be willing to
He may be better than appearances.
But have some pity on Silas. Do you think
If hed had any pride in claiming kin
Or anything he looked for from his brother,
Hed keep so still about him all this time?
I wonder whats between them.
I can tell you.
Silas is what he iswe wouldnt mind him
But just the kind that kinsfolk cant abide.
He never did a thing so very bad.
He dont know why he isnt quite as good
As anyone. He wont be made ashamed
To please his brother, worthless though he is.
I cant think Si ever hurt anyone.
No, but he hurt my heart the way he lay
And rolled his old head on that sharp-edged chair-back.
He wouldnt let me put him on the lounge.
You must go in and see what you can do.
I made the bed up for him there to-night.
Youll be surprised at himhow much hes broken.
His working days are done; Im sure of it.
Id not be in a hurry to say that.
I havent been. Go, look, see for yourself.
But, Warren, please remember how it is:
Hes come to help you ditch the meadow.
He has a plan. You mustnt laugh at him.
He may not speak of it, and then he may.
Ill sit and see if that small sailing cloud
Will hit or miss the moon.
It hit the moon.
Then there were three there, making a dim row,
The moon, the little silver cloud, and she.
Warren returnedtoo soon, it seemed to her,
Slipped to her side, caught up her hand and waited.
Warren, she questioned.
Dead, was all he answered.
from North of Boston (1915)
The mountain held the town as in a shadow
I saw so much before I slept there once:
I noticed that I missed stars in the west,
Where its black body cut into the sky.
Near me it seemed: I felt it like a wall
Behind which I was sheltered from a wind.
And yet between the town and it I found,
When I walked forth at dawn to see new things,
Were fields, a river, and beyond, more fields.
The river at the time was fallen away,
And made a widespread brawl on cobble-stones;
But the signs showed what it had done in spring;
Good grass-land gullied out, and in the grass
Ridges of sand, and driftwood stripped of bark.
I crossed the river and swung round the mountain.
And there I met a man who moved so slow
With white-faced oxen in a heavy cart,
It seemed no hand to stop him altogether.
What town is this? I asked.
Then I was wrong: the town of my sojourn,
Beyond the bridge, was not that of the mountain,
But only felt at night its shadowy presence.
Where is your village? Very far from here?
There is no villageonly scattered farms.
We were but sixty voters last election.
We cant in nature grow to many more:
That thing takes all the room! He moved his goad.
The mountain stood there to be pointed at.
Pasture ran up the side a little way,
And then there was a wall of trees with trunks:
After that only tops of trees, and cliffs
Imperfectly concealed among the leaves.
A dry ravine emerged from under boughs
Into the pasture.
That looks like a path.
Is that the way to reach the top from here?
Not for this morning, but some other time:
I must be getting back to breakfast now.
I dont advise your trying from this side.
There is no proper path, but those that have
Been up, I understand, have climbed from Ladds.
Thats five miles back. You cant mistake the place:
They logged it there last winter some way up.
Id take you, but Im bound the other way.
Youve never climbed it?
Ive been on the sides
Deer-hunting and trout-fishing. Theres a brook
That starts up on it somewhereIve heard say
Right on the top, tip-topa curious thing.
But what would interest you about the brook,
Its always cold in summer, warm in winter.
One of the great sights going is to see
It steam in winter like an oxs breath,
Until the bushes all along its banks
Are inch-deep with the frosty spines and bristles
You know the kind. Then let the sun shine on it!
There ought to be a view around the world
From such a mountainif it isnt wooded
Clear to the top. I saw through leafy screens
Great granite terraces in sun and shadow,
Shelves one could rest a knee on getting up
With depths behind him sheer a hundred feet;
Or turn and sit on and look out and down,
With little ferns in crevices at his elbow.
As to that I cant say. But theres the spring,
Right on the summit, almost like a fountain.
That ought to be worth seeing.
If its there.
You never saw it?
I guess theres no doubt
About its being there. I never saw it.
It may not be right on the very top:
It wouldnt have to be a long way down
To have some head of water from above,
And a good distance down might not be noticed
By anyone whod come a long way up.
One time I asked a fellow climbing it
To look and tell me later how it was.
What did he say?
He said there was a lake
Somewhere in Ireland on a mountain top.
But a lakes different. What about the spring?
He never got up high enough to see.
Thats why I dont advise your trying this side.
He tried this side. Ive always meant to go
And look myself, but you know how it is:
It doesnt seem so much to climb a mountain
Youve worked around the foot of all your life.
What would I do? Go in my overalls,
With a big stick, the same as when the cows
Havent come down to the bars at milking time?
Or with a shotgun for a stray black bear?
Twouldnt seem real to climb for climbing it.
I shouldnt climb it if I didnt want to
Not for the sake of climbing. Whats its name?
We call it Hor: I dont know if thats right.
Can one walk around it? Would it be too far?
You can drive round and keep in Lunenburg,
But its as much as ever you can do,
The boundary lines keep in so close to it.
Hor is the township, and the townships Hor
And a few houses sprinkled round the foot,
Like boulders broken off the upper cliff,
Rolled out a little farther than the rest.
Warm in December, cold in June, you say?
"I dont suppose the waters changed at all.
You and I know enough to know its warm
Compared with cold, and cold compared with warm.
But all the funs in how you say a thing.
Youve lived here all your life?
Ever since Hor
Was no bigger than a What, I did not hear.
He drew the oxen toward him with light touches
Of his slim goad on nose and offside flank,
Gave them their marching orders and was moving.
from North of Boston (1915)
A lantern light from deeper in the barn
Shone on a man and woman in the door
And threw their lurching shadows on a house
Near by, all dark in every glossy window.
A horses hoof pawed once the hollow floor,
And the back of the gig they stood beside
Moved in a little. The man grasped a wheel,
The woman spoke out sharply, Whoa, stand still!
I saw it just as plain as a white plate,
She said, as the light on the dashboard ran
Along the bushes at the roadsidea mans face.
You must have seen it too.
I didnt see it.
Are you sure
Yes, Im sure!
it was a face?
Joel, Ill have to look. I cant go in,
I cant, and leave a thing like that unsettled.
Doors locked and curtains drawn will make no difference.
I always have felt strange when we came home
To the dark house after so long an absence,
And the key rattled loudly into place
Seemed to warn someone to be getting out
At one door as we entered at another.
What if Im right, and someone all the time
Dont hold my arm!
I say its someone passing.
You speak as if this were a travelled road.
You forget where we are. What is beyond
That hed be going to or coming from
At such an hour of night, and on foot too.
What was he standing still for in the bushes?
Its not so very lateits only dark.
Theres more in it than youre inclined to say.
Did he look like?
He looked like anyone.
Ill never rest to-night unless I know.
Give me the lantern.
You dont want the lantern.
She pushed past him and got it for herself.
Youre not to come, she said. This is my business.
If the times come to face it, Im the one
To put it the right way. Hed never dare
Listen! He kicked a stone. Hear that, hear that!
Hes coming towards us. Joel, go inplease.
Hark!I dont hear him now. But please go in.
In the first place you cant make me believe its
It isor someone else hes sent to watch.
And nows the time to have it out with him
While we know definitely where he is.
Let him get off and hell be everywhere
Around us, looking out of trees and bushes
Till I shant dare to set a foot outdoors.
And I cant stand it. Joel, let me go!
But its nonsense to think hed care enough.
You mean you couldnt understand his caring.
Oh, but you see he hadnt had enough
Joel, I wontI wontI promise you.
We mustnt say hard things. You mustnt either.
Ill be the one, if anybody goes!
But you give him the advantage with this light.
What couldnt he do to us standing here!
And if to see was what he wanted, why
He has seen all there was to see and gone.
He appeared to forget to keep his hold,
But advanced with her as she crossed the grass.
What do you want? she cried to all the dark.
She stretched up tall to overlook the light
That hung in both hands hot against her skirt.
Theres no one; so youre wrong, he said.
What do you want? she cried, and then herself
Was startled when an answer really came.
Nothing. It came from well along the road.
She reached a hand to Joel for support:
The smell of scorching woollen made her faint.
What are you doing round this house at night?
Nothing. A pause: there seemed no more to say.
And then the voice again: You seem afraid.
I saw by the way you whipped up the horse.
Ill just come forward in the lantern light
And let you see.
Yes, do.Joel, go back!
She stood her ground against the noisy steps
That came on, but her body rocked a little.
You see, the voice said.
Oh. She looked and looked.
You dont seeIve a child here by the hand.
Whats a child doing at this time of night?
Out walking. Every child should have the memory
Of at least one long-after-bedtime walk.
Then I should think youd try to find
Somewhere to walk
The highway as it happens
Were stopping for the fortnight down at Deans.
But if thats allJoelyou realize
You wont think anything. You understand?
You understand that we have to be careful.
This is a very, very lonely place.
Joel! She spoke as if she couldnt turn.
The swinging lantern lengthened to the ground,
It touched, it struck it, clattered and went out.
from North of Boston (1915)
(A Christmas Circular Letter)
The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woodsthe young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadnt thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
Id hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more Id hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine,
I said, There arent enough to be worth while.
I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.
You could look.
But dont expect Im going to let you have them.
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded Yes to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyers moderation, That would do.
I thought so too, but wasnt there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north.
He said, A thousand.
A thousand Christmas trees!at what apiece?
He felt some need of softening that to me:
A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.
Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didnt know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldnt lay one in a letter.
I cant help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.
from Mountain Interval (1920)
By June our brooks run out of song and speed.
Sought for much after that, it will be found
Either to have gone groping underground
(And taken with it all the Hyla breed
That shouted in the mist a month ago,
Like ghost of sleigh-bells in a ghost of snow)
Or flourished and come up in jewel-weed,
Weak foliage that is blown upon and bent
Even against the way its waters went.
Its bed is left a faded paper sheet
Of dead leaves stuck together by the heat
A brook to none but who remember long.
This as it will be seen is other far
Than with brooks taken otherwhere in song.
We love the things we love for what they are.
from Mountain Interval (1920)
The battle rent a cobweb diamond-strung
And cut a flower beside a ground birds nest
Before it stained a single human breast.
The stricken flower bent double and so hung.
And still the bird revisited her young.
A butterfly its fall had dispossessed
A moment sought in air his flower of rest,
Then lightly stooped to it and fluttering clung.
On the bare upland pasture there had spread
Oernight twixt mullein stalks a wheel of thread
And straining cables wet with silver dew.
A sudden passing bullet shook it dry.
The indwelling spider ran to greet the fly,
But finding nothing, sullenly withdrew.
from Mountain Interval (1920)
The buzz-saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside them in her apron
To tell them Supper. At the word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boys hand, or seemed to leap
He must have given the hand. However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
The boys first outcry was a rueful laugh,
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a mans work, though a child at heart
He saw all spoiled. Dont let him cut my hand off
The doctor, when he comes. Dont let him, sister!
So. But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And thenthe watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. They listened at his heart.
Littlelessnothing!and that ended it.
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.
from Mountain Interval (1920)
Ive known ere now an interfering branch
Of alder catch my lifted ax behind me.
But that was in the woods, to hold my hand
From striking at another alders roots,
And that was, as I say, an alder branch.
This was a man, Baptiste, who stole one day
Behind me on the snow in my own yard
Where I was working at the chopping-block,
And cutting nothing not cut down already.
He caught my ax expertly on the rise,
When all my strength put forth was in his favor,
Held it a moment where it was, to calm me,
Then took it from meand I let him take it.
I didnt know him well enough to know
What it was all about. There might be something
He had in mind to say to a bad neighbor
He might prefer to say to him disarmed.
But all he had to tell me in French-English
Was what he thought ofnot me, but my ax,
Me only as I took my ax to heart.
It was the bad ax-helve someone had sold me
Made on machine, he said, plowing the grain
With a think thumbnail to show how it ran
Across the handles long-drawn serpentine
Like the two strokes across a dollar sign.
You give her one good crack, shes snap raght off.
Den wheres your hax-ead flying trough de hair?
Admitted; and yet, what was that to him?
Come on my house and I put you one in
Whats las awhilegood hickry whats grow crooked.
De second growt I cut myselftough, tough!
Something to sell? That wasnt how it sounded.
Den when you say you come? Its cost you nothing.
As well tonight as any night.
Beyond an over-warmth of kitchen stove
My welcome differed from no other welcome.
Baptiste knew best why I was where I was.
So long as he would leave enough unsaid,
I shouldnt mind his being overjoyed
(If overjoyed he was) at having got me
Where I must judge if what he knew about an ax
That not everybody else knew was to count
For nothing in the measure of a neighbor.
Hard if, though cast away for life mid Yankees,
A Frenchman couldnt get his human rating!
Mrs. Baptiste came in and rocked a chair
That had as many motions as the world:
One back and forward, in and out of shadow,
That got her nowhere; one more gradual,
Sideways, that would have run her on the stove
In time, had she not realized her danger
And caught herself up bodily, chair and all,
And set herself back where she started from.
She aint spick too much Henglishdats too bad.
I was afraid, in brightening first on me,
Then on Baptiste, as if she understood
What passed between us, she was only feigning.
Baptiste was anxious for her; but no more
Than for himself, so placed he couldnt hope
To keep his bargain of the morning with me
In time to keep me from suspecting him
Of really never having meant to keep it.
Needlessly soon he had his ax-helves out,
A quiverful to choose from, since he wished me
To have the best he had, or had to spare
Not for me to ask which, when what he took
Had beauties he had to point me out at length
To insure their not being wasted on me.
He liked to have it slender as a whipstock,
Free from the least knot, equal to the strain
Of bending like a sword across the knee.
He showed me that the lines of a good helve
Were native to the grain before the knife
Expressed them, and its curves were no false curves
Put on it from without. And there its strength lay
For the hard work. He chafed its long white body
From end to end with his rough hand shut round it.
He tried it at the eye-hole in the ax-head.
Hahn, hahn, he mused, dont need much taking down.
Baptiste knew how to make a short job long
For love of it, and yet not waste time either.
Do you know, what we talked about was knowledge?
Baptiste on his defense about the children
He kept from school, or did his best to keep
Whatever school and children and our doubts
Of laid-on education had to do
With the curves of his ax-helves and his having
Used these unscrupulously to bring me
To see for once the inside of his house.
Was I desired in friendship, partly as someone
To leave it to, whether the right to hold
Such doubts of education should depend
Upon the education of those who held them?
But now he brushed the shavings from his knee
And stood the ax there on its horses hoof,
Erect, but not without its waves, as when
The snake stood up for evil in the Garden,
Top-heavy with a heaviness his short,
Thick hand made light of, steel-blue chin drawn down
And in a littlea French touch in that.
Baptiste drew back and squinted at it, pleased;
See how shes cock her head!
from New Hampshire (1923)
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