You were forever finding some new play.
So when I saw you down on hands and knees
I the meadow, busy with the new-cut hay,
Trying, I thought, to set it up on end,
I went to show you how to make it stay,
If that was your idea, against the breeze,
And, if you asked me, even help pretend
To make it root again and grow afresh.
But ’twas no make-believe with you today,
Nor was the grass itself your real concern,
Though I found your hand full of wilted fern,
Steel-bright June-grass, and blackening heads of clovers.
‘Twas a nest full of young birds on the ground
The cutter-bar had just gone champing over
(Miraculously without tasking flesh)
And left defenseless to the heat and light.
You wanted to restore them to their right
Of something interposed between their sight
And too much world at once–could means be found.
The way the nest-full every time we stirred
Stood up to us as to a mother-bird
Whose coming home has been too long deferred,
Made me ask would the mother-bird return
And care for them in such a change of scene
And might out meddling make her more afraid.
That was a thing we could not wait to learn.
We saw the risk we took in doing good,
But dared not spare to do the best we could
Though harm should come of it; so built the screen
You had begun, and gave them back their shade.
All this to prove we cared. Why is there then
No more to tell? We turned to other things.
I haven’t any memory–have you?–
Of ever coming to the place again
To see if the birds lived the first night through,
And so at last to learn to use their wings.
– Robert Frost
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 village-only scattered farms.
We were but sixty voters last election.
We can’t 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 don’t advise your trying from this side.
There is no proper path, but those that have
Been up, I understand, have climbed from Ladd’s.
That’s five miles back. You can’t mistake the place:
They logged it there last winter some way up.
I’d take you, but I’m bound the other way.’
‘You’ve never climbed it?’
‘I’ve been on the sides
Deer-hunting and trout-fishing. There’s a brook
That starts up on it somewhere-I’ve heard say
Right on the top, tip-top-a curious thing.
But what would interest you about the brook,
It’s always cold in summer, warm in winter.
One of the great sights going is to see
It steam in winter like an ox’s 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 mountain-if it isn’t 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 can’t say. But there’s the spring,
Right on the summit, almost like a fountain.
That ought to be worth seeing.’
‘If it’s there.
You never saw it?’
‘I guess there’s no doubt
About its being there. I never saw it.
It may not be right on the very top:
It wouldn’t 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 who’d 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 lake’s different. What about the spring?’
‘He never got up high enough to see.
That’s why I don’t advise your trying this side.
He tried this side. I’ve always meant to go
And look myself, but you know how it is:
It doesn’t seem so much to climb a mountain
You’ve 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
Haven’t come down to the bars at milking time?
Or with a shotgun for a stray black bear?
‘Twouldn’t seem real to climb for climbing it.’
‘I shouldn’t climb it if I didn’t want to-
Not for the sake of climbing. What’s its name?’
‘We call it Hor: I don’t know if that’s right.’
‘Can one walk around it? Would it be too far?’
‘You can drive round and keep in Lunenburg,
But it’s as much as ever you can do,
The boundary lines keep in so close to it.
Hor is the township, and the township’s 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 don’t suppose the water’s changed at all.
You and I know enough to know it’s warm
Compared with cold, and cold compared with warm.
But all the fun’s in how you say a thing.’
‘You’ve 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.
– Robert Frost
A neighbor of mine in the village
Likes to tell how one spring
When she was a girl on the farm, she did
A childlike thing.
One day she asked her father
To give her a garden plot
To plant and tend and reap herself,
And he said, ‘Why not?’
In casting about for a corner
He thought of an idle bit
Of walled-off ground where a shop had stood,
And he said, ‘Just it.’
And he said, ‘That ought to make you
An ideal one-girl farm,
And give you a chance to put some strength
On your slim-jim arm.’
It was not enough of a garden
Her father said, to plow;
So she had to work it all by hand,
But she don’t mind now.
She wheeled the dung in a wheelbarrow
Along a stretch of road;
But she always ran away and left
Her not-nice load,
And hid from anyone passing.
And then she begged the seed.
She says she thinks she planted one
Of all things but weed.
A hill each of potatoes,
Radishes, lettuce, peas,
Tomatoes, beets, beans, pumpkins, corn,
And even fruit trees.
And yes, she has long mistrusted
That a cider-apple
In bearing there today is hers,
Or at least may be.
Her crop was a miscellany
When all was said and done,
A little bit of everything,
A great deal of none.
Now when she sees in the village
How village things go,
Just when it seems to come in right,
She says, ‘I know!
‘It’s as when I was a farmer…’
Oh never by way of advice!
And she never sins by telling the tale
To the same person twice.
– Robert Frost