For them there was really nothing sad.
But though they rejoiced in the nest they kept,
One had to be versed in country things
Not to believe the phoebes wept.
-from “The Need of Being Versed in Country Things” by Robert Frost
When I was thinking about Robert Frost last week, I came across this article about him written by Robert Lowell, which, as much as I’ve read about Frost, I had somehow never seen. Lowell relates a story I already knew, one Frost liked to tell, about Frost taking a train ride with Wallace Stevens. Stevens allegedly made a joke at Frost’s expense, telling him that the trouble with his poetry was that it had subjects.
Well, reading Lowell’s essay made me decide to sit and read through my very worn collected Frost, which led me to reread one of my favorites, “The Need of Being Versed in Country Things.” On this reading, I was struck by how similar it is to Stevens’ “The Snow Man.” And here I’d been thinking for all these years that these two poets had nothing in common. I don’t know how I never noticed this before.
Another thing Lowell talks about in his essay is Frost’s stage fright. Frost did a lot of public speaking in his life, but he never grew less anxious about it and often threw up before or after readings. I’ve always found his perseverance admirable and even comforting in this regard. I keep a playlist of Frost reading his own work on my iPod, which I listen to sometimes when I’m getting ready to go do some of my own public speaking. I figure if Frost got through throwing up repeatedly, I can probably get over myself enough to get through whatever I’m supposed to be doing.
Which, right now, is taking a shower and getting along in my day. Sara’s doing the Poetry Friday Roundup at Read Write Believe. You should stop on by there.