Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I don't typically write in rhyme, mostly because such poetry won't get published, but those who do it well are justly on the list of immortal greats. To do it well, you must possess not only a virtually unlimited vocabulary but, even more, the skill to hear and flawlessly replicate meter and rhythm as it occurs in tne marrow of speech. Few do it better, or make it look more easy, than Frost. He's hard to get enough of.

Below are three of his best, all deceptively short, with short words, structurally perfect, which deal with extremely complicated and often contradictory ideas. Again, worth memorizing: Having them in your head, to repeat to yourself at certain times, will serve you in ways you cannot imagine. And they'll become brand new to you again.


Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


(If you haven't read S.E. Hinton's "The Outsiders". do it now.)

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.


(Frost found himself unable to remember the poem he had written to present at JFK's inauguration in 1961 and instead recited this one -- a much better choice.)

The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely; realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

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