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The University of North Carolina presents listen America directed by John Clayton and produced by Johnny Lee for the University of North Carolina communication center Erwin director to do this series we went to 13 of the top authors of this country and I asked them if there was something they would like to say at this time to the radio audiences of America. We told them that of course there would be no censorship from the University of North Carolina that they could select any theme they could be a big one or every day as they chose and they could write it up as they wanted to play a dialogue a talk. One of these writers was Robert Frost. Mr. Frost agreed to do this and came to our studios in Chapel Hill here on the campus and said he would speak to you himself that he would do it informally. He sat down at a table in our studios not a note or a book before him and told us he was ready. He said his theme would be the importance of separateness. Now here is the informal conversation over voice of one American talking to another of the aged and strong poet Robert Frost talking to you.
Paul Green made a melt. Down at Roanoke about the people that disappeared down there and they from the early colony. And how they vanished away into the future idealism of America. I made him a little while ago about how Columbus goes around the coast of America for three or four hundred years looking for a passage to India and the long years he lingered there. He failed to see America at last. He went through the canal without noticing it was a canal thinking he had found the Northwest Passage and went on his way to loop Asia. In that I said taking it from him. America is hard to say less partial witnesses than here in book on book have shown
that they couldn't see America from the outside from the inside either. You know the literary chatter book on. America has been hard for me to say. I don't try too hard to see it I don't have two eyes. I have learned to accept it. When I tried to think what it is I go back to history to the battle of Bennington for instance that the farmers fought there or the King's Mountain down here in the Carolinas. I picked up King's Mountain probably in an old model maybe maybe Horse Shoe Robinson and Kennedy's old bloke. I wouldn't be sure of that. I picked it up again from the train window passing northward a year or so ago. I saw the little name on a little
station and felt the whole of the United States history in a moment there. The country fighters that such as what came to Benny and some similar battle the battle there was fought on the line between Vermont and New York so that either could claim it. This is fought on almost on the line between North and South Carolina so that they could claim it. But those were the battles that won the war. They brought the French into it. People forget that the French didn't win the war we won the war by bringing the French and the world. Now what we were establishing there when we won that war. Primarily for me the whole of it was a separation that I'm going to put into one poem a separation from the Old World. The beginning of the end of colonialism for
everybody. The land was ours before we were the land began. That means we've been here a long time and hadn't let the land possess as we was so still Europeans the land was ours before we were the last. She was our land more than 100 years before we were a people. She was ours in Massachusetts in Virginia but we were England's still Colonials possessing what we still possessed by possessed by what we now know possess something we were withholding made this week until we found out that it was ourselves we were withholding from our land of living and forthwith found salvation and surrender such as we were. We gave the deed of gift. It was many deeds of war to the last vaguely realizing Westwood but still a story.
And Enhance such as she was such as she would become. The separateness was. The first because we had to go our own way about what all nations are interested in and all nations have been concerned with the balance between liberty and equality. The French presently went through a war a revolution that they thought was for liberty and equality. They really were only on the side of equality. They weren't thinking enough of lead but did they so far forgot liberty that they had to go on to forget equality and put their mind on liberty in the person of Napoleon. That is to say there's always that balance between liberty to exert power to use your strength and use your
ability. And there's always the other concern to keep together with those who haven't the ability and power and strength to keep with them by emphasizing equality. One is a control of the other. Now that's an old story in government. They the English had gone forward on that broad front of equality and liberty balancing between them a long time. It's like two wings of an army. The right wing is the Liberty one. The left wing and left ism is the quality one the French the English but the English more like us. So so nearly like us that they can't sometimes see the difference. Sometimes I can't see it myself. The two parties are always representing those two things and keeping the balance.
But the separateness was necessary for us to be doing it on our own ground in our own soil in our own eye. Have another poem that I'd like to bring in about the separateness. It's called mending a wall. In the poem I show or try to show that we have to have boundaries though there is no immediate reason for them. Though you can't see any immediate reason for it that's the point of the poem. You've got to have boundaries of separateness though you can't see any immediate reason for something that doesn't. That sends the frozen ground swell under it and spills the upper bowl of as in the sun and makes gaps even two can pass abreast the work of hunters is
another thing. Come after them and made repair where they have left not one stone on a stone but they would have the rabbit out of hiding to please the way helping dogs the gaps I mean seen them heard them made but at Spring mending time we find them. I let my neighbor know beyond the hill and on a day we made to walk the line and set the wall between us once again we keep the wall between us as we work to reach the boulders that have fallen to wage and summer loaves and some so nearly balls we have to use a spell to make them balance they way you want. And to tell our backs and we wear our fingers rough with handling them. Oh just another kind of dog a man on a side it comes to little. He is all upon and I am a large should my apple trees will never get across and eat the callings on these lines I tell him. Good fences make good neighbors bring is the mischief in me and I wonder if I could put it in
motion and he said why do they make good neighbors. Isn't that where there are cars. But here there is far I build a wall I'd estimate what I was wallowing in walling out the home I was like to give offense something there is that doesn't love a wall. I could say Elves to him but it's not exactly and I'd rather he said it for him. If I see him running a strong grass formally by the top in each hand like an old stone savage as he moves in darkness as a same as them a knot of words and the shade of trees he will not go behind his father's saying and he likes having thought of it so well. He says again good fences make good neighbors. The point being that even when you can't see any reason for them you've got to have boundaries. You've got to have nations. If you have internationalism you've got to have nations to be international
between just as you have to have persons before you can be a person. Now the same. Separateness of nations in this matter of freedom and equality the pursuit of the to the advance on chaos on darkness to achieve a balance between ability and equality and weakness ability and weakness. We have to keep together for Turnitin is another word that keeps us together. That necessity to have our own feel for in a country of our own. Change in the regions of a country the parts of a country. In my part of the country my northern part of the country and the southern part of the country have their own way. It's only slightly different. The fraternity is closer and were drawn drawn together we aspire toward each other. But there
is the separateness. So that we've had in literature you know all through the years many years now a kind of regionalism when it's too self-conscious and too sharp it is offensive to me. I've taunted some of my regionalist friends by just saying Tell them that their books are to be restricted in sale to their region to buy I don't mean that. I'm called sometimes originalist in my things and I'm going to say a few poems to here show my interest in my end of the country. I have written two or three poems out of San Francisco one of the first poems I ever wrote was about the Pacific coast having the future of America in it. That was because I came from out there. I said once that Europe might saying the wave of its thinking and spend its
self on our shore and wayward US cities would not even turn in their sleep our future is in the West on the other sea began that way very young That's an old poem of mine but I have almost forgotten the Pacific coast I'd been so long away England. There's one little one little one that I might say reminiscent of the Pacific coast before I say wanted to in New England once once by the Pacific. The shadowed water made a misty did in great waves looked over others coming in and thought of doing something to the shore that water never did to land before the clouds were low and hairy in the skies like had blown forward in the gleam of eyes. You could not go and yet it looked as if the shore was lucky in being back by Cliff the cliff and being back by a continent it looked as if a night of dock intent was coming and not only an eye and age debate prep pad but rides that would be more than ocean water broken before God's
last. Put out the light was spoken. The continent is in that on the continent would be in any poem that talked about the Atlantic Ocean. Now I've grown Marmar New England in climate and countryside and nature and character. I've never written a poem by nature strictly there's always a person on it so it's always a sort of NE and that that I'm that been associated with. I'm not too conscious of the differences I'm not too conscious of the differences between US and England even when people talk about an American language. I'm not too sure the reason the such thing when I read an English book I read it with a certain anxiety just to see that there are no words in it that I am not not in my vocabulary and I seldom find any words. But now let's see if I have time for a little poem
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler long I still look down one as far as I caught the way out it bent in the undergrowth. Then took the other as justice for having perhaps the better claim because it was grassy and wanted way. Though as for that the passing there worn them really about the same and both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. I kept the purse for another day yet knowing how way leads on to way I doubted if I should ever come back. I should be telling this with the size somewhere ages and ages hence. And I took the one less traveled by And that has made all the difference. Another with New England seen snow and it.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Whose words. I think I know his house is in the village though you will not see me stopping here to watch his words. The up with snow. My little horse must think it queer to stop without a farmhouse near between the woods and frozen like that because of the it gives his harness bells a shake to ask if there was some mistake. The only other Cylons this way will be easy when and down they feel like the woods are lovely but I have promises to keep And miles to go before I sleep And miles to go before I sleep. And then one about a deer swimming and landing. And about loneliness. One of the subjects as always coming up separateness again loneliness separateness how much how much
solitude our society that we have to you is prudent. Deciding the proportion and as bombs begins. He thought he kept the universe alone for all a voice an answer he could wait was but the mocking echo from some tree hidden cliff across the lake. Some morning from the boda boda broken baits he would cry out on life. That what Ed wants is not its own love. Back in copies of H. But conned our original response. But nothing ever came of what he cried unless it was the him bought a month that crashed in the cliffs on the farther side and then in the far distant water splash. But after a time allowed for it to swim instead of being human when it and someone else additional to him as a great get fully apparent pushing the
crumpled water up ahead and landed pouring like a waterfall and through the rocks where the horny tread and washed the underbrush and that was all. Another might be one about being America's being hard to see what made America hard to say who made America safe. I suppose it was natural for the hard to see it was so new. But many of our writers of 20 years ago made America harder to say we won't name them we won't go into that. That's let's forget that. But this little poem refers to them without naming them or in such a way that you know I was thinking or thinking in any way negatively. This is against them. As I came to the edge of the wood thrush. Now it was dusk outside inside it was dark too
dark in the woods for a bird by sleight of wing to batteries perch for the night though he still could saying the last of the light of the sun that had died in the West still for one song and the thrushes breast bar on the pillow. Fresh music went most like a call to come into the dark and lament but no I was out first so I wouldn't come in. I meant not even if I hadn't been into the document. Too much time over that. When I get very sarcastic on this subject I say things like this is called a concert spec spec that would have been beneath my sight on any but a paper sheet so white set off across what I had written and iodide poised my pen in there to stop it with a period of ink when something strange about it made me
think this was no dust bag by my breathing but on the living my then carnations. It could call its own. It does with suspicion of my band. And then came racing wildly on again to where my manuscript was not yet dried then paused again and either drank or smiled. Plainly with an intelligence I doubt it seemed too tiny to have room for feet yet must have had a set of them complete to express how much you didn't want to die. It ran with terror and with calming crap followed. I could see it as a day then in the middle of the open sheet or down in it in desperation to accept whatever I accorded the fate of the none of the tender of the collectivistic regiment in love with which the modern world is being swept. But this microscopic item now since it was nothing I know we will. I let it lie that till I hope it's let I have on mine myself and
recognise mine when I meet with it and then you guys no one can know I'm glad I am to find on any sheet the least display of mine again in the birches as I look back to it I see the one line that had to do with the with those days back there when everybody was wondering about America and doubting America and talking about how America had failed to educate them and how they could fail to do this and that it's the one line in the poem that you'll catch as I go through it is the word is the one. It's when I am weary of considerations. Birches. When I see birches bend the left and right across the lines of straight darker trees. I like to think some boy's been swinging them but swinging doesn't bend them down to stay
on your must of seen them loaded with the sun he went to morning after a rain they click upon them as the breeze rises and turned many colored as the star cracks on crazes their own ammo. Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystals shattering and avalanche ing on the snow across such heaps of broken glass to sweep away you'd think you know dome of having fallen they had dragged over with a blackened by the load and they seem not to break though once they are by far along they never write them so they say that drunk in the woods years afterward trailing their leaves on the ground like on hands and knees that throw they have a father my what they it's to dry in the sun. But I was going to say when truth broke in with a matter of fact about the ice storm I should prefer to have had some boy bend them some by from time to learn baseball whose only play was what he found themselves summer went and could
play alone. One by one these abilities father's trees by riding them down over and over again until he took the stiffness out of them and not one but not one was left for him to conquer. He learned all there was to learn about launching out too soon and so not carrying the tree away cleared of the ground he always kept is poised to the top branches climbing carefully with the same pains you used to fill a cup up to the brim and even above the bread. Then he flung out feet first with a swish kicking his way down through the air to the grass. So as to swing at a birches. So I dream of going back to B. It's when I'm wary of considerations and life is too much like a pathless wood where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs broken across it and one eye is waving from the twigs having lashed across it open. I'd like to get away from the while and then begin all over. Come back to it and begin.
May no fate wilfully misunderstand me and have granted what I way should snatch me away and not the road to the right place for I don't know where it's likely to go bad. I'd like to go back climbing a birch tree and climb black branches up a wide trunk thought have them till the tree could ban them but they did stop and set me down again. That would be good going and coming back one could do worse than be a swing at a church is. You see the theme runs all through it and the theme is really separateness and a lot of confusion pot's the necessity for d confusing by making the parts more distinct nations individuals. The difference between the confusion that people make about freedom and equality needs to be thought
out cleared up by thought. Two things governing each other control each other. One party or parties leans a tiny little bit more toward that liberty one leans a tiny little bit more to equality and what keeps us together in difference is the word for eternity. The third word of the power of the revolutionaries. I am sometimes thought of as to when to vigilance and that is that I'm willing to be. I lean a little toward the freedom the right to go ahead and be be myself. I've always found myself in situations where I could be accused sometimes of being selfish.
Shall I just say one little more. I'm going out to clean the past just praying. I'll only stop to rake the leaves away and and wait to watch the logic clear and I may I shan't be gone long. You'll come to see that has in it the same theme. Clarification. I watched a lot of Claire and I'm going out for the clarification. I'm interested in the classification but you come to it for the past half hour you've been listening to Robert Frost the series is listen America directed by John Clayton and produced by Johnny Lee for the University of North Carolina communication center. Irwin director the series is produced on a grant in aid from the National Association of educational broadcasters made possible by the Educational Television and Radio Center on each program of the current
series one of the best of our American writers will present his views on a theme of his choice either dramatized or more directly as he chooses. The preceding program was made available to this day by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the end AB Radio Network.
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Listen America
Robert Frost
Producing Organization
University of North Carolina
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features Robert Frost talking about the "importance of separateness."
Series Description
A series of 13 programs featuring the works of selected contemporary American authors.
Broadcast Date
Media type
Director: Clayton, John S.
Producer: Ehle, John, 1925-
Producing Organization: University of North Carolina
Speaker: Frost, Robert, 1874-1963
Speaker: Kuralt, Charles, 1934-1997
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 56-50-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:27:48
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Chicago: “Listen America; Robert Frost,” 1956-08-27, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 12, 2024,
MLA: “Listen America; Robert Frost.” 1956-08-27. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 12, 2024. <>.
APA: Listen America; Robert Frost. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from