thumbnail of Poetry and the American; Readings of Robert Frost
Hide -
This transcript was received from a third party and/or generated by a computer. Its accuracy has not been verified. If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+.
This is poetry on the American produced and recorded by station KPFA in Berkeley California under a grant from the Educational Television Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. This program is a profile of the American poet Robert Frost as seen primarily through a reading of a few of his poems. The program as presented by Robert Bellew for the speech department of the University of California in Berkeley. Today I should like to sketch a profile of Robert Frost. It's interesting to trace through his poetry aspects of his life and thought out of the many human problems frost has been concerned with throughout his life. One of the most rewarding is that of our emotive relations with other people of the need for and Terah of both loneliness and human companionship. His life seems to have been peculiarly ordered to sensitize him to this dilemma. This in spite of the fact that Robert Frost is a poet whose public acceptance has been phenomenally why during the latter part of his life he's out of popular appeal of the sort one
encounters only once or twice in a generation of poets of that often. What is even more remarkable is that the respect and admiration for his work survives and grows in minds of the best poets and critics of the time in spite of that usually suspect popular acclaim. I should like to begin this profile by reading the poem the past year. I'm going out to clean the past year spring. I only stop to rake the leaves away and wait to watch the water clear I may. I shan't be gone long. You come too. I'm going out to fetch the little calf that standing by the mother. It's so young it totters when she licks it with her tongue. I shan't be gone long. You come too. It is with this invitation that Robert Frost has for many years now begun each new
edition of his collected poems. It is his from his poem its warmth the tenderness are obvious. The first poem in the main body of his work however is called into my own warmth the still the air and the awareness of loved ones but there is no invitation to them to join him except as the accidents of life would have it. For the metaphor in this poem is the sense of the frontier. Its tone the vigorous self-confident tone of the frontiersman whose faith is bone bad an illusion sceptical but knowing he will find no better. That faith being in the limitless promise of that which is as the title indicates his own. In the duality of attitude posed by these two poems one may find a pair of them perhaps a stencil of Frost's exploration of the need for companionship on the one hand and of the need for being self-sufficient on the other.
Into my own. One of my wishes is that those dark trees. So all the info they scarcely show the breeze or not as to where the merest mask of gloom but stretched away on to the edge of do. I should not be withheld but that some day into their vastness I should steal away fearless of ever finding open land a highway where the slow we'll pause the sand. I do not see why I should turn back or those should not set forth upon my track to overtake me. You should miss me hair and long to know if still I held them there. They would not find me changed from him they knew
only more sure of all I thought was true. A decade ago my wife and I had the privilege over the course of three summers of visiting frosted is Vermont mountain cabin. We argue opinionated and listen. There was of course the uncountable light years difference between someone in his early 20s and a man who has become a sage. But I've never met anyone who has known him even so briefly who did not realize he was a great man. As an impression that's a sort of an absolute one and cannot become more intense. But what does grow and want is a sense of enormous paradoxes in the man not the least of them being the simultaneous need in him for self-reliance or indifference to others opinions yet a deep need to be loved and to be understood.
This is no doubt a universal ambiguity in human nature. But Frost is such an intense life that in him it is indeed lifted to the paradoxical. One of the minor enigmas is how a man who has since spent endless delightful hours talking of poetry to other poets could have made a virtue of an early isolation that seems almost unique. For he was 40 before he gained even the slightest recognition and nearly that before he had his first conversation with another poet. Again once famous he steadfastly refused to play the game of the literary clique's whether the cocktail tea cup or beer stein variety is yet nevertheless cultivated a mask which are more general public found and treated. These are only minor facets of the emotional complex which I should like to explore in the brief time we have through some of his poems. Singularity on the one hand companionship on the other.
Being ignored and being admired. Loneliness and love. The biographical facts of his life are common knowledge. He was born of New England parents who had gone to California at least partly due to his father's Copperhead political sentiments. The poet was christened Robert Lee frost from impressions I have from frost and those who have known Frost long. His father was an intense fierce living man. He died when frost was around 10 years old and frost was then brought back to New England by his mother. The lyric a pack of gold is the only poetic recollection frost has given us of that western childhood a pact of gold. Dust always blowing about the town next Sept when Sci-Fi laid it down and I was one of the children told some of the blowing dust was go
all the dust the wind blew high appeared like gold in the sunset sky. I was one of the children told some of the DAs was really go. Such was life in the Golden Gate gold dust it all we drank and ate and I was one of the children. We all must eat our pack of go. He was intensely devoted to his mother a remarkably heroic Star-Crossed woman. Old friends of the family stated that her life's tragic dilemmas are reflected in the following poem a story of a woman whom the affront had gods ruin in their own diabolic way using the woman herself as their instrument. The poem is an interesting one in its narrative perspective. Frost puts us as it
were on the scene of a council of the gods and we are privileged to overhear the voice the great legislative God instructing his underlings the executive gods how to accomplish the woman's destruction. The great voice we understand has taken offense at the woman's upset in the established order of things by refusing a lot of conjoined with worldly wealth and honor the lovely shall be choosers. The voice said her heart out. The voice says I'll fire down seven levels of the world. How much time have we take 20 years. She would refuse love safe with wealth and honor the love lay shall be choosers shall they.
Then let them chew. Then we shall let her choose. Yes let her choose. Take up the task beyond her choosing. Invisible hands crowded on her shoulder in readiness to weigh upon her but she stood straight still in the broad round earrings then jet with Parros and broad around such like a brooch. Her cheeks high colored proud and the pride of friends. The voice asked. You can let her choose. Yes we can laugh at her and still try and. Do it by Joy eyes and leave her our way is blameless.
Be her first jaw I her wedding that the wedding is yet. Wow. Something they know he and she. And after that her next joy that though she grieves her grief is secret. Those friends know nothing of her grief to make it shameful. Her third joy is that though they cannot help but know they move in pleasure too far off to think much or much Kat. Give her a child I'd either need for Forth or joy to tell once and once only for them never to forget it all once she walked in brightness and make them see it in the winter firelight. But give her friends for then she dare not tell for they have fog on incredulousness
and be her next to joy this and never having deign to tell them may come among the humblest even seem to them less than they are hopeless of being known for what she has been failing of being loved for what she is. Give her the comfort for her sixth of knowing she fails from strangeness doorway of life she came too from too high too late to live. Then said and someone with eyes to see and wonder at her where she is. And words to wonder in her hearing how she came that but without time to linger far staré. Be our last joy.
Hearts going out to this one so that she all Mohs be us. You know them seven in all. Trust us. The voices said. In 1895 twenty years of age Frost married a woman of much the same courage and capable of the intimacy which the sensitive Frost yielded to so few of several poems obviously written with Eleanor frost as subject the slight and charming the telephone has just the playful intimacy of ease. Here as in many of frost lyrics on the same person and relationship he has just returned from a day away from her so that even here in this uncomplicated loving banter the bigger your
balance between being by oneself and togetherness is involved the telephone. When I was just as far as I could walk from here today there was an hour 0 0 0 still when leaning with my head against a flower I heard you talk. Don't say I didn't. I heard you say you spoke from that flower on the window sill Do you remember what it was you said. First tell me what it was you thought you heard. Having found the flower and driven a bee away I leaned my head and holding by the stock I listened and I thought I caught the word. What was it. Did you call me by my name or did you say. Someone
said. Come. I heard it as I bowed. I might have thought as much but not aloud. Well so I came. Frost's youth was a struggle with the financial realities of rural New England climaxed after attempts at college at Dartmouth and Harvard by settling with his family on a farm in Derry New Hampshire. Then after five hard years he struggled with the rocky soil learning as he himself lightly put it to be a real if not a good farmer from this failure he turned to teaching English it the Pinkerton Academy in Derry. He taught there for six years followed by a year at State Normal School in Plymouth New Hampshire. It was at this point in 1012 that Frost inherited a farm sold it
and I while the gambler's feeling moved his family a wife a son and three daughters to England. I say a wild fling since he made the move on the gambler's chance that there might be a public for his poetry there. But one of his first friends in England a fellow botanist remembers Frost telling him that he was convinced that he had been born and been consecrated a poet and nothing else. This at the unpublished age of nearly 40. So long as a writer's gamble paid off so handsomely for in 1015 he returned with two books published and his fame spreading rapidly. It is ironic that Frost fame led to a relatively limited golden period when his powers in his inner and outer needs found their harmonious balance. The death of his wife and other grievous personal disasters made the latter part of his life a private tragedy and midst of a public trial. The poem on the raft is one of the
rare bare statements of his sense of grief and isolation. Where had I heard this wind before change like this to a deep role. What would it take my standing there for holding open a restive looking down hill to a frothy show. There was pasts and dey was bias. Somber clouds in the West were massed out in the porches sagging floor leaves got in a car and hissed blindly struck at my knee and missed something sinister in the tone told me my secret must be no word I was in the house alone so I must of gotten abroad where I was in my life alone
where it I had no one left but God. If the confidence of youth with his loved one beside him could give him strength to face disapproval failure and isolation it is a testimony to frost great capacity for self honesty that he is truly solitary. Later years could teach him the tragic debasing depth of man's need for simple companionship of any kind in neglect a poem obviously written about himself now in a frost is peculiarly full of the certainty of the younger years of the two who have each other and consequently have that of the world that matters to them in neglect they leave us so to the way we took as to whom they were proved mistaken.
That we sit sometimes in the wayside with mischievous vagrant seraphic love and try if we cannot feel forsaken. If there's an element of hubris of boastfulness in this poem it is no more than belongs to you then no more than the gods in their own way will repay. It is almost unbelievable that the same man who wrote in neglect should also have written provide provide yet such is the variety of life. And such is the necessity the great poet is under to express that variety when he lives it. Provide provide. The which that came. The withered hag to wash the steps with a pail and a rag was once the beauty Abba shag. The picture pride of Hollywood.
Too many fall from great to end. Good for you to doubt the likelihood die early and avoid the fate of predestined to die light. Make up your mind to die in St.. Make the whole stock exchange your own if need be occupying a throne where nobody can call you cross. Some of relied on what they knew. Others on beings simply through what worked for them might work for you. No memory of having Stodden tones for later disregard keeps the end from being high. Better to go down dignified with Boston friendship at your
side than not at all pro vide pro vide. Yet true as this poem is in a powerful and moving in its statement I do not feel it can equal the less melodramatic even more hopeless desolation of the poem entitled The most of it. What makes the most of it such a brutally honest poem is that it is written by a man who all his life has lived intimately with and loved nature. The essential narcissism or at its best callous instinctive Inus of the natural world has figured climactic Lee in the box horny tred and his forcing of the underbrush is so profound an insight and called for such courage in facing the reality as to give us some clear measure of the stature of America's greatest living poet the most of it.
He thought he kept the universe alone for all the voice an answer he could wake was but the mocking echo of his own from some tree hadn't cliff across the lake. Some morning from the boat or broken beach. He would cry out on life then what it wants is not its own love back in copy speech but cowherd love all riginal response and nothing ever came of what he cried unless it was the embodiment that crashed in the cliffs tailless on the other side and then in the far distant water splashed. But after a time allowed for it to swim instead of proving human when it needed and some one else additional to him as a great box power fully appeared pushing the
crumpled water up I had then landed pouring like a waterfall and stumbled through the rocks with horney tread and forced the underbrush and that was all. Whence came all this wisdom and depth of insight into the loneliness of man and into his paradoxical ability for love. A comprehension we find not only in these but in so many other of Frost's poems. Probably it came with birth or we are dealing here as much with a capacity as anything else one cannot risk judgements in such matters. But I remember a story Frost told me when he was last in California. It concerned the years just before his father died in the then local San Francisco habit of various groups having a summer encampment on the bay shore side of Marin County. That broad thumb of land that comes down from the north and is now joined to the San Francisco peninsula by the Golden Gate
Bridge. I was moved as Frost told it by a sense of some significance he found in this particular memory of his father. Frost could remember standing on the shore every evening of the summer encampment with the light failing. He would watch that strange fierce man and his father swim. No matter how violent the water out. Out until his head was lost in the waves trough until at last a dark blot he clung to the channel boy and there stayed himself on that final border between himself and too much. Whatever the meaning of that story Frost told so poignantly indicates in this last poem that our healing vision may lie in an insight into our more innocent and less involuted sources
directive. Back out of all of this knowledge. Too much for us. Back in a time made simple by the loss of detail and design of then broken off like a graveyard marble sculpture in the weather. There is a house that is no more a house upon a farm that is no more a farm and in a town that is no more a town. The road there if you will let a guy direct you only has it hard you're getting a loss may seem as if it should have been a Querrey great monolithic needs the former town long since gave up pretense of keeping covered. And there's a story in a book about it besides the wearer of iron wagon wheels the ledges show lines rules south east north west the chisel work of an enormous glacier that braced his feet against the Arctic
Pole. You must not mind a certain coolness from him still said on this side of the Panther mountain. Nor need you mind the serial ordeal of being watched from forty cellar holes as if by pairs out of forty ferkin. As for the woods excitement over you it sounds like Russell rushes to their leader whose charge that two upstart inexperience. Where were they all not 20 years ago. And I think too much of having shaded out a few all back are fretted apple tree. Make yourself up a cheering song of how someone's rode home from work this once was you maybe just ahead of you on foot or creaking with a buggy load of grain. The height of the adventure is the height of country where two village cultures faded into each other. Both of them I love.
And if you are lost enough to find yourself by now pulling your ladder road behind you and put a sign up closed to all but me then make yourself at home the only feel good. Now laugh. It's no bigger than a harness. First there's the children's house of make believe some shatter dishes underneath the pine the playthings in the playhouse of the children weep for what little things could make them glad. Then for the house that is no more a house but only a Belisle cell are all now slowly closing like a den and this was no playhouse that I house in earnest. Your destination and your destiny is a book that was the water of the house code as a spring as yet so near its
source to lofty and original to rain. We know the valley streams that when aroused would leave their tatters hung on BB and phone. I have kept hidden in the instep arch of an old cedar at the waterside a broken drinking goblet like the Grail under a spell so the wrong ones can't find it so can't get saved as St. Marks says they mustn't. I stole the goblet from the children's play halves. Here are your waters and your watering place. Drain and be whole again. Beyond confusion. You have just heard a profile of the American poet Robert Frost with a reading of some of his poems
poetry in the American was produced and recorded by KPFA in Berkeley under a grant from the educational television and radio center and distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the NABC Radio Network.
Please note: This content is only available at GBH and the Library of Congress, either due to copyright restrictions or because this content has not yet been reviewed for copyright or privacy issues. For information about on location research, click here.
Poetry and the American
Readings of Robert Frost
Producing Organization
pacifica radio
KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-tm720v2q).
Episode Description
A lecture-recital by Robert Beloof, poet and teacher, on Robert Frost's work.
Series Description
Twenty half-hour programs designed to further the enjoyment of poetry.
Broadcast Date
Media type
Producing Organization: pacifica radio
Producing Organization: KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
Speaker: Beloof, Robert, 1923-2005
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-12-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:18
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Poetry and the American; Readings of Robert Frost,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 21, 2024,
MLA: “Poetry and the American; Readings of Robert Frost.” 1959-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 21, 2024. <>.
APA: Poetry and the American; Readings of 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