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COME INTO MY DREAM His Brief Biographical Sketch Poem MENU Other talk about him >>by Frost's granddaughter on the relationship between Frost and Helen.

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Presentation on theme: "COME INTO MY DREAM His Brief Biographical Sketch Poem MENU Other talk about him >>by Frost's granddaughter on the relationship between Frost and Helen."— Presentation transcript:

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2 COME INTO MY DREAM

3 His Brief Biographical Sketch Poem MENU Other talk about him >>by Frost's granddaughter on the relationship between Frost and Helen Thomas in the poet's later years.

4 Birches Putting in the seed Going for water Mowing Reluctance Blueberries Birches Putting in the seed Going for water Mowing Reluctance Blueberries Back menu

5 Robert Frost was born in San Francisco in He moved to New England at the age of eleven and became interested in reading and writing poetry during his high school years in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He was enrolled at Dartmouth College in 1892, and later at Harvard, but never earned a formal degree. Frost drifted through a string of occupations after leaving school, working as a teacher, cobbler, and editor of the Lawrence Sentinel. His first professional poem, "My Butterfly," was published on November 8, 1894, in the New York newspaper The Independent.

6 In 1895, Frost married Elinor Miriam White, who became a major inspiration in his poetry until her death in The couple moved to England in 1912, after their New Hampshire farm failed, and it was abroad that Frost met and was influenced by such contemporary British poets as Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, and Robert Graves. While in England, Frost also established a friendship with the poet Ezra Pound, who helped to promote and publish his work. By the time Frost returned to the United States in 1915, he had published two full-length collections, A Boy's Will and North of Boston, and his reputation was established. By the nineteen- twenties, he was the most celebrated poet in America, and with each new book—including New Hampshire (1923), A Further Range (1936), Steeple Bush (1947), and In the Clearing (1962)—his fame and honors (including four Pulitzer Prizes) increased.Rupert BrookeRobert Graves Ezra Pound

7 Though his work is principally associated with the life and landscape of New England, and though he was a poet of traditional verse forms and metrics who remained steadfastly aloof from the poetic movements and fashions of his time, Frost is anything but a merely regional or minor poet. The author of searching and often dark meditations on universal themes, he is a quintessentially modern poet in his adherence to language as it is actually spoken, in the psychological complexity of his portraits, and in the degree to which his work is infused with layers of ambiguity and irony. Robert Frost lived and taught for many years in Massachusetts and Vermont, and died on January 29, 1963, in Boston. -end- Back menu

8 WHEN I see birches bend to left and right Across the lines of straighter darker trees, I like to think some boy's been swinging them. But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay. Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning After a rain. They click upon themselves As the breeze rises, and turn many-coloured As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel. Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells

9 Shattering and avalanching on the snow- crust Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen. They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load, And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed So low for long, they never right themselves: You may see their trunks arching in the woods Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground, Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair Before them over their heads to dry in the sun. But I was going to say when Truth broke in With all her matter-of-fact about the ice- storm, I should prefer to have some boy bend them

10 And not one but hung limp, not one was left For him to conquer. He learned all there was To learn about not launching out too soon And so not carrying the tree away Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise As he went out and in to fetch the cows-- Some boy too far from town to learn baseball, Whose only play was what he found himself, Summer or winter, and could play alone. One by one he subdued his father's trees By riding them down over and over again Until he took the stiffness out of them, To the top branches, climbing carefully

11 With the same pains you use to fill a cup Up to the brim, and even above the brim. Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish, Kicking his way down through the air to the ground. So was I once myself a swinger of birches. And so I dream of going back to be. It's when I'm weary 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 weeping From a twig's having lashed across it open. I'd like to get away from earth awhile And then come back to it and begin over.

12 May no fate willfully misunderstand me And half grant what I wish and snatch me away Not to return. Earth's the right place for love: I don't know where it's likely to go better. I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree And climb black branches up a snow- white trunk Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more, But dipped its top and set me down again. That would be good both going and coming back. One could do worse than be a swinger of birches. Explanatory noteBack poem menu

13 Birches was first published in the Atlantic Monthly in August It was later included in the volume Mountain Interval. Birches are a common sight in New England. Of the sixty-line poem – the first forty four lines can be read like a superb description of a boy ’ s play. ‘ A boy too far from town to play baseball ’ has mastered the art of swinging on the birches. The graphic description of swinging on the birches arouses heartfelt joy in the activity and added to it is the poet ’ s own nostalgia of his boyhood days. Although twice he repeats, ‘ I like to think some boy’s been swinging them’ and ‘I should prefer to have some boy bend them’, yet,

14 … Truth broke in With all her matter-of-fact about the ice storm. And so he ’ s reminded that the trees are bent due to the ice storms and not due to the swinging, as he would like to believe. Two beautiful images that are often quoted occur in this poem, one, of the birch branches, Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning After a rain. They click upon themselves As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel. Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust-- Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.

15 And that of arching tree-trunks, trailing their leaves on the ground Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair Before them over their heads to dry in the sun. A joyous boyhood activity gradually turns him to philosophical thoughts. It's when I'm weary 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 weeping From a twig's having lashed across it open. I'd like to get away from earth awhile When the going gets too tough, like a swinger of birches, he dreams of escaping from the earth to heaven. But only for a while, he ’ s quick to add. A strong believer in the goodness of all things in life, he clarifies,

16 I'd like to get away from earth awhile And then come back to it and begin over. May no fate willfully misunderstand me And half grant what I wish and snatch me away Not to return. For, Earth's the right place for love: I don't know where it's likely to go better. The poem reminds me of William Wordsworth ’ s, To The Skylark, Type of the wise, who sore, but never roam — True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home! Back Poem Menu

17 You come to fetch me from my work to-night When supper's on the table, and we'll see If I can leave off burying the white Soft petals fallen from the apple tree (Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite, Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea); And go along with you ere you lose sight Of what you came for and become like me, Slave to a Springtime passion for the earth.

18 How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed On through the watching for that early birth When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed, The sturdy seedling with arched body comes Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs Explanatory note Back Poem Menu

19 A simple poem about the simple pleasures of life. A life lived close to the land. Of practical tasks that bring one closer to life and nature. Where reality or love does not descend on one gently but in a very impassioned and keen manner. Where facts and imagination become one. And practical tasks assume an unexplained fervour. Nature reveals more of life. The poet who has becomes a 'Slave to a Springtime passion for the earth' is sowing 'smooth bean and wrinkled pea' but is more conscious of 'burying the white Soft petals fallen from the apple tree' along with these. He's not sure he'll be able to go home easily and says 'we'll see If I can leave off'' the work (Nature) and go before his wife who has come to fetch him for supper too forgets what she

20 came for and gives in to the irresistible lure of the springtime surroundings. The picturesque last lines, to us today, will probably and unfortunately, only bring to mind one of those documentaries on the Discovery Channel showing a seedling break into a plant and flowering too - all within a few seconds. Every farmer can be expected to experience a feeling of love while sowing and seeing the seeds sprout and grow. But the poet's love for Nature is so overwhelming, so intense, that nothing less that 'burning' seems to describe this love. The love that he experiences in sowing seeds and seeing them sprout forth ('sprout forth' is an antithesis of his graphic description of The sturdy seedling with arched body comes/ Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs) is so intense that he exclaims, almost groans, How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed

21 On through the watching for that early birth When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed, The sturdy seedling with arched body comes Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs The poet farmer needs not the returns of his produce but the very process - of simple farming tasks that yield all the gratification he desires, to fulfill his purpose in life. Back Poem Menu

22 The well was dry beside the door, And so we went with pail and can Across the fields behind the house To seek the brook if still it ran; Not loth to have excuse to go, Because the autumn eve was fair (Though chill), because the fields were ours, And by the brook our woods were there. We ran as if to meet the moon That slowly dawned behind the trees,

23 The barren boughs without the leaves, Without the birds, without the breeze. But once within the wood, we paused Like gnomes that hid us from the moon, Ready to run to hiding new With laughter when she found us soon. Each laid on other a staying hand To listen ere we dared to look, And in the hush we joined to make We heard, we knew we heard the brook.

24 A note as from a single place, A slender tinkling fail that made Now drops that floated on the pool Like pearls, and now a silver blade. Explanatory note Back Poem Menu

25 Another picturesque poem about a simple farm chore that springs forth a delightful aspect of Nature. Going for Water describes a group, perhaps a couple, one beautiful autumn evening going in search of a brook (To seek the brook if still it ran;). The hope and happiness in their hearts can be gauged from the line, We ran as if to meet the moon. Though a chore (The well was dry beside the door), the task is no burden but an opportunity to get away from the mundane routine. The search for the brook is the search of adventure in the ordinary 'going ons' in life. The rest of the poem is pure joy to the ears and the mind's eye. Though its the moon which occasionally hides behind clouds, it is imagined that it is the people who are hiding from the moon –

26 behind gnomes. Once the moon spots them, laughing like children they run to find new hiding places. While playing thus, they have not forgotten what they have come for. The awareness of the physical world is not lost in the imaginary games. The practical purposes of life are never lost sight of. So even while the imaginary games are being enjoyed, that is, the hearts contentment is sought, the practical aspects of life are not forgotten. A balance between the heart's desires and fulfillment of life's purposes is maintained. After all the fun and adventure, dreams and play, the physical task is fulfilled leading to enhanced pleasure. I think, in sum, it will be appropriate to say that, reality looked at with a fair measure of dreams and imagination renders more joy. The sound of the last lines are a picture to behold: A note as from a single place, A slender tinkling fail that made Now drops that floated on the pool Like pearls, and now a silver blade. Back Poem Menu

27 THERE was never a sound beside the wood but one, And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground. What was it it whispered? I knew not well myself; Perhaps it was something about the heat of the sun, Something, perhaps, about the lack of sound-- And that was why it whispered and did not speak. It was no dream of the gift of idle hours, Or easy gold at the hand of fay or elf: Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak To the earnest

28 love that laid the swale in rows, Not without feeble-pointed spikes of flowers (Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake. The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows. My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make. Explanatory note Back Poem Menu

29 Mowing is from the volume, A Boy ’ s Will. Here too, Frost wanders into the realms of dreams and imagination, but soon concludes, The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows. As in Birches, in Mowing too, he displays his preference for the immediate, tangible world and things rather than dreams and ultimate answers. The poet farmer, one hot afternoon, while mowing, imagines his ‘ scythe ’ whispering to him. He anticipates fantasy, almost wishing that it might be saying something about the heat of the day or perhaps about the silence of the surroundings, but the scythe - like the birch branches that carry him first towards heaven and but soon enough bring him down to the earth, to reality - speaks out the truth.

30 Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak coming from the mouth of an earnest worker such as the scythe. The scythe is a symbol of work, of practicality, of labor. By personifying it, the poet gives its mechanical task the impression of tireless work that springs out only from earnest love for work. It reminds and reinforces the poet ’ s faith in the practical purposes of life that only can provide the sweetest pleasures. Back Poem Menu

31 OUT through the fields and the woods And over the walls I have wended; I have climbed the hills of view And looked at the world, and descended; I have come by the highway home, And lo, it is ended. The leaves are all dead on the ground, Save those that the oak is keeping To ravel them one by one And let them go scraping and creeping Out over the crusted snow,

32 When others are sleeping. And the dead leaves lie huddled and still, No longer blown hither and thither; The last lone aster is gone; The flowers of the witch-hazel wither; The heart is still aching to seek, But the feet question 'Whither?' Ah, when to the heart of man Was it ever less than a treason To go with the drift of things, To yield with a grace to reason, And bow and accept the end Of a love or a season? Explanatory note Back Poem Menu

33 Reluctance is about a winter evening. The poet has wandered over hills and walls and fields and woods (fields and walls suggest civilization while hills and woods wilderness) and is on his way back - home. At another level he's trying to say he's seen all of life and is home - that his journey through life has come to a close. His melancholy mood is reflected in nature too - the trees are barren, the snow is crusted, the dead leaves lie in heaps and the last of the blossoms are withered. His mood lightens as he talks of the Oak, pictured as naughty, it is seen as having saved its leaves to 'ravel' (as against 'unravel') one by one, And let them go scraping and creeping Out over the crusted snow, When others are sleeping. But the pensive mood prevails. The heart is restless,

34 The heart is still aching to seek, But the feet question 'Whither?' The practical aspects of life claim predominance. Like the 'horse' in Stopping by Woods…, his feet, that is, his mortal self questions his desires. And the inability to provide a certain reply makes him accept the fact that indeed his journey has ended. All through life man experiences circumstances when good times and relationships end, just as a beautiful season ends. He is helpless and can do nothing to change the course of things - all he can do is accept the circumstances and learn to go on. But this realization too is of little comfort. Knowing he has no power to control the course of most things in life and accepting this, is like committing treason to one's heart. There is a conflict here between the mind and the heart. The mind 'accepts' but the heart finds it difficult to and perhaps considers the mind a traitor (?) for giving in to the 'end of things'. Back Poem Menu

35 "YOU ought to have seen what I saw on my way To the village, through Mortenson's pasture to-day: Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb, Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum In the cavernous pail of the first one to come! And all ripe together, not some of them green And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!" "I don't know what part of the pasture you mean." 不是我在說 … 你真滴要把這首詩看完嗎 ?? Back Poem Menu

36 "You know where they cut off the woods-let me see- It was two years ago-or no!-can it be No longer than that?-and the following fall The fire ran and burned it all up but the wall." "Why, there hasn't been time for the bushes to grow. That's always the way with the blueberries, though: There may not have been the ghost of a sign Of them anywhere under the shade of the pine, But get the pine out of the way, you may burn The pasture all over until not a fern Or grass-blade is left, not to mention a stick,

37 And presto, they're up all around you as thick And hard to explain as a conjuror's trick." "It must be on charcoal they fatten their fruit. I taste in them sometimes the flavour of soot. And after all really they're ebony skinned: The blue's but a mist from the breath of the wind, A tarnish that goes at a touch of the hand, And less than the tan with which pickers are tanned." "Does Mortenson know what he has, do you think?" 還要再繼續看下去嗎 ?? Back Poem Menu

38 "He may and not care and so leave the chewink To gather them for him-you know what he is. He won't make the fact that they're rightfully his An excuse for keeping us other folk out." "I wonder you didn't see Loren about." "The best of it was that I did. Do you know, I was just getting through what the field had to show And over the wall and into the road, When who should come by, with a democrat-load Of all the young chattering Lorens alive, But Loren, the fatherly, out for a drive."

39 "He saw you, then? What did he do? Did he frown?" "He just kept nodding his head up and down. You know how politely he always goes by. But he thought a big thought-I could tell by his eye- Which being expressed, might be this in effect: 'I have left those there berries, I shrewdly suspect, To ripen too long. I am greatly to blame.'" "He's a thriftier person than some I could name." "He seems to be thrifty; and hasn't he need, With the mouths of all those young Lorens to feed? He has brought them all up on wild berries, they say, Like birds. They store a great many away. Back Poem Menu

40 They eat them the year round, and those they don't eat They sell in the store and buy shoes for their feet." "Who cares what they say? It's a nice way to live, Just taking what Nature is willing to give, Not forcing her hand with harrow and plow." "I wish you had seen his perpetual bow- And the air of the youngsters! Not one of them turned, And they looked so solemn-absurdly concerned." "I wish I knew half what the flock of them know Of where all the berries and other things grow,

41 Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top Of the boulder-strewn mountain, and when they will crop. I met them one day and each had a flower Stuck into his berries as fresh as a shower; Some strange kind-they told me it hadn't a name." "I've told you how once not long after we came, I almost provoked poor Loren to mirth By going to him of all people on earth To ask if he knew any fruit to be had For the picking. The rascal, he said he'd be glad To tell if he knew. But the year had been bad. There had been some berries-but those were all gone. He didn't say where they had been. He went on: 'I'm sure-I'm sure'-as polite as could be. Back Poem Menu

42 He spoke to his wife in the door, 'Let me see, Mame, we don't know any good berrying place?' It was all he could do to keep a straight face. "If he thinks all the fruit that grows wild is for him, He'll find he's mistaken. See here, for a whim, We'll pick in the Mortensons' pasture this year. We'll go in the morning, that is, if it's clear, And the sun shines out warm: the vines must be wet. It's so long since I picked I almost forget How we used to pick berries: we took one look round, Then sank out of sight like trolls underground, And saw nothing more of each other, or heard, Unless when you said I was keeping a bird

43 Away from its nest, and I said it was you. 'Well, one of us is.' For complaining it flew Around and around us. And then for a while We picked, till I feared you had wandered a mile, And I thought I had lost you. I lifted a shout Too loud for the distance you were, it turned out, For when you made answer, your voice was as low As talking-you stood up beside me, you know." "We sha'n't have the place to ourselves to enjoy- Not likely, when all the young Lorens deploy. They'll be there to-morrow, or even to-night. They won't be too friendly-they may be polite- To people they look on as having no right To pick where they're picking. But we won't complain.

44 You ought to have seen how it looked in the rain, The fruit mixed with water in layers of leaves, Like two kinds of jewels, a vision for thieves." Back MenuBack Poem Menu

45 Robert Frost and Helen Thomas Revisited LESLEY LEE FRANCIS I HAVE been aware for some time of specific deficiencies in the third volume of the Thompson/Winnick biography of Robert Frost. As one example only, I noted the often questionable attribution of motive in the diary entries for the Frost visit to the British Isles, in May and June 1957, where Lawrance Thompson had joined the poet for the bestowal of honors. William R. Evans, in his piece on Robert Frost and Helen Thomas, quotes Thompson/Winnick prominently in the conclusion of the second part. He also draws heavily from the recollections of Helen and Edward Thomas's youngest daughter, Myfanwy, who gave permission to publish her mother's letters.

46 In researching the Frost family's stay in England from 1912 to 1915 and subsequent visits (with Elinor and Marjorie in 1928, and alone in 1957 and 1961), and as the poet's granddaughter, I realized how risky it is to seek definitive psychological explanations for events or for the dynamics of personality. The complexities and intangibles are themselves the warp and woof of the subject's life, as of his art. By enlarging the context in which the interaction between Robert Frost and Helen Thomas occurred, and by filling gaps in the sources from which any interpretation may be drawn, we come closer, but only closer, to an understanding of motive. There is general agreement among Frost's biographers with regard to the depth of RF's (as we affectionately called him) love for the man about whom he wrote, 'The closest I ever came in friendship to anyone in

47 England or anywhere else in the world I think was with Edward Thomas.' Robert helped release the pent-up flood of poetry in his friend, and sought ways to have his verse recognized in America. Despite obvious differences in background, he helped Edward take a more positive view toward life and toward his marriage, which was experiencing serious tensions. At the outbreak of World War I, he brought Edward's son Merfyn back to America with him, and he sent money to Helen after Edward's death in 1917, money sorely needed by his own family. But it is also true, as Helen herself concedes in her memoirs, that she 'never became close to Robert as Edward was,' just as she never became close to Robert's wife, Elinor. With the publication of As it Was, the first of Helen's memoirs

48 (London: William Heinemann) in 1926, followed by World Without End (London: William Heinemann) in 1931, RF responded to the intimate autobiographical reminiscences with dismay. When he visited England in 1928, he called upon Edward's widow and, as the correspondence shows, was honest in conveying to her his and his wife's distress. He thought Helen made Edward look ridiculous, by going into such detail in their marital affairs, and in her portrayal of Eleanor Farjeon, whom Robert thought Helen had hoped to 'conquer.. with magnanimity.' He wrote Jack Haines that the meeting with Helen 'ended one passage in our lives.' And there is where I believe Robert and Elinor would have wanted to leave it. They had concluded that Helen's sentimental journey in print-which, for Helen, was a

49 retrospective attempt to work off her grief and to give meaning to her life-was an unseemly distortion they considered injurious to what they loved in Edward. They were uncomfortable with Helen's desire to carry on a friendship that had meant so much to her husband when alive. Yet, while Robert did indeed distance himself from Edward's widow, it would be incorrect to conclude that he was in some grand manner unforgiving or deliberately hurtful. The record of the circumstances of their final encounter, in May 1957, shows there are no villains, and goes far to soften the impression left by Thompson/ Winnick and Evans. I had joined my grandfather in London on 1 June 1957, from Madrid, where I was employed in the American Embassy. I was privileged to accompany RF to Oxford

50 and Cambridge Universities when he received his honorary degrees, and I was at the Connaught Hotel on Sunday, 2 June, when it became necessary to cancel his scheduled trip to Lambourn with Eleanor Farjeon and me to lunch at Bridge Cottage with the Thomas family: Helen and her three children, Bronwen, Merfyn, and Myfanwy. In a 3 June letter from London, I wrote my mother, Lesley Frost, that during a drive out into Sussex country (on 1 June, my first day in England) to visit Frost's old and ailing friend Sir John Squire, 'RF was in a draft and for several days it was doubtful we would get him through the Oxford ordeal -- we did and in flying colors. Had to cancel a trip out to see Helen Thomas.' RF had explicitly requested and seemed to enjoy the rapid pace of social, press, and lecturing activities, and he pulled out of only a few of the large number of engagements scheduled during his visit (often with as

51 many as three functions in one day!), but he avoided long trips whenever possible, and the journey to Lambourn represented at least a three-hour drive in the Embassy car. Larry had to call a doctor, who said the old man's heart was jumping around dangerously. He was also suffering, he told me, from so much personal attention:' He says they don't give him a chance to forget about himself,' I wrote home at the time. Apart from my own record of these events, the archival papers on Frost's 1957 visit are revealing. Before traveling to England and Ireland as part of the United States Department of State's Educational Exchange: American Specialists Program, RF was invited to submit a list of names of persons he would like the American Embassy in London to contact prior to his arrival on 19 May. Included on the handwritten short list of friends

52 were the names of Eleanor Farjeon and Helen Thomas. In the first of three undated letters from this period (May-June 1957), letters not mentioned by Evans in his essay, Helen corroborates: My dear Robert I have just heard from the American Embassy that you are coming to England on May 20th & that you want to see me. I am so delighted and ecstatic, but I am aware that you must be inundated with invitations & all that. But somehow we must meet. But how? Of course the best would be for you to come here & spend at least a night with us, but I fear that is too much to hope for. Can you suggest a time & place that would suit you, if to come here is not possible? The children would love to see you & it must be managed somehow to have a family talk, not with others except dear Eleanor whom you will especially want to see. I'd love

53 you to be here in our little home -- an ancient thatched cottage with a stream running by -- a place among the chalk downs Edward would have loved. Ann & I live here, but Bronwen is close by & Mervyn would come. Robert, it will be [unclear] to see you & talk with you We all send our love Your loving Helen BACK MENU


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