March 29, 2019

Max’s Musings

By Max Molleston

Some of you readers are fond of the poems of Robert Frost, and you have paid up to get his publications. I paid some forty dollars for a comprehensive volume at a bookstore, and two or three dollars for the same book at an annual sale at the Coralville Library. The late Dick Mackin of Bettendorf scouted sales of all kinds in yards and garages and delivered his findings of poetry books, refusing to have me reimburse him. In our case this month listed cost for the initial books of Frost were priced at one dollar for both, bound together by Dover Thrift Editions in 1991. The two books, A Boy’s Will and North of Boston, were first published in England, in 1912 and 1914. Frost was not published in the U.S. until he was around 40. Recall tells me that Galesburg native Carl Sandburg’s work lingered about that long for him to gain acceptance and become a recognized published poet.

Let’s get to a couple of Frost’s early poems. My experience with writing lets me know poets begin trials through short poems We are not sure of our skills yet.

To The Thawing Wind

Come with rain, O loud Southwester!

Bring the singer, bring the nester;

Give the buried flower at dream;

Make the settled snowbank steam;

Find the brown beneath the white;

But whate’er you do to-night,

  Bathe my window, make it flow

  Melt it as the ices go;

  Melt the glass and leave the sticks

  Like a hermits crucifix;

  Burst into my narrow stall;

  Swing the picture on the wall;

  Run the rattling pages o’er;

  Scatter poems on the floor;

  Turn the poet out of door.

Image building with emotion and rhyme, and for you readers some ready memories of your owned winter winds. That is part of the first book. A Boy’s Will. On now to his next offering from North of Boston.

Most of these poems are much longer. Some selected lines from The Code, which is about haying, essential work and common scene from farming a century and more in the past. It seems to be a major reminder, and linkage to his widely admired poem, Death of the Hired Man, an out-and-out favorite of your writer.

The Code

There were three in the meadow by the brook

Gathering up windrows, piling cocks of hay,

With an eye always lifted toward the west

When an irregular sun-bordered cloud

Darkly advanced with a perpetual dagger

Flickering across its bosom. Suddenly

One helper, thrusting pitchfork in the ground,

Marched himself off the field and home. One stayed.

“What is there wrong? Something you just now said.”

“What did I say?” “About our taking pains.”

“To cock the hay–because it’s going to shower?

I said that more than a half-an-hour ago.

I said it to myself as much as you.”

“You didn’t know. But James is one big fool.

He thought you meant to find fault with his work.

That’s what the average farmer would have meant.

James would take time, of course, to chew it over

Before he acted: he’s just got around to act.”

You needed to know The Code. If you have no knowledge of the traditions and “codes” of farm life, earlier in last century, accept what takes place in the poem. It is over one-hundred lines in length and much more involved in the “warp and woof” of hay making in those days. It was and is learned personal pride in each farm task and these become the special heritage of the farmer or farmhand.

May, the month, can be free and loose as we chose our own lives out of doors, with the flora on hand, and green goods to be
potted or planted. Join me for that upcoming adventure.

Filed Under: History, Personal Growth