Nox Oculis

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Il naquit le 26 mars 1874 à San Francisco. En 1885, à la mort de son père, sa mère s'installa avec sa famille à Lawrence dans le Massachusetts. C'est là que Frost fit ses études secondaires ; il fut ensuite étudiant à l'université Harvard, et gagna sa vie en faisant de petits métiers. Il travailla successivement dans une filature, dans une cordonnerie, puis enseigna dans une école de campagne, devint rédacteur en chef d'un journal rural puis fermier. À cette époque, il composait déjà des poèmes, sans parvenir à les publier.

En 1895, il épousa Elinor White, qu'il avait connu à l'école. En 1897, il s'inscrivit à Harvard, afin de faciliter une carrière dans l'enseignement collégial, mais quitta l'Université après deux ans sans obtenir de diplôme. Désappointé par le parcours erratique de Frost, son gran-père lui offrit une ferme dans le Derry, au New Hampshire, à la condition qu'il la garde pendant au moins dix ans. Toutefois, les revenus de la ferme n'étant pas suffisants, Frost devint également enseignant dans les écoles de la région.

En 1912, Frost vendit sa ferme, abandonna son poste d'enseignant dans le New Hampshire et partit vivre en Angleterre. Il se lia d'amitié avec de célèbres poètes tels qu'Edward Thomas et Lascelles Abercrombie, ainsi qu'avec le jeune Rupert Brooke qui n'était alors connu que dans les cercles étroits de l'aristocratie. Grâce à leur aide, Frost publia ses deux premiers recueils de poésie qui rencontrèrent immédiatement un grand succès : A Boy's Will (1913), ouvrage empreint de lyrisme, et North of Boston (1914), qui consiste en une série de monologues dramatiques. En 1915, Frost retourna aux États-Unis pour découvrir que sa renommée l'y avait précédé. Il continua dès lors à écrire des ouvrages dont le succès ne fut jamais démenti, partageant son temps entre la campagne du Vermont, le New Hampshire, l'université Harvard, celle du Michigan et d'autres établissements encore où il enseignait la littérature. Parmi ses recueils de poésie, signalons particulièrement : Mountain Interval (1916), West-Running Brook (1928), A Further Range (1936) et A Masque of Reason, (1945). Ces œuvres lui valurent d'obtenir le prix Pulitzer de poésie à quatre reprises, en 1924, 1931, 1937 et 1943. Il reçut également d'autres honneurs et, en 1961, fut choisi pour lire un de ses poèmes lors de l'investiture du président J.F. Kennedy, ce qu'aucun poète n'avait encore fait en pareille occasion. Deux ans plus tard, le 29 janvier 1963, il s'éteignit à Boston.

Il fut récipiendaire de multiple prix et récompenses honorifiques : quatre prix Pulitzer de poésie (1924, 1931, 1937, 1943), la Mark Twain Medal (1937), la Emerson-Thoreau Medal (1958), le titre de consultant en poésie pour la Bibliothèque du Congrès (1958-1959), etc.

Frost trouva toute son inspiration dans la vie et le paysage campagnards de la Nouvelle-Angleterre et sa poésie, en vers libres, utilise au mieux la densité du vocabulaire et des tournures propres au langage de cette région. Malgré le caractère apparemment ordinaire de sa thématique, Frost sut donner à sa poésie une remarquable intensité émotionnelle, passant dans un même poème du badinage humoristique à une évocation des plus tragiques. Cette œuvre laisse transparaître, en outre, son fort attachement aux valeurs traditionnelles de la société américaine. Il demeure l'un des plus grand poètes américains du XXe siècle.

Acquainted With The Night

    I have been one acquainted with the night.
    I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
    I have outwalked the furthest city light.

    I have looked down the saddest city lane.
    I have passed by the watchman on his beat
    And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

    I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
    When far away an interrupted cry
    Came over houses from another street,

    But not to call me back or say good-bye ;
    And further still at an unearthly height,
    O luminary clock against the sky

    Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
    I have been one acquainted with the night.

    Robert Frost


    Lord, I have loved your sky,
    Be it said against or for me,
    Have loved it clear and high,
    Or low and stormy.

    Till I have reeled and stumbled
    From looking up too much,
    And fallen and been humbled
    To wear a crutch.

    My love for every Heaven
    O'er which you, Lord, have lorded,
    From number One to Seven
    Should be rewarded.

    It may not give me hope
    That when I am translated
    My scalp will in the cope
    Be constellated.

    But if that seems to tend
    To my undue renown,
    At least it ought to send
    Me up, not down.

    Robert Frost

The Bear

    The bear puts both arms around the tree above her
    And draws it down as if it were a lover
    And its choke cherries lips to kiss good-bye,
    Then lets it snap back upright in the sky.
    Her next step rocks a boulder on the wall
    (She's making her cross-country in the fall).
    Her great weight creaks the barbed-wire in its staples
    As she flings over and off down through the maples,
    Leaving on one wire moth a lock of hair.
    Such is the uncaged progress of the bear.
    The world has room to make a bear feel free ;
    The universe seems cramped to you and me.
    Man acts more like the poor bear in a cage
    That all day fights a nervous inward rage
    His mood rejecting all his mind suggests.
    He paces back and forth and never rests
    The me-nail click and shuffle of his feet,
    The telescope at one end of his beat
    And at the other end the microscope,
    Two instruments of nearly equal hope,
    And in conjunction giving quite a spread.
    Or if he rests from scientific tread,
    'Tis only to sit back and sway his head
    Through ninety odd degrees of arc, it seems,
    Between two metaphysical extremes.
    He sits back on his fundamental butt
    With lifted snout and eyes (if any) shut,
    (lie almost looks religious but he's not),
    And back and forth he sways from cheek to cheek,
    At one extreme agreeing with one Greek
    At the other agreeing with another Greek
    Which may be thought, but only so to speak.
    A baggy figure, equally pathetic
    When sedentary and when peripatetic.

    Robert Frost


    Have I not walked without an upward look
    Of caution under stars that very well
    Might not have missed me when they shot and fell ?
    It was a risk I had to take -- and took.

    Robert Frost

Canis Major

    The great Overdog,
    That heavenly beast
    With a star in one eye,
    Gives a leap in the east.

    He dances upright
    All the way to the west,
    And never once drops
    On his forefeet to rest.

    I'm a poor underdog,
    But to-night I will bark
    With the great Overdog
    That romps through the dark.

    Robert Frost, 1928

Choose Something Like A Star

    O Star (the fairest one in sight)
    We grant your loftiness the right
    To some obscurity of cloud --
    It will not do to say of night,
    Since dark is what brings out your light.
    Some mystery becomes the proud.
    But to be wholly taciturn
    In your reserve is not allowed.
    Say something to us we can learn
    By heart and when alone repeat.
    Say something! And it says, "I burn."
    But say with what degree of heat.
    Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
    Use language we can comprehend.
    Tell us what elements you blend.
    It gives us strangely little aid,
    But does tell something in the end.
    And steadfast as Keat's Eremite,
    Not even stooping from its sphere,
    It asks a little of us here.
    It asks of us a certain height,
    So when at times the mob is swayed
    To carry praise or blame too far,
    We may choose something like a star
    To stay our minds on and be staid.

    Robert Frost, 1947

Come In

    As I came to the edge of the woods,
    Thrush music -- hark !
    Now if it was dusk outside,
    Inside it was dark.

    To dark in the woods for a bird
    By sleight of wing
    To better its perch for the night,
    Though it still could sing.

    The last of the light of the sun
    That had died in the west
    Still lived for one song more
    In a thrush's breast.

    Far in the pillared dark
    Thrush music went --
    Almost like a call to come in
    To the dark and lament.

    But no, I was out for stars ;
    I would not come in.
    I meant not even if asked ;
    And I hadn't been.

    Robert Frost

Desert Places

    Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
    In a field I looked into going past,
    And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
    But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

    The woods around it have it---it is theirs.
    All animals are smothered in their lairs.
    I am too absent-spirited to count ;
    The loneliness includes me unawares.

    And lonely as it is that loneliness
    Will be more lonely ere it will be less --
    A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
    With no expression, nothing to express.

    They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
    Between stars---on stars where no human race is.
    I have it in me so much nearer home
    To scare myself with my own desert places.

    Robert Frost

Fire And Ice

    Some say the world will end in fire,
    Some say in ice.
    From what I've tasted of desire
    I hold with those who favor fire.
    But if it had to perish twice,
    I think I know enough of hate
    To know that for destruction ice
    Is also great
    And would suffice.

    Robert Frost, Miscellaneous Poems to 1920, 1920 (dans Harper's Magazine, December 1920)

Fireflies In The Garden

    Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
    And here on earth come emulating flies,
    That though they never equal stars in size,
    (And they were never really stars at heart)
    Achieve at times a very star-like start.
    Only, of course, they can't sustain the part.

    Robert Frost, 1928

Fragmentary Blue

    Why make so much of fragmentary blue
    In here and there a bird, or butterfly,
    Or flower, or wearing-stone, or open eye,
    When heaven presents in sheets the solid hue ?

    Since earth is earth, perhaps, not heaven (as yet) --
    Though some savants make earth include the sky ;
    And blue so far above us comes so high,
    It only gives our wish for blue a whet.

    Robert Frost, Miscellaneous Poems to 1920, 1920 (dans Harper's Magazine, July 1920)

The Freedom Of The Moon

    I've tried the new moon tilted in the air
    Above a hazy tree-and-farmhouse cluster
    As you might try a jewel in your hair.
    I've tried it fine with little breadth of luster,
    Alone, or in one ornament combining
    With one first-water star almost shining.

    I put it shining anywhere I please.
    By walking slowly on some evening later
    I've pulled it from a crate of crooked trees,
    And brought it over glossy water, greater,
    And dropped it in, and seen the image wallow,
    The color run, all sorts of wonder follow.

    Robert Frost, 1928

The Literate Farmer And The Planet Venus

    A Dated Popular-Science Medley
    on a Mysterious Light Recently Observed in the
    Western Sky at Evening

    My unexpected knocking at the door
    Started chairs thundering on the kitchen floor,
    Knives and forks ringing on the supper plates,
    Voices conflicting like the candidates.
    A mighty farmer flung the house door wide,
    He and a lot of children came outside,
    And there on an equality we stood.
    That's the time knocking at a door did good.

    'I stopped to compliment you on this star
    You get the beauty of from where you are.
    To see it so, the bright and only one
    In sunset light, you'd think it was the sun
    That hadn't sunk the way it should have sunk,
    But right in heaven was slowly being shrunk
    So small as to be virtually gone,
    Yet there to watch the darkness coming on --
    Like someone dead permitted to exist
    Enough to see if he was greatly missed.
    I didn't see the sun set. Did it set ?
    Will anybody swear that isn't it ?
    And will you give me shelter for the night ?
    If not, a glass of milk will be all right.'

    'Traveler, I'm glad you asked about that light.
    Your mind mistrusted there was something wrong,
    And naturally you couldn't go along
    Without inquiring if 'twas serious.
    'Twas providential you applied to us,
    Who were just on the subject when you came.
    There is a star that's Serious by name
    And nature too, but this is not the same.
    This light's been going on for several years,
    Although at times we think it disappears.
    You'll hear all sorts of things. You'll meet with them
    Will tell you it's the star of Bethlehem
    Above some more religion in a manger.
    But put that down to superstition, Stranger.
    What's a star doing big as a baseball ?
    Between us two it's not a star at all.
    It's a new patented electric light,
    Put up on trial by that Jerseyite
    So much is being now expected of,
    To give developments the final shove
    And turn us into the next specie folks
    Are going to be, unless these monkey jokes
    Of the last fifty years are all a libel,
    And Darwin's proved mistaken, not the Bible.
    I s'pose you have your notions on the vexed
    Question of what we're turning into next.'

    'As liberals we're willing to give place
    To any demonstrably better race,
    No matter what the color of its skin.
    (But what a human race the white has been !)
    I heard a fellow in a public lecture
    On Pueblo Indians and their architecture
    Declare that if such Indians inherited
    The condemned world the legacy was merited.
    So far as he, the speaker, was concerned
    He had his ticket bought, his passage earned,
    To take the Mayflower back where he belonged
    Before the Indian race was further wronged.
    But come, enlightened as in talk you seem,
    You don't believe that that first-water gleam
    Is not a star ?'

    'Believe it? Why, I know it.
    Its actions any cloudless night will show it.
    You'll see it be allowed up just so high,
    Say about halfway up the western sky,
    And then get slowly, slowly pulled back down.
    You might not notice if you've lived in town,
    As I suspect you have. A town debars
    Much notice of what's going on in stars.
    The idea is no doubt to make one job
    Of lighting the whole night with one big blob
    Of electricity in bulk the way
    The sun sets the example in the day.'

    'Here come more stars to character the skies,
    And they in the estimation of the wise
    Are more divine than any bulb or arc,
    Because their purpose is to flash and spark,
    But not to take away the precious dark.
    We need the interruption of the night
    To ease attention off when overtight,
    To break our logic in too long a flight,
    And ask us if our premises are right.'

    'Sick talk, sick talk, sick sentimental talk!
    It doesn't do you any good to walk.
    I see what you are: can't get you excited
    With hopes of getting mankind unbenighted.
    Some ignorance takes rank as innocence.
    Have it for all of me and have it dense.
    The slave will never thank his manumitter ;
    Which often makes the manumitter bitter.'

    'In short, you think that star a patent medicine
    Put up to cure the world by Mr. Edison.'

    'You said it—that's exactly what it is.
    My son in Jersey says a friend of his
    Knows the old man and nobody's so deep
    In incandescent lamps and ending sleep.
    The old man argues science cheapened speed.
    A good cheap anti-dark is now the need.
    Give us a good cheap twenty-four-hour day,
    No part of which we'd have to waste, I say,
    And who knows where we can't get! Wasting time
    In sleep or slowness is the deadly crime.
    He gave up sleep himself some time ago,
    It puffs the face and brutalizes so.
    You take the ugliness all so much dread,
    Called getting out of the wrong side of bed
    That is the source perhaps of human hate,
    And weIl may be where wars originate.
    Get rid of that and there'd be left no great
    Of either murder or war in any land.
    You know how cunningly mankind is planned :
    We have one loving and one hating hand.
    The loving's made to hold each other like,
    While with the hating other hand we strike.

    The blow can be no stronger than the clutch,
    Or soon we'd bat each other out of touch,
    And the fray wouldn't last a single round.
    And still it's bad enough to badly wound,
    And if our getting up to start the day
    On the right side of bed would end the fray,
    We'd hail the remedy. But it's been tried
    And found, he says, a bed has no right side.
    The trouble is, with that receipt for love,
    A bed's got no right side to get out of.
    We can't be trusted to the sleep we take,
    And simply must evolve to stay awake.
    He thinks that chairs and tables will endure,
    But beds—in less than fifty years he's sure
    There will be no such piece of furniture.
    He's surely got it in for cots and beds.
    No need for us to rack our common heads
    About it, though. We haven't got the mind.
    It best be left to great men of his kind
    Who have no other object than our good.
    There's a lot yet that isn't understood.
    Ain't it a caution to us not to fix
    No limits to what rose in rubbing sticks
    On fire to scare away the pterodix
    When man first lived in caves along the creeks ?'

    'Marvelous world in nineteen-twenty-six.'

    Robert Frost

A Loose Mountain (Telescopic)

    Did you stay up last night (the Magi did)
    To see the star shower known as Leonid
    That once a year by hand or apparatus
    Is so mysteriously pelted at us ?
    It is but fiery puffs of dust and pebbles,
    No doubt directed at our heads as rebels
    In having taken artificial light
    Against the ancient sovereignty of night.
    A fusillade of blanks and empty flashes,
    It never reaches earth except as ashes
    Of which you feel no least touch on your face
    Nor find in dew the slightest cloudy trace.
    Nevertheless it constitutes a hint
    That the loose mountain lately seen to glint
    In sunlight near us in momentous swing
    Is something in a Balearic sling
    The heartless and enormous Outer Black
    Is still withholding in the Zodiac
    But from irresolution in his back
    About when best to have us in our orbit,
    So we won't simply take it and absorb it.

    Robert Frost

Lost In Heaven

    The clouds, the source of rain, one stormy night
    Offered an opening to the source of dew ;
    Which I accepted with impatient sight,
    Looking for my old skymarks in the blue.

    But stars were scarce in that part of the sky,
    And no two were of the same constellation —-
    No one was bright enough to identify ;
    So 'twas with not ungrateful consternation,

    Seeing myself well lost once more, I sighed,
    'Where, where in Heaven am I? But don't tell me
    Oh, opening clouds, by opening on me wide.
    Let's let my heavenly lostness overwhelm me.'

    Robert Frost

Moon Compasses

    I stole forth dimly in the dripping pause
    Between two downpours to see what there was.
    And a masked moon had spread down compass rays
    To a cone mountain in the midnight haze,
    As if the final estimate were hers,
    And as it measured in her calipers,
    The mountain stood exalted in its place.
    So love will take between the hands a face...

    Robert Frost

An Old Man's Winter Night

    ALL out of doors looked darkly in at him
    Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars,
    That gathers on the pane in empty rooms.
    What kept his eyes from giving back the gaze
    Was the lamp tilted near them in his hand.
    What kept him from remembering what it was
    That brought him to that creaking room was age.
    He stood with barrels round him-at a loss.
    And having scared the cellar under him
    In clomping there, he scared it once again
    In clomping off;-and scared the outer night,
    Which has its sounds, familiar, like the roar
    Of trees and crack of branches, common things,
    But nothing so like beating on a box.
    A light he was to no one but himself
    Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what,
    A quiet light, and then not even that.
    He consigned to the moon, such as she was,
    So late-arising, to the broken moon
    As better than the sun in any case
    For such a charge, his snow upon the roof,
    His icicles along the wall to keep ;
    And slept. The log that shifted with a jolt
    Once in the stove, disturbed him and he shifted,
    And eased his heavy breathing, but still slept.
    One aged man-one man-can't fill a house,
    A farm, a countryside, or if he can,
    It's thus he does it of a winter night.

    Robert Frost, Mountain Interval, 1920

On Looking Up By Chance At The Constellations

    You'll wait a long, long time for anything much
    To happen in heaven beyond the floats of cloud
    And the Northern Lights that run like tingling nerves.
    The sun and moon get crossed, but they never touch,
    Nor strike out fire from each other nor crash out loud.
    The planets seem to interfere in their curves
    But nothing ever happens, no harm is done.
    We may as well go patiently on with our life,
    And look elsewhere than to stars and moon and sun
    For the shocks and changes we need to keep us sane.
    It is true the longest drought will end in rain,
    The longest peace in China will end in strife.
    Still it wouldn't reward the watcher to stay awake
    In hopes of seeing the calm of heaven break
    On his particular time and personal sight.
    That calm seems certainly safe to last to-night.

    Robert Frost

On Making Certain Anything has Happened

    I could be worse employed
    Than as a watcher of the void
    Whose part should be to tell
    What star if any fell

    Suppose some seed-pearl sun
    Should be the only one ;
    Yet still I must report
    Some cluster one star short.

    I should justly hesitate
    To frighten church or state
    By announcing a star down
    From say the Cross or Crown.

    To make sure what star I missed
    I should have to check on my list
    Every star in sight
    It might take me all night.

    Robert Frost

A Question

    A voice said, Look me in the stars
    And tell me truly, men of earth,
    If all the soul-and-body scars
    Were not too much to pay for birth.

    Robert Frost


    Far star that tickles for me my sensitive plate
    And fries a couple of ebon atoms white,
    I don't believe I believe a thing you state.
    I put no faith in the seeming facts of light.

    I don't believe I believe you're the last in space,
    I don't believe you're anywhere near the last,
    I don't believe what makes you red in the face
    Is after explosion going away so fast.

    The universe may or may not be very immense.
    As a matter of fact there are times when I am apt
    To feel it close in tight against my sense
    Like a caul in which I was born and am still wrapped.

    Robert Frost

A soldier

    He is that fallen lance that lies as hurled,
    That lies unlifted now, come dew, come rust,
    But still lies pointed as it ploughed the dust.
    If we who sight along it round the world,
    See nothing worthy to have been its mark,
    It is because like men we look too near,
    Forgetting that as fitted to the sphere,
    Our missiles always make too short an arc.
    They fall, they rip the grass, they intersect
    The curve of earth, and striking, break their own ;
    They make us cringe for metal-point on stone.
    But this we know, the obstacle that checked
    And tripped the body, shot the spirit on
    Further than target ever showed or shone.

    Robert Frost

A Star in a Stoneboat

    Never tell me that not one star of all
    That slip from heaven at night and softly fall
    Has been picked up with stones to build a wall.

    Some laborer found one faded and stone-cold,
    And saving that its weight suggested gold
    And tugged it from his first too certain hold,

    He noticed nothing in it to remark.
    He was not used to handling stars thrown in the dark
    And lifeless from an interrupted arc.

    He did not recognize in that smooth coal
    The one thing palpable besides the soul
    To penetrate the air in which we roll.

    He did not see how like a flying thing
    It brooded ant eggs, and had one large wing,
    One not so large for flying in a ring.

    And a long Bird of Paradise's tail
    (Though these when not in use to fly and trail
    It drew back in its body like a snail);

    Nor know that he might move it from the spot --
    The harm was done : from having been star-shot
    The very nature of the soil was hot

    And burning to yield flowers instead of grain,
    Flowers fanned and not put out by all the rain
    Poured on them by his prayers prayed in vain.

    He moved it roughly with an iron bar,
    He loaded an old stoneboat with the star
    And not, as you might think, a flying car,

    Such as even poets would admit perforce
    More practical than Pegasus the horse
    If it could put a star back in its course.

    He dragged it through the plowed ground at a pace
    But faintly reminiscent of the race
    Of jostling rock in interstellar space.

    It went for building stone, and I, as though
    Commanded in a dream, forever go
    To right the wrong that this should have been so.

    Yet ask where else it could have gone as well,
    I do not know - I cannot stop to tell :
    He might have left it lying where it fell.

    From following walls I never lift my eye,
    Except at night to places in the sky
    Where showers of charted meteors fly.

    Some may know what they seek in school and church,
    And why they seek it there; for what I search
    I must go measuring stone walls, perch on perch ;

    Sure that though not a star of death and birth,
    So not to be compared, perhaps, in worth
    To such resorts of life as Mars and Earth --

    Though not, I say, a star of death and sin,
    It yet has poles, and only needs a spin
    To show its wordly nature and begin

    To chafe and shuffle in my calloused palm
    And run off in strange tangents with my arm,
    As fish do with the line in first alarm.

    Such as it is, it promises the prize
    Of the one world complete in any size
    That I am like to compass, fool or wise.

    Robert Frost

The Star Splitter

    `You know Orion always comes up sideways.
    Throwing a leg up over our fence of mountains,
    And rising on his hands, he looks in on me
    Busy outdoors by lantern-light with something
    I should have done by daylight, and indeed,
    After the ground is frozen, I should have done
    Before it froze, and a gust flings a handful
    Of waste leaves at my smoky lantern chimney
    To make fun of my way of doing things,
    Or else fun of Orion's having caught me.
    Has a man, I should like to ask, no rights
    These forces are obliged to pay respect to ?'
    So Brad McLaughlin mingled reckless talk
    Of heavenly stars with hugger-mugger farming,
    Till having failed at hugger-mugger farming
    He burned his house down for the fire insurance
    And spent the proceeds on a telescope
    To satisfy a lifelong curiosity
    About our place among the infinities.

    `What do you want with one of those blame things ?'
    I asked him well beforehand. `Don't you get one !'

    `Don't call it blamed; there isn't anything
    More blameless in the sense of being less
    A weapon in our human fight,' he said.
    `I'll have one if I sell my farm to buy it.'
    There where he moved the rocks to plow the ground
    And plowed between the rocks he couldn't move,
    Few farms changed hands; so rather than spend years
    Trying to sell his farm and then not selling,
    He burned his house down for the fire insurance
    And bought the telescope with what it came to.
    He had been heard to say by several :
    `The best thing that we're put here for's to see ;
    The strongest thing that's given us to see with's
    A telescope. Someone in every town
    Seems to me owes it to the town to keep one.
    In Littleton it might as well be me.'
    After such loose talk it was no surprise
    When he did what he did and burned his house down.

    Mean laughter went about the town that day
    To let him know we weren't the least imposed on,
    And he could wait -- we'd see to him tomorrow.
    But the first thing next morning we reflected
    If one by one we counted people out
    For the least sin, it wouldn't take us long
    To get so we had no one left to live with.
    For to be social is to be forgiving.
    Our thief, the one who does our stealing from us,
    We don't cut off from coming to church suppers,
    But what we miss we go to him and ask for.
    He promptly gives it back, that is if still
    Uneaten, unworn out, or undisposed of.
    It wouldn't do to be too hard on Brad
    About his telescope. Beyond the age
    Of being given one for Christmas gift,
    He had to take the best way he knew how
    To find himself in one. Well, all we said was
    He took a strange thing to be roguish over.
    Some sympathy was wasted on the house,
    A good old-timer dating back along ;
    But a house isn't sentient; the house
    Didn't feel anything. And if it did,
    Why not regard it as a sacrifice,
    And an old-fashioned sacrifice by fire,
    Instead of a new-fashioned one at auction ?

    Out of a house and so out of a farm
    At one stroke (of a match), Brad had to turn
    To earn a living on the Concord railroad,
    As under-ticket-agent at a station
    Where his job, when he wasn't selling tickets,
    Was setting out, up track and down, not plants
    As on a farm, but planets, evening stars
    That varied in their hue from red to green.

    He got a good glass for six hundred dollars.
    His new job gave him leisure for stargazing.
    Often he bid me come and have a look
    Up the brass barrel, velvet black inside,
    At a star quaking in the other end.
    I recollect a night of broken clouds
    And underfoot snow melted down to ice,
    And melting further in the wind to mud.
    Bradford and I had out the telescope.
    We spread our two legs as we spread its three,
    Pointed our thoughts the way we pointed it,
    And standing at our leisure till the day broke,
    Said some of the best things we ever said.
    That telescope was christened the Star-Splitter,
    Because it didn't do a thing but split
    A star in two or three, the way you split
    A globule of quicksilver in your hand
    With one stroke of your finger in the middle.
    It's a star-splitter if there ever was one,
    And ought to do some good if splitting stars
    'Sa thing to be compared with splitting wood.

    We've looked and looked, but after all where are we ?
    Do we know any better where we are,
    And how it stands between the night tonight
    And a man with a smoky lantern chimney ?
    How different from the way it ever stood ?

    Robert Frost


    How countlessly they congregate
    O'er our tumultuous snow,
    Which flows in shapes as tall as trees
    When wintry winds do blow ! --

    As if with keenness for our fate,
    Our faltering few steps on
    To white rest, and a place of rest
    Invisible at dawn,--

    And yet with neither love nor hate,
    Those stars like some snow-white
    Minerva's snow-white marble eyes
    Without the gift of sight.

    Robert Frost

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