Robert Frost is probably best known for his “road less travelled” poem. In the spirit of this week’s theme of Remembrance I am diverging and focusing on his lesser known war poems, including the enigma of the ‘lost poem’.
Read and reflect as you will. We all have our own stories to tell.
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.
On the back side of the house
Where it wears no paint to the weather
And so shows most its age,
Suddenly blue jays rage
And flash in blue feather.
It is late in an afternoon
More grey with snow to fall
Than white with fallen snow
When it is blue jay and crow
Or no bird at all.
So someone heeds from within
This flurry of bird war,
And rising from her chair
A little bent over with care
Not to scatter on the floor
The sewing in her lap
Comes to the window to see.
At sight of her dim face
The birds all cease for a space
And cling close in a tree.
And one says to the rest
“We must just watch our chance
And escape one by one—
Though the fight is no more done
Than the war is in France.”
Than the war is in France!
She thinks of a winter camp
Where soldiers for France are made.
She draws down the window shade
And it glows with an early lamp.
On that old side of the house
The uneven sheds stretch back
Shed behind shed in train
Like cars that long have lain
Dead on a side track.
If you want to read the story behind the discovery of the poem follow the titular link.
Here are some of my thoughts which you can read or not as you have time.
Frost loved walking. I imagine him noting things of curiosity and familiarity; why and how the birds interact, the shape and positions of particular buildings, the time of day and weather. I think of him naming these things and giving them attributes and significance in his mind ramblings. Later he would pull from these recordings images to lend power and description to his writing. The beauty is in the interpretation each reader then places adjacent to their own experiences.
I picture the squabbling birds and shudder at the flap and flutter of the conflict. Looking ahead I see the drab buildings outlined against the gathering gloom and question whether sanctuary or hostile, until I watch the silhouette of a woman appear in the lamplight. Duties put aside she watches the birds and thinks of another also preparing battle in foreign lands; but wanting to contain the warmth of home snaps down the shutter leaving a window sized glow and the shadow of buildings in rank and file simulating unused carriages serving no purpose.
What interpretation do you put on the poem?
What do you feel as you travel this road with Frost?
What is your story?
Connect and comment.