When I see birches bend to left and rightRobert Frost (*26. iii.1874, †29. i.1963) was the finest 20th century, english language, american poet. He was the only, american poet who could have been a russian poet. Slavonic people seem to have an affinity for birches, but that is co-incidental to the allure of his work. He should be studied in all schools, in the country, no other american poet has surpassed, or even equalled, him since. Truth and beauty and depth of thought need to be appreciated and be available.
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them. …3
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself, … 27
I was drawn to the poem, because I climbed birches, in the backyard, when I was small. Later as an adult, I found a spoken album of Frost reciting his work. When I read the poem, I can hear his voice.
Frost began to read an original poem at the inauguration of John Kennedy. The sun was very bright, and the glare off the snow too strong, he recited another poem* from memory. Bill Clinton, in pale imitation, tried in a similar vein with Maya Angelou playing Frost's rôle, a generation later.
*The Gift Outright
Postscriptum 9 May 2011: The few people who come to this essay wonder if Frost was Catholic. He was not. Some people count Frost an atheist. He was not. Certain propagandists are always harrowing the dead and enlisting them in their tribe. It is true that certain words of Frost are critical,that is not proof. Many people who believe also utter frustration with their belief.
Frost's mother was a Scot Presbyterian, who became a Swedenborgian. Frost grew up this and left it behind, but remaining a 'mystic'. One can see he struggles. He had defined himself as an 'Old Testament Christian'. With such serious brooding and poignant, pensive melancholy in his verse many a Catholic can easily identify with Frost; but this is true to some other believers as well.
In his last letter dictated, in hospital, addressed to, an old professor and wife, friends he talks of Christ and Salvation: "...I was just saying today how Christ posed Himself the whole problem and died for it. How can we be just in a world that needs mercy and merciful in a world that needs justice. We study and study the four biographies of Him and are left still somewhat puzzled in our daily lives...."
Robert Frost was a serious thinker, who struggled in understanding of God. He was not a common customary believer, but he believed. Frost had lived in Yankee New England, if he had an atmosphere where more Catholic thought was current, one could see him fluent with Carmelite spirituality or Sr. Faustina and Divine Mercy.