Thursday, January 31, 2008

Kids Trash Robert Frost's House

Several days ago the Vermont home of Robert Frost was desecrated by a gaggle of teenagers. About thirty kids trudged up to the now historical Robert Frost home with lots of beer and lots of liquor. After several hours of partying they broke windows, smashed antique furniture, and urinated and vomited where they pleased. Eventually the kids were found out and prosecuted (apparently trying to get thirty teenagers to keep a secret is more difficult than getting a cat to take a bath).


Well, obviously they thought Ezra Pound was, like, soooooooooo much better and that Robert Frost was a total freak, ya know?

I don't pretend to be terribly knowledgeable about Frost. I've read a few poems and I've even liked a few. At times his reputation seems almost too quintessentially rural American. At one point this down home reputation had to be swept under the rug by critics who wanted to save Robert Frost. They argued that he was just as dark and neurotic as any Modern poet.

It was probably this fallacious belief in the myth of the wholesome Frost that made his home such a tempting target. Who doesn't go through a phase where you want to tear down symbols of virtue? Here's one of my favorite Frost poems "Birches." It's about kids "swinging" trees. I used to do the same thing when I was younger, but back then we called it "parachuting" trees.

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
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
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,
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
To the top branches, climbing carefully
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.
May no fate wilfully 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.

I can't help but think that somehow the poem is relevant.

Here is a clip from one of my favorite video games of all time, Grim Fandango, which pays homage to one of America's most prestigious poets:

My favorite line from that game: "Run you pigeons, it's Robert Frost!"

No comments: