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Mountain Interval by Robert Frost
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Author:  Saffron [ Sat Mar 14, 2009 3:55 pm ]
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Looks like next up is Bonfire. Anyone still reading? I think it would be alright if we don't hit each poem. So, skip on to a different poem if you want.

Author:  Saffron [ Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:08 pm ]
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Any thoughts on A Girl’s Garden? This one seems like a sort of joke to me. I can almost hear someone telling it.


Here are the last 10 lines of The Exposed Nest.

We saw the risk we took in doing good,
But dared not spare to do the best we could
Though harm should come of it; so built the screen
You had begun, and gave them back their shade. 30
All this to prove we cared. Why is there then
No more to tell? We turned to other things.
I haven’t any memory—have you?—
Of ever coming to the place again
To see if the birds lived the first night through, 35
And so at last to learn to use their wings.


Frost is asking a question I think we have all faced in one way or another -- to do good is sometimes to do more harm. How difficult it can be to decide what's to be done or left undone. Funny too, how we forget to go back and look. A few years ago I found myself in a situation akin to this. I was driving on a deeply sunken dirt road in rural Loudoun County. Out in front of my car a very tiny fawn, not more than a foot high, scampering and terrified. I was wary of trying to capture it, thinking that my smell might put off the mother. I grabbed a towel that I had in the car, scoped up the little creature and put it up on the top of the steep bank, nestled in the brush. I hoped the momma would come to reclaim it. When I got home I looked up stranded/abandon fawns. From the descriptions given on the internet, the little fella was only a few days old.

I did come back to check on the fawn, about an hour later, the fawn was indeed gone.

Author:  DWill [ Tue Mar 17, 2009 8:52 pm ]
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I didn't like "Bonfire" very much; maybe I didn't bear with it long enough. It seemed never to come to a point, though, or was somewhat pointless in terms of my concerns. The next one I come to in the collection that interests me is "Out, Out--". This one is truly strange, a bit horrific and bizarre. The title is a pretty obvious quote from MacBeth's famous speech, but how Frost intends us to interpret his use of the words is unclear to me. It could be an ironic use: in contrast to MacBeth's grand and bitter soliloquy, we have this plainspoken and rather unagonized view of the transience of life. Is the boy's life "the tale told by an idiot...., signifying nothing?" Not to the boy, certainly.

I checked into some readers' responses to the poem, and many saw it from a sociological perspective. It's about child labor and the hardness of life typical of a culture in which children are made to do the work of adults. The people don't seem to care much about the boy's death, some said; no adult expresses any sadness, and they just go back to their work after he dies, because they have to. I think it's possible that Frost does intend the poem as a kind of tragedy. Here these people are in the midst of beautiful nature (ll. 4-6), yet they don't notice and are only bent on working. Worse, they rob the boy of not only a "half hour" that would have given him a little respite to actually be a boy, but they rob him of his life, in a sense, by pushing him beyond his limits.

Frost got the idea from a newspaper story. The poem is almost the equivalent of a newspaper story, giving facts in a detached and unemotional way, except for the quotations from the boy. It's even less personal than a newspaper story, in a way, in that the boy is nameless.

Author:  Saffron [ Thu Mar 19, 2009 7:59 am ]
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DWill wrote:
The next one I come to in the collection that interests me is "Out, Out--". This one is truly strange, a bit horrific and bizarre. The title is a pretty obvious quote from MacBeth's famous speech, but how Frost intends us to interpret his use of the words is unclear to me. It could be an ironic use: in contrast to MacBeth's grand and bitter soliloquy, we have this plainspoken and rather unagonized view of the transience of life. Is the boy's life "the tale told by an idiot...., signifying nothing?" Not to the boy, certainly.


The title, "Out, Out--" has been playing in my mind; perplexing me. It must, as you say, be a reference to the famous lines from Lady MacBeth's speech. Here are the lines:

Lady Macbeth:
Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!—One; two: why, then
'tis time to do't.—Hell is murky.—Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier, and
afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our
pow'r to accompt?—Yet who would have thought the old man to
have had so much blood in him?

Now, here is what I have come to:

With the utterance of "Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!" Lady MacBeth implicates herself in the murder of King Duncan. It is her own guilty conscience working against her, driving her to madness. Is the title of the poem then an indictment by Frost? Or maybe it is more accurate to say the poem is an owning of guilt for tolerating child labor and its consequences.

Author:  DWill [ Thu Mar 19, 2009 8:36 am ]
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Somebody else mentioned the other "out" reference in MacBeth, the Lady MacBeth speech you quoted. The one that's most often presumed to be alluded to in Frost's title is MacBeth's "She should have died hereafter" speech (V,v,17), which goes on to contain the words "Out! Out! brief candle". I just thought of the words I left out in my own quotation from it, which are "full of sound and fury," and I wonder whether the sound and the fury of the buzz saw are kind of a literal representation of MacBeth's metaphor.
I'm also thinking that since the tragic figure is a boy, it's also literally truer that he "Struts and frets his hour upon the stage,/and then is heard no more." Or maybe not.

Author:  Saffron [ Thu Mar 19, 2009 8:50 am ]
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DWill wrote:
... "Out! Out! brief candle". I just thought of the words I left out in my own quotation from it, which are "full of sound and fury," and I wonder whether the sound and the fury of the buzz saw are kind of a literal representation of MacBeth's metaphor.
I'm also thinking that since the tragic figure is a boy, it's also literally truer that he "Struts and frets his hour upon the stage,/and then is heard no more." Or maybe not.


Ah, yes, I'd forgotten all about the other, "Out, out." Someones been marching around my house spouting the Lady M speech, so naturally that one was paramount in my mind. I think you are much more correct than I.

Author:  Saffron [ Tue Mar 24, 2009 5:59 pm ]
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We only have about 6 poems to go to wrap this book up. Pick a poem and let's go --

Brown’s Descent, or the Willy-nilly Slide
The Gum-gatherer
The Line-gang
The Vanishing Red
Snow
The Sound of the Trees

Author:  DWill [ Tue Mar 24, 2009 10:38 pm ]
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Your're scaring me, Ms. Moderator. But on the other hand, I like the injection of some classroom discipline. Poetry people will drive you nuts otherwise.

The one I liked most was "Snow." "The Gum-Gatherer" was okay, too. It had a strange rhyming pattern, which actually kind of distracted me. It was pretty mild in its theme, though. Reminded me a little of old Wordworth's "Resolution and Independence," which is also about a gatherer, only it's an ancient man who wades around in the muck waiting for leeches to attach to his legs. Then he sells them for medical use. More romantic than this man who just harvests pitch off the pines.

After Paradise Lost, at least we are not put off by a 10-page poem, right? I like these dialogue poems of Frost's. They have very little action, just subtle psychological goings-on, and the reader has to infer a lot. (We should next go the Frost's first book, "A Boy's Will,", so we can discuss the wonderful "Death of the Hired Man.") Anyway, I just like the little drama that resulted from this fanatical neighbor visiting the couple. It's a short story in blank verse, but told more economically than it could be in prose.

Oh, yes, I also liked "The Sound of Trees." Frost does uncommonly well with trees, doesn't he?

Teacher! Teacher! My hand is up! OK, thanks. What do you think of my idea to read the volume "A Boy's Will" (1913)? Can we, huh?

Author:  Saffron [ Wed Mar 25, 2009 5:52 am ]
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DWill wrote:
Oh, yes, I also liked "The Sound of Trees." Frost does uncommonly well with trees, doesn't he?


I think so too.

Quote:
Teacher! Teacher! My hand is up! OK, thanks. What do you think of my idea to read the volume "A Boy's Will" (1913)? Can we, huh?


For you, Will, anything. How about you lead the discussion. I also like the the poem, "Death of a Hired Man." I am thinking that A Boy's Will is his second book and North of Boston was his first book, but then, you will know.

P.S. That's Lady Moderator.

Author:  DWill [ Wed Mar 25, 2009 7:45 am ]
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Saffron wrote:

How about you lead the discussion. I also like the the poem, "Death of a Hired Man." I am thinking that A Boy's Will is his second book and North of Boston was his first book, but then, you will know.

My collected Frost puts A Boy's Will first 1n 1913, North of Boston second in 1914. Close.

You know, regarding your invitation, I think I might need to pull back until I get this poor connection business solved. I don't know whether either the cable company or the phone company will come by here if I recite my tale of woe to them, I'd bet not. So I'll probably have to see whether I can get satellite and not break the bank, and not also end up with a TV package that has my butt parked on the couch 24/7. A pretty unpoetic quandary, no?

Author:  Saffron [ Thu Mar 26, 2009 7:43 am ]
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DWill wrote:
Teacher! Teacher! My hand is up! OK, thanks. What do you think of my idea to read the volume "A Boy's Will" (1913)? Can we, huh?


Saffron wrote:
For you, Will, anything. How about you lead the discussion.


DWill wrote:
You know, regarding your invitation, I think I might need to pull back until I get this poor connection business solved.


I'm in a muddle. Are you only declining leadership? Should we read A Boy's Will or put it off to another time?

Author:  Saffron [ Thu Mar 26, 2009 8:22 am ]
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From "Snow":

“Our snow-storms as a rule
Aren’t looked on as man-killers, and although
I’d rather be the beast that sleeps the sleep
Under it all, his door sealed up and lost,
Than the man fighting it to keep above it, 245
Yet think of the small birds at roost and not
In nests. Shall I be counted less than they are?
Their bulk in water would be frozen rock
In no time out to-night. And yet to-morrow
They will come budding boughs from tree to tree 250
Flirting their wings and saying Chickadee,
As if not knowing what you meant by the word storm.”

Several thoughts about this passage. I have often marveled that the tiny bodies of birds somehow do not freeze. I can get my head around why they don't. Especially knowing that humans can die of cold exposure at 40. This strikes me as a "Man against nature" or a kind of repeat of Frost's, " I had a lovers quarrel with the world", statement.

Author:  Saffron [ Mon Mar 30, 2009 9:09 pm ]
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DWill wrote:
Teacher! Teacher! My hand is up! OK, thanks. What do you think of my idea to read the volume "A Boy's Will" (1913)? Can we, huh?


How about for now, just having a discussion of The Death of the Hired Man? Anyone interested?

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