Edited by Edward Connery Lathem
New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969
SBN: 93-972535-6
607 pages

Comments by Bob Corbett
October 2011

I have decided to go to the complete works of Robert Frost and slowly work my way through. The edition I have chosen separates the poems by the 11 volumes that were published separately in his life. Frost lived from March 26, 1874 to January 29, 1963. His first volume wasn’t published until 1913 when he was already 39. Several of the poems had appeared in magazines and collections at earlier times.

If you were to go to the home page of this collection of reviews/comments you will find comments on other books of his, grouped in two books to a set of comments.

Here are the 5th and 6th books in that collection:

5. West Running Brook (Holt, 1928? 1929)
6. A Further Range (Holt, 1936; Cape, 1937)

Comments coming soon.

7. A Witness Tree (Holt, 1942; Cape, 1943)
8. Steeple Bush (Holt, 1947)


Early in this volume is a lovely “lesson” poem, Acceptance. It is the story of a bird caught out a bit from its nest and refuge as night falls. However, in near panic it just makes it “home” before dark closes it out. Lovely thought and lovely writing.

It does seem that Robert Frost is much more at home with non-human aspects of life than with people, especially city people. However, he seems to be doing some travelling at this time as well. He has a powerful poem about the Pacific ocean’s power, and then follows it with a six line poem of nature’s power with rain alone:


"The rain to the wind said,
'You push and I’ll pelt.'
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged – though not dead.
I know how the flower felt."

This says a lot about where the source of Frost’s inspiration and wisdom comes; from the careful observation of nature.

Just following Lodged comes a cluster of really wonderful poems especially Bereft, Tree At My Window and The Flood. This last is a short poem not bemoaning nature’s floods, but simply warning people to note its power, respect it and adjust. Our world seems to wish to adjust the flood, not themselves.

This volume seemed to have quite a number of sea-related poems. It’s as though Frost was moving out from the farm lands and toward the coasts, both east and west.


One of my very favorite poems opens this volume, “Two Tramps In Mud Time.” A man is out in his yard chopping wood on an early spring day. He feels the joy of his work, and the weather is invigorating. Soon, however, two tramps come along, having been recent workers in the lumber industry and they need work. They don’t really ask for it, but one sort of lurks near the poet, letting the logic of their need work on the poet.

“Nothing on either side was said.
They knew they had but to stay their stay
And all their logic would fill my head:
As that I had no right to play
With what was another man’s work for gain.
My right might be love but theirs was need.
And where the two exist in twain
Theirs was the better right – agreed."

But the poet does not agree. He tries to live a live where work and play are mixed and an inseparable part of life.

"My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make on in sight."

He sticks to his principles and keeps chopping his wood.

The poem is magnificent and a long-time favorite. For me it is quite personal at the same time. For years I heated mainly by wood and chopped my own wood, putting up several cords each year in anticipation of winter. Frost had me on his side in a minute.

A ROADSIDE STAND is a powerful poem explaining the growing impact of the death of the world and economy of the small farm.

THE FIGURE IN THE DOORWAY tells of a man seen from a train, watching out at the passing, but living in a sparse wilderness region, a self-sufficient person.

I was deeply taken by THERE ARE ROUGHLY ZONES which tells of someone who planted a peach tree in a region much too northerly to have the peach tree survive, but the farmer just had to press his luck, and the tree’s luck, to this venture.

Unlike most of Frost’s poetry NOT QUITE SOCIAL is a witty take on social customs which don’t quite run in the face of social customs and prohibitions, but skirt right along the edge. Frost likes that.

Another rather untypical Frostian poem is THE BEARER OF EVIL TIDINGS, a delightfully humorous poem of sing-song rhymes to emphasize the lightness of the poem. This is the funniest, laugh-out-loud poem to appear so far in Frost’s work.

I found this particular volume to be the most interesting and rewarding of any of the works that preceded it.

Bob Corbett


Becoming Reading Thinking Journals


Bob Corbett