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

Comments by Bob Corbett
December 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 7th and 8th books in that collection:

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


“A Cloud Shadow” is a very clever poem about a breeze fluttering his pages looking for a poem on spring. Nice device.

“The Quest of the Purple-Fringed” is another lovely nature poem. The poet goes for miles in search of purple flowers, finds them, looks at them bit, but not touching them.

Then I arose and silently wandered home
And I for one
Said that the fall might come and whirl of leaves
For summer was done.

In “A Considerable Speck” a mite is on his poem page as he writes. He leaves it be though normally he isn’t moved by such things. So gentle.

Yet I soon found what seemed to me a very un-Frostian sentiment:


A voice said, look me in the stars
And tell me truly men of earth,
If all the soul-and-body scars
Were not too much to pay for birth

Frost enters the world of economics and has a poem that might well be cited by many in our own times now.


It is as true as Caesar’s name was Kaiser
That no economist was ever wiser
(Though prodigal himself and a despiser
Of capital, and calling thirst a miser),
And when we get too far apart in wealth,
‘Twas his idea that for the public health,
So that the poor won’t have to steal by stealth,
We now and then should take an equalizer.


The poem “Two Anxious For Rivers” is a marvelous exploration of how, where and why we end any intellectual questioning. He claims it is like finally giving up on following a river which runs and on and until it is far out of sight.

There is a touching poem written by a tramp to a farmer in whose pasture he slept. He places the poem in the farmer’s mail box, and the poem claims they are like two shooting stars he had seen the night before and which merged into one.

This volume has a number of religious poems with, not surprisingly, strong Christian overtones and imagery. There are mentions of Jews and both Protestants and Catholics, but no other religions are acknowledge for the U.S.

“A Rogers Group” was a poem where I missed the full meaning. It is about what seems to be a group of social outcasts. Since I’ve never hears of “a Roger’s group” I didn’t much know what the poem was about.

My partner, Sally, was reading a draft of these notes and got interested in this “Roger’s group.” She found that this was the name of a series of sculptures made of molded plastic and which sold inexpensively to the working classes. They sort of sound like Normal Rockwell sorts of items. Frost’s poem seems to draw a picture of a classic immigrant family struggling to survive after just arriving in a major U.S. port, and he suggests this grouping had not yet been “discovered” as a potential Roger’s Group statue. If that’s the case, I appreciate the poem more than I could have before.

In a quite funny poem, “Haec Fabula Docet,” the moral is that to try to go life all alone is to set yourself up to come to grief. Delightful, even if a bit silly.

This volume has an attachment of an “Afterword” from the complete poems of 1949. So I simply assume in 1949 he published a shorter volume like the one I am using, his “complete” poems up to that date.

I have always had somewhere in my head, a list of about 20 of Frost’s poems which are among my favorites of all poets. None of those poems appeared in this set.

Bob Corbett


Becoming Reading Thinking Journals


Bob Corbett