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

Comments by Bob Corbett
July 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.

The 11 volumes of his published poetry which are in this volume are:

1. A Boy’s Will (David Nutt, London, 1913)
2. North of Boston (David Nutt, 1914; Holt, 1914)

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3. Mountain Interval (Holt, 1916)
4. New Hampshire (Holt, 1923; Grant Richards, 1924)

Comments are below

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)

Comments coming soon.

9. In The Clearing (Holt Rinehart & Winston, 1962)

Comments coming soon.

10. A Masque of Reason (Hold Rinehart & Winston, 1945)
11. A Masque of Mercy (Hold Rinehart & Winston, 1947)

Comments coming soon.

My plan is to read this 700 page volume of all his poems just a bit at a time, picking up the volume as time allows to relish a poem or two. However, since my memory isn’t the best, I’m going to write some comments at the end of each two volumes except for Vol. 9, In The Clearing, which will stand along.

Comments by Bob Corbett
August 2011.

Mountain Interval and New Hampshire


This volume opens with one Frost’s most memorable and famous poems – The Road Not Taken. It is a beautiful poem and one I especially love. However, I have heard the poem used by many others in a way that I think distorts Frost’s poem itself. Frost comes to the split in the path, and stops to decide which way to go. There is the line “I took the one less traveled by . . .”

But he didn’t. He tells us himself this wasn’t so. It had appeared that way to him at first but he says:

“Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.”

He took the road he took, but without real reason or choice, more a whim. It wasn't really the read less travelled.

He sort of figured he might come back

“Oh, I kept the first for another day!”

Yet, he realizes that’s a romantic notion that just won’t happen.

“Yet knowing how way leads to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.”

What I find troubling in many uses I’ve heard of the poem is that often people who had chosen a path in their own lives which they view to be an “alternative” to ordinary society seem to use the poem to congratulate themselves for choosing the “right” path. I think Frost’s poem can not justly be used to defend such a choice. Either path is, for Frost, just fine, but yes, choosing one has consequences, however nothing in the poem indicates that he thinks he has chosen the better path.

In general I didn’t find this a terribly strong book. I found In The Home Stretch rather fascinating and moving. It is about an old couple living in a broken down home, unsure about their future.

After a group of rather weak short poems my growing disappointment was releaved with Birches, another of my old favorites. I’ve read it so many times that I knew many of the lines before I could even read them.

This volume is a fair mix of longer story poems like the bulk of NORTH OF BOSTON, and many shorter poems as he presented in his first volume, A Boy’s Will. I did enjoy the mix very much.


This volume was also fairly disappointing for me. Stopping By the Woods . . . was one of the few poems that was well-known to me and I do love it.

A Brook in the City was quite interesting. Firstly it was a rare poem set in the city, but it was more about what happens when the city moves out a bit and encompases the country and farms. Life changes for those who had lived “out” and they can no longer maintain their older life.

Not to Keep was a rewarding and unusual poem for Frost. It is a war poem about a man sent home to his family, having been wounded and dying; sent home, but as the title say, “not to keep.” Very touching.

Overall I found these two volumes rewarding here and there, but in the main, not very impressive.

Bob Corbett


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Bob Corbett