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)

Comments are below:

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

Comments coming soon.

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
July 2011.

A Boy’s Will and North of Boston


The poems of this early book, including poems from before he was even 20 are not the Robert Frost whom I know and love so well. These are the poems of a young man still imitating the last century’s styles and customs in poetry. There are lots of stilted rhymes, images of Greek gods and other esoteric images. He even tells us himself that he will follow the tradition of poetry in his use of images:

“Symbols are selected from the years,
Slow rounding of four seasons’ coasts.”

Many of these poems were written in and around Salem, Mass. and are the poetry of a sort of young Thoreau, nature lover and lover of solitude. However, some of the poems even in this early volume stand out as having great promise. I loved the poem “Going For Water.”

“The Tuft of Flowers” is a poem with a great idea, but he just doesn’t yet have the power of making poetry that later would allow and idea like this to fully blossom. He is out early in a field freshly cut. A butterfly comes along looking for the flowers that had been there yesterday, but they have been cut by the farmer. However, he left one cluster near the stream, not for the butterfly, but for his own delight in the beauty of the flowers. Now the butterfly and the poet enjoy them. Such a lovely insight; gentle yet powerful. Unfortunately the verses themselves don’t have the elegance and power of the idea.

Later on “My Butterfly.” a poem he had published in 1894 is similar. It the end of the fall and an early snow has fallen. The poet mourns for his beloved butterfly which can no longer survive, all its food sources are dead. Another lovely idea that the later Frost may well have turned into a stellar poem; this one just can arise to heights of the idea he is wanting to express. <


As the comments above suggest I was rather surprised and disappointed with the first volume of his poems. Thus it was with incredible delight that NORTH OF BOSTON opened with two of my most favorite Frost poems, Mending Wall and The Death of the Hired Man.

I can’t begin to count the number of times that in the midst of some appropriate conversation, I would say: “Wait.” And I would rush to my book shelves, pull off my Frost book and read one of those two poems aloud. The first emphasizes the difficult struggle to lead a person toward questioning authority and tradition. The second emphasizes the beauty of a deep sympathy toward the suffering of another human being, no matter what our relationship may be with that person.

The entire volume of just about 100 pages is filled with longer story poems of the sort that the first two mentioned above. Most were poems I didn’t remember from prior readings, but I was very moved by “Blueberries” a wonderful poem of the Wren family who live only on wild fruit and vegetables and regard most of this food in the entire area as the right of their own family to harvest and eat. Delightful reading and a provocative notion.

A late poem in this volume, “A Servant to Servants” was a bit puzzling to me. Was this woman completely crazy or was she crafty? She begins to visit some strangers who are camping on her land. At first she seems to just be a sad woman who has been oppressed and is pouring out her heart to those who might listen sympathetically. However, the poem and her miseries begin to wax as she tells the story moving toward a crescendo in which she appears both completely mad and perhaps dangerous. The campers beat a hasty retreat. So, was she crazy or just crafty? I’m not quite able to decide.

I just loved this volume of story poems. It did get a special boast with the first two poems and especially in its following on the heels of the earlier volume in which I was significantly disappointed.

Bob Corbett


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Bob Corbett