#2

Second in my series is probably my favorite poem by one of my favorite poets. The works of Robert Frost have always been special to me. They speak to a rural beauty and nature that some part of me longs for. Two of the first poems I ever memorized (and still know to this day) were his well known works “The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”. They are crisp, melodic, and very accessible for younger readers.

In “Good-by and Keep Cold”, Frost focuses on the agricultural life. He speaks about a new orchard he has planted and what may happen as he leaves it alone for a winter to attend to other matters. I wasn’t raised on a farm or an orchard so I always found his descriptions of such life to be interesting. There is certainly something to be said for the concept of leaving things in a state that is out of your control which is a timeless concern.

I love how he plays with meter and rhyme in this poem as well, changing it when the mood dictates or when he wants the reader to slow down and take in the ending. The skill he had with such timing is one reason I respect him so much as a poet.

This poem means so much to me that I borrowed a line from it for the title of my own book of poetry about Fall and nature: “A Season or So”. If that doesn’t stand as a meaningful endorsement then I don’t know what else would.

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Good-by and Keep Cold

This saying good-by on the edge of the dark
And the cold to an orchard so young in the bark
Reminds me of all that can happen to harm
An orchard away at the end of the farm
All winter, cut off by a hill from the house.
I don’t want it girdled by rabbit and mouse,
I don’t want it dreamily nibbled for browse
By deer, and I don’t want it budded by grouse.
(If certain it wouldn’t be idle to call
I’d summon grouse, rabbit, and deer to the wall
And warn them away with a stick for a gun.)
I don’t want it stirred by the heat of the sun.
(We made it secure against being, I hope,
By setting it out on a northerly slope.)
No orchard’s the worse for the wintriest storm;
But one thing about it, it mustn’t get warm.
“How often already you’ve had to be told,
Keep cold, young orchard. Good-by and keep cold.
Dread fifty above more than fifty below.”
I have to be gone for a season or so.
My business awhile is with different trees,
Less carefully nourished, less fruitful than these,
And such as is done to their wood with an ax—
Maples and birches and tamaracks.
I wish I could promise to lie in the night
And think of an orchard’s arboreal plight
When slowly (and nobody comes with a light)
Its heart sinks lower under the sod.
But something has to be left to God.

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