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Saturday, October 23. 2010
An Old Man's Winter Night
All out of doors looked darkly in at him
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I think we're all solitary dying old men who may or may not know it. We bear witness to incomplete understanding, except that we are and then perhaps are not. But only perhaps, for we don't even know this.
If someone were to design the perfect great old yankee poet of elegy and winter, the result would look like, sound like, and be named, Robert Frost.
"Too bad that all the people who really know how to run the country are busy driving taxi cabs and cutting hair"
Great quote. Will use it. I met Frost as a young lad, at his neice's house in CT, at Christmastime.
I knew who he was, because we had the great LP of his reading The Death of the Hired Man, Birches, etc. I still have that LP, but you can hear those readings online now.
I guess it must be a 33 RPM. I, being a front-boomer, can remember the 78 rpm. Ted Williams. It's said, had such eyes, he could read the spinning fine print on a 78 rpm record.
Anyhoo, imho --another great yankee modernist poet--tho he's not a pure New England Yankee, but a Pennsylvania/New York variety--is Wallace Stevens. I ran across his startling "Of Mere Being", and then looked him up and learned that his best work was done after age 50. So I became a dual fan; for the work, and for the backstory. Also, his wife posed for a favorite coin, the "Mercury Dime" --so, I'm a triple fan.
Even tho I've read it a gazillion times, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" would be an appreciated Saturday Verse.
Maybe it would even cause snow!
Hey, y'all mature men be skirting the issues Frost raises. Just saying---
Anon, in the immortal words of Country Joe & the Fish, "whoopee, we all gonna die!"
anon, but the last three lines--he's old and all alone, but yet still he tries to maintain the artifacts of his life, even into the winter night.
Given the parameters of nature, is this not a message of defiance, rather than acquiescence?
Of insisting that the grim reaper be respectful?
"One aged man -- one man -- can't keep a house,
A farm, a countryside, or if he can,
It's thus he does it of a winter night. "
Good question, but Iím not thinking so. Maybe it would be a message of vanity and futility were he to try, but is the old man really trying? None of us can keep anything mortal, to include ourselves; we cannot maintain nor oversee the future of anything. Frostís old man seems less predisposed to keeping an illusion of permanent life fixtures than he is to letting them pass- at the most they be as a dream upon his sleep to come.
All due respect to the grim reaper.
beautifully asked, anon, whether or not one agrees with the interpretation.
That "futility" part is a head-scratcher best answered (imho) in the Ecclesiastes "Vanity of vanities" passage, in the line before "the sun also rises", where one generation passes and another takes its place, and the earth goes on forever. "Futility" IOW is a vain, man-centric concept, with no relation to the world of nature other than that man himself is part of it.
O, canít do this justice, Buddy (who must be long gone by now-- from this thread, that is!), but have to say that I really, really like this poem, and it especially resonates this rainy winter day over here. I may have Frostís intentions all wrong, but am not getting out of the piece your wonderful point about earth going on forever in terms of succeeding generations of people. Rather, it says to me that each of us is a solitary soul, despite our possessions and busyness of life, despite our making babies and investing in an earthly future, and that we each, all alone, are to rejoin a truth and permanence, maybe the truth of permanence, upon our passing. Nothing startling, but itís so right to me, and Frost tells it as a story of an old man about to leave behind or about to be separated from what separates us all from that larger existence, from what we all build, nurture and maintain in life as our bulwark against the unknown and oblivion, that of home and mortal shell.
Love those celestial eyes at the start and how the man-made lamplight in the old manís hand only keeps him from seeing and connecting to the eternal sight or knowing beyond him, since nothing we manufacture can actually illuminate the vastness, only distort or obscure it to give us temporary comfort. His age and degraded acumen make him forgetful of his task, which is really not so important, anymore. The old manís "clomping" is like a last unwitting act of proving his mortal weight, done so less out of defiance than out of some kind of weak denial of what was pending and affirmation that he was still alive. ďBut nothing so like beating on a box,Ē the loud sounds of his footfall are like a last ceremonial gesture of being human before consigning to the night and broken moon, ďsuch as she was.Ē
Ah, everyone is saved by my having to take kid somewhere, so I wonít finish, but we canít hold onto what we have and pursue, onto the extensions of self and our mortal industry and our bodies and mortality, at least in this poem :) . We must consign or have it be taken, anyway. ď(O)ne man-- canít keep a house.Ē
Jeez--anon--you a pretty fair analysicist. i re-read in your light and it is much more of death. In fact, the part where the log shifts, and he never awakens, reads as if he is already at that moment gone, and the world he so loved has become the dream.
I always read this as the passing of the farming culture and the permanence or persistence of nature, as so much of his work was.