Monday, December 18, 2017

The Pasture - Robert Frost

I'm going out to clean the pasture spring;
I'll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may) :
I sha'n't be gone long. - You come too.

I'm going out to fetch the little calf
That's standing by the mother.  It's so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha'n't be gone long. - You come too.

It has been unfortunately too long since I posted last, friends.  I am less able to find time for poetry and reflection than I like.  My love for it has not diminished, but many days I feel unable to engage with it and share it.  Often I feel as though I am not sharp enough at the end of my day to provide any useful commentary or exegesis, but something inside told me that I simply had to try again.  I hope you will read along with me and enjoy.

Today, I've chosen a short Robert Frost poem.  I was inspired by a piece of music I sang recently with a choir, which used this text as its basis.  There's a simplicity and patience at the heart of these words, and they spoke today especially of my need to slow down, relax, and read a poem a day.  There is also something quintessentially New England about the pastoral setting here, and having somehow made my way entirely around the globe and back to New England, it speaks to me.

Often, Frost's poetry fails to speak to me.  This poem, however, has a quiet warmth and patience, and serves as an invitation to stop and partake of the world around us.  The poem is presented as a dialogue between a first person narrator and a second person, the poetic "you."  One can either read this as Frost talking to us directly, or talking another person at the scene.  To me, it makes little difference, and I feel the effect is the same.

The narrator is simply going out to rake leaves away at the pasture spring.  They "sha'n't be gone long."  What they see is simple: clear water, a young calf.  But the way in which Frost presents it as an invitation brings forward a quiet warmth, a tenderness.  It's the tenderness of the young calf so slight it "totters" when its mother licks it.  It's the loving tenderness of the repeated invitation: "You come too."  What better than to enjoy this simple scene with another?  It's the earnest, straightforward desire to share the simplest things with another.  It's like a quiet, warmly extended hand.  This poem evokes to me the warmth one feels in the cheeks on a crisp winter morning, when you return indoors from the outdoors.

Also worth mentioning is the exquisite attention Frost pays to rhyme.  The center lines of each quatrain rhyme, and each quatrain ends with, "You come too."  It's simple but the effect is such that it elevates the poem beyond the ordinary.  It's what has made the poem stick with me, and its warmth is what has driven me to post here once again.  I hope sincerely that I've helped make this poem sensible, and that its invitation to share can touch you as it has touched me.