Poetry Friday: Jack McCarthy

As I mentioned in my last Poetry Friday post, a poet I knew and admired—and who several good friends of mine knew very well, and loved—died last week, and I want to take a little time to share a little about his poetry and to reflect on it a little.  Jack McCarthy was an astonishingly talented poet, and some of his best gifts involved public performance: follow this link to see him performing an equally amusing and devastating poem called “Careful What You Ask For”, since I won’t really say much about those performing talents (given that I feel more or less inadequate to try and put to words how Jack put a spell on an audience and made them his family).  I think I can at least say something useful about his words on the page, though, and so I’ll do that below as is my custom on Fridays here.  I also think I should steer you to a much more thoughtful and personal reflection on Jack by someone who knew him well—Jessica Lohafer, another Bellingham poet who started reading there just as I was leaving the city, learned a lot from Jack, who served as her mentor, and shares much of it in this astonishingly beautiful poem, “The Rules of the Open Mic“.  I’ll say as much as I can about what I see as Jack McCarthy’s gifts as a poet, but only Jessica can get at what it really meant to know Jack’s gifts as a human and a friend, and she ties into it some insightful glimpses at what poetry and performance means to a young writer whose life and art necessarily overlap so fully.  That said, it’s time for me to turn to what I have to contribute to Jack’s memory—my thoughts on one of his poems entitled “Saltpetre and Robert Frost“:

“At the boys’ school I attended
we all believed the legend
of saltpetre in the mashed potatoes.
The salt was said–as when grease fires
flare in kitchens–to deaden the unruly
flames of forbidden sexuality.
But if saltpetre was there truly,
it was notable for ineffectuality.

This was the same school where
they brought in some big names–
Oppenheimer, Robert Frost,
legends in their own lifetime–
to spend a week on campus in
the “Visiting Fireman” program.
They’d sit with us in class
and meet with small groups

of hand-picked students—
myself included—who,
with all roads open, asked
only the most general questions,
the vaguest of directions.
Frost was old, gentle,
white-haired, ever respectful
of us, but had an air as though

always holding back a laugh
at some constant running joke
as if his intercourse with us
was just a playful fragment
of an ongoing dialogue
between two lovers, the way
you’d sit a three-year-old
on your knee and tell her

in her mother’s hearing she
would be even more beautiful
than her mother, if only such
perfection were possible, and the words
are heartfelt appreciation,
the hyperbole is slight;
the lovers’ joke is in
the indirection.

Some people ask me today,
“Why do you write poetry?”
Sometimes I say to them
that it’s my Irish blood;
other times I tell them how I shook
the feathery, parchment hand of
Robert Frost when I was seventeen,
maybe something took.

But if I say that, they ask
why I lost so many years
before I started writing.
Sometimes I answer that I counted cost;
other times I tell the legend
of saltpetre past, highlighting
the fact that it and Frost
kicked in at last

about the same time.”

Jack begins, as so much of his poetry does, with the particular, the personal, and the mundane—the story pulled out of his past, in this case the schoolyard rumors about mashed potatoes and sex, just the kind of earthy reality he liked to tangle with.  His sleight-of-hand, of course, will be in how he weaves it back into the poem later, but at first it merely sets the scene, pulling us into the whispered energies of a boys’ school where they’re convinced the authorities are out to thwart whatever is most boyish in them (and they may well be right).  As Jack notes in passing, if any such efforts were in fact being made, they were notably useless.  And so with that wry smile he wheels us into what then seems to be our topic: the nostalgic memories of these visits from the good and great.  I don’t remember what prominent Boston school Jack attended—maybe Boston Latin for all I know, maybe another slightly less ancient and prestigious place—but the image of these horny schoolboys rubbing elbows with men of the stature of J. Robert Oppenheimer and Robert Frost is initially as comical as the doctored mashed potatoes.  Jack’s modus operandi was always thus (as Jessica notes in her poem)—to make the audience smile or laugh first, so as to get them close enough to make them feel.  So we smile as Jack points out how inadequate the kids are to the situation: hand-picked though they be, even the best of them can only manage, as Jack admits, “the most general questions / the vaguest of directions“.

Where the poem starts to turn, to catch fire a little, for me, is when he slows down to give Robert Frost his full attention—the language he uses to describe Frost is hushed, loving, like a man remembering his grandfather many years after his death.  And with the simplest and most patient of phrases, Jack builds the image of something almost impossible to put into words, the restraint of the wise old man among these fumbling young men, the meaning that is quietly present in what he does not say and in what his tone only implies.  He illustrates this in an almost Homeric simile—these two unexpected images of intimacy, the father speaking sideways to his wife through his daughter, the poet speaking somehow more to these boys than they yet realize.  I love how peaceful the imagery is, as whatever adolescent jostling I imagined initially quiets down to the picture of Robert Frost sitting mildly in a classroom and answering questions in that reedy New England voice of his.

The last turn of the poem is its most striking, the way that Jack reveals suddenly to us that what this is all about really is where he comes from, how he got here writing words on a page and offering them to the world as poetry.  The best of the lines is almost certainly Robert Frost’s “feathery, parchment hand“, whose brief clasp is an invitation, a blessing that’s given out for a purpose.  I will never be closer to Frost than I am in that stanza, feeling the gentle warmth of his hand in Jack’s and remembering that no matter how high we climb, we remain these creatures of flesh and bone, frailer as we age but no less substantial.  And then how sly Jack is, because we’re ready for that to be the answer—the poet who was forever changed by that one numinous encounter with America’s most-loved poet, the boy who seized writing like the mantle of Elijah—and then he pushes through to the reality of life, that his life as a poet did not come for many years.  And why?

The inimitable Jack McCarthy

At first he alludes so subtly to the Gospel of Luke—Jack’s often wrangling relationship with the Catholicism he was raised in is a recurring element in much of his work—the man in Chapter 14 who had to “count the cost” before he built the tower, because of the shame that would come to to him if he failed and the public ridicule he would then endure.  Is that what kept him silent all those years before turning more fully to writing and performing his poetry late in life?  Or is it Jack’s other story, the wink and nod about saltpetre and Robert Frost, and the idea that in some ways the verse came to him when his other passions had ebbed?  What really sparked him to write, and to write so powerfully that he became one of the nation’s most renowned “slam poets”?  Is it perhaps a mystery to him as much as to us, or is this simply another conversation between us restless youngsters and the wise old poet, whose feathery hand touches ours and plants a seed that may not grow for a long time?  Is my attempt to make sense of these closing thoughts just missing those intimacies that linger in the spaces between words?  I think I both get enough from Jack here to feel I understand why he wrote, and miss enough to know I will never know the whole story.

In closing, I have to say that, as much as I admire this poem, it’s nowhere near Jack’s best.  Most of his work is much longer and more complicated in the way it weaves together memories and hopes, jokes and riddles—pretty much all of it wonderful and much too difficult for me to handle in the format of a Poetry Friday post.  So go read some of his work—one of the most moving poetic experiences I’ve ever had was watching Jack perform “The Walk of Life“, a poem about (I kid you not) Bill Buckner that still floors me every time I hear it or read it.  Baseball fans take note (Paul, you need to read this one).  I don’t think I’ve ever read or heard a better speech by the father of the bride than “Epithalamion: A Few Words for Kathleen“, another poem where Jack’s live performance is indelibly inked on my memory.  I’ve already linked above to Jack’s performance of “Careful What You Ask For”, another poem that leads with the joke and then lays you out with the terrible (and beautiful) reality of living.  That was Jack’s gift as a writer—to wring from his own life the pain he’d known and the struggles he’d seen, and to bring it to an audience with such a storyteller’s heart that by the time you realized what he was asking you to confront, you realized he’d already shown you how to get through the experience stronger than you came to it.  A lot of poetry is therapeutic for the writer, but it takes a lot of skill for poetry to have that effect on the reader and the listener, and maybe more than anything else it takes a love for the world and for human beings that surpasses what most of us can summon up.  Jack had that ability.  I’ll never forget watching Jack perform, and I hope that I’ve been able to get across to you in the words and links assembled here what a great writer we lost last week.  I hope you’ll follow one of the links to his website and read some poems, maybe buy a collection or two to dip into down the line.  Personally I know I’m grateful to the friends who introduced me to Jack and his work, and whose tributes to him this last week have moved me.  I wish each of them, and all of you, a good Friday.

Poetry Friday: 1942

It’s been a busy Friday, and will be a busy weekend, so this will be a shorter Poetry Friday than most.  In 1942, America’s most beloved (and possibly greatest) poet, Robert Frost, published another collection of his work.  From that book, entitled A Witness Tree, I offer this very brief poem for your consideration: this is “A Question”, by Robert Frost.

“A voice said, Look me in the stars
And tell me truly, men of earth,
If all the soul-and-body scars
Were not too much to pay for birth.”

Rather than dissect this too much with my own interpretations, with a poem this short, I’m more inclined to ask questions and see what responses you might have.  Is it simply obvious that the voice is “God” or at least some kind of divine being?  Or is it possible the questioner is not responsible for our predicament—a voice (whether from within or without) that is asking us a question it cannot answer?  I’ve seen religious interpretations of this poem, and I wonder whether that’s where you think Frost is taking us.

I also wonder what you think Frost’s answer is: Frost’s then-well-hidden but now-largely-well-known struggles with depression and suicide inhabit a lot of his poetry, though certainly not all of it.  Is the poem intended to make us wish we had indeed never been born?  Or is it a challenge we can answer—an opportunity for us to affirm trial and pain and sorrow for the sake of the joy of living?  Ultimately, is Frost inviting our pessimism or our resilience?  Does the poem invite something different than he intended?

Lastly, and related to the above, what do you think the voice’s motivation is for asking?  After all, it’s not a poem in which a human wonders if he/she should give up, or wishes he/she had never been born.  It’s a poem in which a voice addresses humanity (I’m reading “men of earth” inclusively, anyway, though you don’t have to) and asks for an answer to a question, but what will the voice do with that answer?  Why does it want to know?

That’s all I have this week.  Next week’s Poetry Friday, though, will be a doozy—I’m bringing to a close our series on T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets with 1942’s incomparable “Little Gidding” (so important a poem for me, I’m thinking of breaking it into two parts, like they do with the last volume of over-rated children’s fantasy movie series).  Thanks for your comments below, and for dropping by this little corner of the Internet on Friday night for some poetry.

Poetry Friday: 1936, part 3

As I’ve said twice already, the year of my current Pulitzer novel (1936) is really a great year for poetry across the board.  We’ve already tackled two of the 20th Century’s great poets—Dylan Thomas and T. S. Eliot.  But given our interest in America and Americans here at FP, I’d like to add an authentically American poet to the Welshman and the American expatriate: America’s most praised and beloved poet, Robert Frost, whose A Further Range came out in 1936.  There’s plenty here you haven’t read before, and a few you almost certainly have—picking was a real challenge.  In the end, I’ve chosen a more familiar piece that I think digs into the darker side of Frost’s thinking, and which I still find a bit chilling and rewarding as a read: the poem is entitled “Design”

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth—
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth—
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?—
If design govern in a thing so small.

Illustration from an early edition of Moby-Dick

"Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way?" Moby-Dick, Chapter 42 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Frost’s meticulous attention to the natural world surfaces again, and as it often does, he considers some of the violence that is pervasive in that world—specifically, a spider having caught and killed a moth.  He is unsettled by the eerie image: the white spider, holding a white moth, atop a white flower evokes feelings of dread for him, not unlike what Melville (through Ishmael) explores in the 42nd chapter of Moby-Dick, “The Whiteness of the Whale”, which is almost worth reading on its own even if you have no intention of ever reading the whole novel.

Then, reflecting on this image, he asks why such things must be—how it could be that a mutation alters the blue flower to white, that an abnormally white spider finds his way there, that a moth could have flown so close and been snatched out of the air.  He sees in this the possibility of what he calls “design”—fate?  Predestination?  Is this Frost’s suicidal ideation surfacing, as it does in so many of his poems, and perhaps absolving him by suggesting that the pattern of death has already been traced on his life?  There’s certainly a very straight-forward way to read this poem as a simple meditation on a frightening image he saw, and what he thinks it may portend.

And yet.  And yet, how curious that a poem called “Design” which sees “design” as some dark and magic art, some malicious hand moving the universe, should be so exquisitely designed.  Of all the lengths he could have chosen, Frost constrains himself to one of the most famous (the 14 line sonnet), and then imposes on that sonnet a strict rhyming pattern using only three sounds (a Shakespearean sonnet would often use as many as seven or eight rhyming sounds).  He never once drops a syllable, conforming to the ten-syllable rule adopted by the Bard (as long as we allow him that “flower” is one syllable, and “ingredients” three, both of which are not excessive cheats, in my opinion).  Who is the designer, here, then, and who is subjected to the design?  For us, the flower, the spider, the moth are all creatures of Frost’s—they live for us only through his words, they act in accord with his design.  He holds up the image of death to us almost as the spider holds the moth to him—an image in white, frozen in time.  Does he intend to appall us, and if so, to what purpose?  Could anyone intend so dark a purpose from so small a poem?

I ask questions I do not know how to answer, largely because I like that poems give rise to such questions.  There is something I do not like about this poem—not “do not like” as in “I am critical of its flaws” but “do not like” as in “it makes me feel uneasy as I read”.  I don’t know how far Frost intends us to take the idea of “design”, but the man was a genius for double meanings.  Almost all of his greatest poems layer meanings over and over, sometimes very consciously and explicitly.  So I wouldn’t be too hasty in rejecting the idea that there is something underneath this poem that has very little to do with what Frost feared the universe was doing to him, and very much to do with what we fear Frost is doing to us in verse.  What that means to you, and how far you take it, I leave to your own musings (and I hope that some of them will find their way to the comments).

Poetry Friday: Snow

As I type, my neighborhood lies blanketed under 7 inches of snow (or so), with occasional flurries still falling, and more expected off and on for the coming week.  Temperatures drop to single digits tonight, which I think may be the first time I’ve lived in a place this cold.  Given the above, and the fact that I walked to and from work today in the snow (about 3 miles, round trip), I’ve been remembering snatches of poetry that evoke winter and snow most powerfully for me, and I thought today, rather than look at whole poems, I’d grab at a few lines that really seem to work for me, and try to understand why.

To begin, the first stanza of a poem by Christina Rossetti:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

I used to post this stanza on my online assignment calendar for my A.P. class in midwinter break, based purely on the use of the word “midwinter” (I thought I was being clever in a sort of literary way).  But over the years I came to enjoy that ritual, and to linger over the sounds of the words—the transformative power of the cold, which converts earth to iron and water to stone like some elderly alchemist, grown old and strong in his secret art.  The soft overwhelming feeling of that repetition in the 3rd line, as snow surrounds, immersing the world so fully that it consumes even itself, burying snows under snow.  Rossetti is a master of sound, and here she brings the tones together just perfectly for my ear, the long “o” of the wind’s moaning and the somehow gentler long “o” of the hushed snowfall reinforcing each other.  Gorgeous, and always on my mind this time of year, especially in weather like this.

And of course, I cannot neglect to mention Wallace Stevens’ thirteenth way of looking at a blackbird—and my favorite way:

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

Of course the pinnacle here is his first line, one of the best lines in poetry (to my mind) and one of those lines that makes me want to trade in my right arm (well, maybe just a finger or two) to get access to that same Muse.  The oppression of these shortened Northern winter afternoons, with the low light and the feeling of clouds weighing on your back and the hasty feeling of sun setting much too fast, for me happens immediately in that tight little phrase.  And then he rides right over that feeling with the addition of two important facts—it’s snowing (easily observed) and it’s going to snow (which always delights me, whether I interpret it as his depressed conviction that it’s not letting up anytime soon, or his depressed conviction that even if it lets up, it’ll be back for more before too long).  Juxtaposed, as in the poem’s other 12 stanzas, is the blackbird—poised, distinct against the canvas of the cedar’s evergreen, remote somehow from the world of snow and yet identified closely for me with the hovering evening, the darkness at the heart of the winter light.  Stevens doesn’t do it for everybody, and he doesn’t do it for me often enough (no matter how many times Professor Brenner read “The Emperor of Ice-Cream” to us, I never got it), but in this poem it happens to me like Mozart, where I sit agape that a man can toss out this many sparkling images with such careless ease.

Lastly, a poem on which I can barely comment: Robert Frost’s tiny clockwork gem, “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”.  I wanted to excerpt, but I just have to give you the whole thing:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

My personal history with this poem is a long one—it’s one of the first poems I ever memorized, it’s one of the first poems I ever tried to imitate.  It’s closely associated with my memory of the first time I ever went for a walk with the girl (then a friend) who became my wife.  The last lines were taped to the mirror in my bathroom for a year for reasons too complex (and in some ways personal) to get into.  Part of what I like about it is how grafted it is onto my mind—I can recite it at the drop of a hat, and do (to myself, usually under my breath) when I see the right scene, or feel the right breeze.  It is a joke (and one he himself had no problems telling) that America’s greatest poet of winter and ice was a man named Frost.  He was born to the work.

The snow in this poem is in some ways just a regular, real snowfall.  The speaker in the poem stops to watch it because he can, because it is one of the luxuries of being out for a long journey that time can be lost like this, a minute or a half an hour, without feeling the keen edge of the clock’s hand sweeping you forward.  The snow is also mythic, full of symbolic power.  It transfixes the speaker because it is the place he would like to be swallowed up by.  Here, far from the world, far from anyone who could lay claim to woods and lake and snow with some human piece of paper, the speaker would like to remain.  He is tethered loosely to the earth, drawn back to it only by the gentle sounds of his horse, the easy sweep of the snow that will bury him if he stays, and the knowledge of a promise he has made, if only to himself.  He feels a longing for the peace of death.

This isn’t morbid, or if it is, it’s entirely suitable.  The world’s seasons awaken these feelings in us.  The speaker in the poem moves on, returns to life and duty and promise as the world will in the expected spring, but he leaves a part of himself behind on that silent hillside.  Someday he will stop there again, and for good.

Snow, as you can see, plays on a lot of images and feelings for me.  Beauty, freedom, danger, death.  I expect it does the same for you.  If there’s a poem or a stanza or a line somewhere that “captures” winter or snowfall for you, I hope you’ll share it in a comment on this post.  I always like adding to my personal library.

Poetry Friday: Exhaustion

It has been a long week—perhaps the longest week in a while.  Between assignments (and professors moving up due dates arbitrarily) and job applications (and fretting about job applications) and volunteer commitments (and trying to avoid racking up more volunteer commitments) I feel exhausted.  And when I feel exhausted, mentally and physically, there are only so many poets I want to spend time with.  At the top of that list is the incomparable Robert Frost, a poet too over-rated by the average American to be appreciated for who he really was, a poet too pigeonholed into the greeting-card simplicity of “two roads” and “good fences make good neighbors” by too many people who haven’t read a lot of what I think of as his best stuff (though “Mending Wall” is, to be fair, a really good poem).  Anyway, I went to him this Friday for a poem about exhaustion, and found an old friend: “After Apple-Picking”

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing dear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

So much here enthralls me. There’s a lot of imagery here that my first poetry professor, Dennis Peters, would tie to death—specifically Frost’s morbid longing for it. And that may be true…we start, after all, at a ladder to Heaven. But I’m more drawn in by how weariness pervades the poem, and how wryly happy it makes him. There’s a satisfaction in saying “but I am done with apple-picking now”. His body has made a call that his mind is relieved by. Him looking at the world through the haze of ice skimmed from a trough is such a great image, and for me (if not others) I think I am in 1 Corinthians, the 13th chapter, where Paul talks about seeing “as through a glass darkly”. And I wonder what it means that he is falling into sleep even as the ice falls from his hand—that’s a phrase that’s usually so cliche as to be unremarkable (“fall asleep”) but here I feel as though he is physically falling into or out of something. The end of the poem is too sublime for me to even get into: if you’ve never heard the poem aloud, read it to yourself (the whole thing—it’s worth it). No one’s listening, I promise. There is a beauty to his uncertainty, to the drift of his voice as he leaves his body and a world of work for a sleep whose nature he doesn’t understand. In a strange way the world outside him, even the wordless world of an animal like a woodchuck, perceives the truth about this moment in a way he cannot. I think I, too, am tired like the apple-picker and rambling, so I’ll leave off here and see if some of you will offer your thoughts too.

Poetry Friday: 1930 (part 3)

You’ve been very patient with Poetry Friday, since I haven’t trotted out the one poet all Americans love in almost a year—I think you deserve a reward, then, of another moment with Robert Frost.  In this poem, first published in 1930, I think there are a lot of the elements that are considered classically “Frost”, but in a poem you may never have read.  So, I wonder (and hope a couple of you will speak up)…why does this work?  What is it about Robert Frost that gets to so many Americans of all ages and attitudes?  Let’s see if we can find it here in “On Looking Up By Chance At The Constellations”:

You’ll wait a long, long time for anything much
To happen in heaven beyond the floats of cloud
And the Northern Lights that run like tingling nerves.
The sun and moon get crossed, but they never touch,
Nor strike out fire from each other nor crash out loud.
The planets seem to interfere in their curves
But nothing ever happens, no harm is done.
We may as well go patiently on with our life,
And look elsewhere than to stars and moon and sun
For the shocks and changes we need to keep us sane.
It is true the longest drouth will end in rain,
The longest peace in China will end in strife.
Still it wouldn’t reward the watcher to stay awake
In hopes of seeing the calm of heaven break
On his particular time and personal sight.
That calm seems certainly safe to last to-night.

Poetry Friday: 1923 (part 3)

1923 is such an excellent year that I’m glad I got a third swing of the bat.  This is the year of Robert Frost’s New Hampshire: such a powerful collection of poems.  “Fire and Ice” (a poem that speaks to the darkness of human nature).  “The Need of Being Versed in Country Things” (a poem whose final lines still unsettle me).  “Nothing Gold Can Stay” (a poem whose power has only grown for me, over the years).  But among this collection—Frost’s greatest, I think—is a poem with a long-standing connection to both my wife and myself, in a myriad of ways, and she said it was the right one to post today.  I leave it to you to tell me what this is about—Despair?  Hope?  Death?  Freedom?  I have comments to make, but as always, I would much rather hear what you think.  Without further ado: “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening”.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.