Unforgettable poets – Frost and Nash

The American poet Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963) is best known for his sympathetic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech.

Frost’s work makes frequent use of settings from early 20th century rural life in New England to examine complex social and philosophical themes. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” was written in 1922 and published in his New Hampshire volume. Frost called it “my best bid for remembrance”.

“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 the 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.”

The American poet Frederic Ogden Nash (1902-71) is admired for the unique voice of his light verse. He delighted in inventing and misspelling words to create unexpected rhymes and his unerring depictions of human foibles continue to amuse people worldwide. At the time of his death, The New York Times said that his “droll verse with its unconventional rhymes made him the country’s best-known producer of humorous poetry”. On YouTube there is a recording of Nash reciting “Peekaboo, I Almost See You”.

“Middle-aged life is merry, and I love to lead it,
But there comes a day when your eyes are all right but your arm isn’t long enough to hold the telephone book where you can read it,
And your friends get jocular, so you go to the oculist,
And of all your friends he is the joculist,
So over his facetiousness let us skim,
Only noting that he has been waiting for you ever since you said Good evening to his grandfather clock under the impression that it was him.
And you look at his chart and it says SHRDLU QWERTYOP, and you say Well, why SHRDNTLU QWERTYOP? and he says one set of glasses won’t do.
You need two,
One for reading Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason and Keats’s “Endymion” with,
And the other for walking around without saying Hello to strange wymion with.
So you spend your time taking off your seeing glasses to put on your reading glasses, and then remembering that your reading glasses are upstairs or in the car,
And then you can’t find your seeing glasses again because without them on you can’t see where they are.
Enough of such mishaps, they would try the patience of an ox,
I prefer to forget both pairs of glasses and pass my declining years saluting strange women and grandfather clocks.”

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