Robert Frost – Buddhist

Three poems pointing to eternity. 




POEM  #1   Trial By Existence

By Robert Frost


Even the bravest that are slain   

Shall not dissemble their surprise

On waking to find valor reign,   

Even as on earth, in paradise;

And where they sought without the sword        

Wide fields of asphodel fore’er,

To find that the utmost reward   

Of daring should be still to dare.  


The light of heaven falls whole and white   

And is not shattered into dyes,     

The light for ever is morning light;   

The hills are verdured pasture-wise;

The angel hosts with freshness go,   

And seek with laughter what to brave;

And binding all is the hushed snow

Of the far-distant breaking wave.  


And from a cliff-top is proclaimed   

The gathering of the souls for birth,

The trial by existence named,   

The obscuration upon earth.       

And the slant spirits trooping by   

In streams and cross- and counter-streams

Can but give ear to that sweet cry   

For its suggestion of what dreams!  


And the more loitering are turned        

To view once more the sacrifice

Of those who for some good discerned   

Will gladly give up paradise.

And a white shimmering concourse rolls   

Toward the throne to witness there    

The speeding of devoted souls   

Which God makes his especial care.  


And none are taken but who will,   

Having first heard the life read out

That opens earthward, good and ill,        

Beyond the shadow of a doubt;

And very beautifully God limns,   

And tenderly, life’s little dream,

But naught extenuates or dims,   

Setting the thing that is supreme.        


Nor is there wanting in the press   

Some spirit to stand simply forth,

Heroic in its nakedness,   

Against the uttermost of earth.

The tale of earth’s unhonored things        

Sounds nobler there than ‘neath the sun;

And the mind whirls and the heart sings,   

And a shout greets the daring one.  


But always God speaks at the end:   

‘One thought in agony of strife        

The bravest would have by for friend,   

The memory that he chose the life;

But the pure fate to which you go   

Admits no memory of choice,

Or the woe were not earthly woe       

To which you give the assenting voice.’  


And so the choice must be again,   

But the last choice is still the same;

And the awe passes wonder then,   

And a hush falls for all acclaim.        

And God has taken a flower of gold   

And broken it, and used therefrom

The mystic link to bind and hold   

Spirit to matter till death come.  


”˜Tis of the essence of life here,        

Though we choose greatly, still to lack

The lasting memory at all clear,   

That life has for us on the wrack

Nothing but what we somehow chose;   

Thus are we wholly stripped of pride        

 In the pain that has but one close,  

Bearing it crushed and mystified.  







POEM  #2  Birches

by Robert Frost


When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay 
As ice-storms do.  Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain.  They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust--
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer.  He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground.  He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return.  Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.







POEM  #3   Carpe Diem  

by Robert Frost


Age saw two quiet children 
Go loving by at twilight, 
He knew not whether homeward, 
Or outward from the village, 
Or (chimes were ringing) churchward, 
He waited (they were strangers) 
Till they were out of hearing 
To bid them both be happy. 
"Be happy, happy, happy, 
And seize the day of pleasure."
The age-long theme is Age's. 
'Twas Age imposed on poems 
Their gather-roses burden 
To warn against the danger 
That overtaken lovers 
From being overflooded 
With happiness should have it. 
And yet not know they have it. 
But bid life seize the present? 
It lives less in the present 
Than in the future always, 
And less in both together 
Than in the past. The present 
Is too much for the senses, 
Too crowding, too confusing””
Too present to imagine.  



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