The Housekeeper – Poem by Robert Frost

I let myself in at the kitchen door.
‘It’s you,’ she said. ‘I can’t get up. Forgive me
Not answering your knock. I can no more
Let people in than I can keep them out.
I’m getting too old for my size, I tell them.
My fingers are about all I’ve the use of
So’s to take any comfort. I can sew:
I help out with this beadwork what I can.’
‘That’s a smart pair of pumps you’re beading there.
Who are they for?’
‘You mean?- oh, for some miss.
I can’t keep track of other people’s daughters.
Lord, if I were to dream of everyone
Whose shoes I primped to dance in!’
‘And where’s John?’
‘Haven’t you seen him? Strange what set you off
To come to his house when he’s gone to yours.
You can’t have passed each other. I know what:
He must have changed his mind and gone to Garlands.
He won’t be long in that case. You can wait.
Though what good you can be, or anyone-
It’s gone so far. You’ve heard? Estelle’s run off.’
‘Yes, what’s it all about? When did she go?’
‘Two weeks since.’
‘She’s in earnest, it appears.’
‘I’m sure she won’t come back. She’s hiding somewhere.
I don’t know where myself. John thinks I do.
He thinks I only have to say the word,
And she’ll come back. But, bless you, I’m her mother-
I can’t talk to her, and, Lord, if I could!’
‘It will go hard with John. What will he do?
He can’t find anyone to take her place.’
‘Oh, if you ask me that, what will he do?
He gets some sort of bakeshop meals together,
With me to sit and tell him everything,
What’s wanted and how much and where it is.
But when I’m gone- of course I can’t stay here:
Estelle’s to take me when she’s settled down.
He and I only hinder one another.
I tell them they can’t get me through the door, though:
I’ve been built in here like a big church organ.
We’ve been here fifteen years.’
‘That’s a long time
To live together and then pull apart.
How do you see him living when you’re gone?
Two of you out will leave an empty house.’
‘I don’t just see him living many years,
Left here with nothing but the furniture.
I hate to think of the old place when we’re gone,
With the brook going by below the yard,
And no one here but hens blowing about.
If he could sell the place, but then, he can’t:
No one will ever live on it again.
It’s too run down. This is the last of it.
What I think he will do, is let things smash.
He’ll sort of swear the time away. He’s awful!
I never saw a man let family troubles
Make so much difference in his man’s affairs.
He’s just dropped everything. He’s like a child.
I blame his being brought up by his mother.
He’s got hay down that’s been rained on three times.
He hoed a little yesterday for me:
I thought the growing things would do him good.
Something went wrong. I saw him throw the hoe
Sky-high with both hands. I can see it now-
Come here- I’ll show you- in that apple tree.
That’s no way for a man to do at his age:
He’s fifty-five, you know, if he’s a day.’
‘Aren’t you afraid of him? What’s that gun for?’
‘Oh, that’s been there for hawks since chicken-time.
John Hall touch me! Not if he knows his friends.
I’ll say that for him, John’s no threatener
Like some men folk. No one’s afraid of him;
All is, he’s made up his mind not to stand
What he has got to stand.’
‘Where is Estelle?
Couldn’t one talk to her? What does she say?
You say you don’t know where she is.’
‘Nor want to!
She thinks if it was bad to live with him,
It must be right to leave him.’
‘Which is wrong!’
‘Yes, but he should have married her.’
‘I know.’
‘The strain’s been too much for her all these years:
I can’t explain it any other way.
It’s different with a man, at least with John:
He knows he’s kinder than the run of men.
Better than married ought to be as good
As married- that’s what he has always said.
I know the way he’s felt- but all the same!’
‘I wonder why he doesn’t marry her
And end it.’
‘Too late now: she wouldn’t have him.
He’s given her time to think of something else.
That’s his mistake. The dear knows my interest
Has been to keep the thing from breaking up.
This is a good home: I don’t ask for better.
But when I’ve said, ‘Why shouldn’t they be married,’
He’d say, ‘Why should they?’ no more words than that.’
‘And after all why should they? John’s been fair
I take it. What was his was always hers.
There was no quarrel about property.’
‘Reason enough, there was no property.
A friend or two as good as own the farm,
Such as it is. It isn’t worth the mortgage.’
‘I mean Estelle has always held the purse.’
‘The rights of that are harder to get at.
I guess Estelle and I have filled the purse.
‘Twas we let him have money, not he us.
John’s a bad farmer. I’m not blaming him.
Take it year in, year out, he doesn’t make much.
We came here for a home for me, you know,
Estelle to do the housework for the board
Of both of us. But look how it turns out:
She seems to have the housework, and besides,
Half of the outdoor work, though as for that,
He’d say she does it more because she likes it.
You see our pretty things are all outdoors.
Our hens and cows and pigs are always better
Than folks like us have any business with.
Farmers around twice as well off as we
Haven’t as good. They don’t go with the farm.
One thing you can’t help liking about John,
He’s fond of nice things- too fond, some would say.
But Estelle don’t complain: she’s like him there.
She wants our hens to be the best there are.
You never saw this room before a show,
Full of lank, shivery, half-drowned birds
In separate coops, having their plumage done.
The smell of the wet feathers in the heat!
You spoke of John’s not being safe to stay with.
You don’t know what a gentle lot we are:
We wouldn’t hurt a hen! You ought to see us
Moving a flock of hens from place to place.
We’re not allowed to take them upside down,
All we can hold together by the legs.
Two at a time’s the rule, one on each arm,
No matter how far and how many times
We have to go.’
‘You mean that’s John’s idea.’
‘And we live up to it; or I don’t know
What childishness he wouldn’t give way to.
He manages to keep the upper hand
On his own farm. He’s boss. But as to hens:
We fence our flowers in and the hens range.
Nothing’s too good for them. We say it pays.
John likes to tell the offers he has had,
Twenty for this cock, twenty-five for that.
He never takes the money. If they’re worth
That much to sell, they’re worth as much to keep.
Bless you, it’s all expense, though. Reach me down
The little tin box on the cupboard shelf,
The upper shelf, the tin box. That’s the one.
I’ll show you. Here you are.’
‘What’s this?’
‘A bill-
For fifty dollars for one Langshang cock-
Receipted. And the cock is in the yard.’
‘Not in a glass case, then?’
‘He’d need a tall one:
He can eat off a barrel from the ground.
He’s been in a glass case, as you may say,
The Crystal Palace, London. He’s imported.
John bought him, and we paid the bill with beads-
Wampum, I call it. Mind, we don’t complain.
But you see, don’t you, we take care of him.’
‘And like it, too. It makes it all the worse.’
‘It seems as if. And that’s not all: he’s helpless
In ways that I can hardly tell you of.
Sometimes he gets possessed to keep accounts
To see where all the money goes so fast.
You know how men will be ridiculous.
But it’s just fun the way he gets bedeviled-
If he’s untidy now, what will he be- – ?
‘It makes it all the worse. You must be blind.’
‘Estelle’s the one. You needn’t talk to me.’
‘Can’t you and I get to the root of it?
What’s the real trouble? What will satisfy her?’
‘It’s as I say: she’s turned from him, that’s all.’
‘But why, when she’s well off? Is it the neighbours,
Being cut off from friends?’
‘We have our friends.
That isn’t it. Folks aren’t afraid of us.’
‘She’s let it worry her. You stood the strain,
And you’re her mother.’
‘But I didn’t always.
I didn’t relish it along at first.
But I got wonted to it. And besides-
John said I was too old to have grandchildren.
But what’s the use of talking when it’s done?
She won’t come back- it’s worse than that- she can’t.’
‘Why do you speak like that? What do you know?
What do you mean?- she’s done harm to herself?’
‘I mean she’s married- married someone else.’
‘Oho, oho!’
‘You don’t believe me.’
‘Yes, I do,
Only too well. I knew there must be something!
So that was what was back. She’s bad, that’s all!’
‘Bad to get married when she had the chance?’
‘Nonsense! See what’s she done! But who, who- – ‘
‘Who’d marry her straight out of such a mess?
Say it right out- no matter for her mother.
The man was found. I’d better name no names.
John himself won’t imagine who he is.’
‘Then it’s all up. I think I’ll get away.
You’ll be expecting John. I pity Estelle;
I suppose she deserves some pity, too.
You ought to have the kitchen to yourself
To break it to him. You may have the job.’
‘You needn’t think you’re going to get away.
John’s almost here. I’ve had my eye on someone
Coming down Ryan’s Hill. I thought ’twas him.
Here he is now. This box! Put it away.
And this bill.’
‘What’s the hurry? He’ll unhitch.’
‘No, he won’t, either. He’ll just drop the reins
And turn Doll out to pasture, rig and all.
She won’t get far before the wheels hang up
On something- there’s no harm. See, there he is!
My, but he looks as if he must have heard!’
John threw the door wide but he didn’t enter.
‘How are you, neighbour? Just the man I’m after.
Isn’t it Hell,’ he said. ‘I want to know.
Come out here if you want to hear me talk.
I’ll talk to you, old woman, afterward.
I’ve got some news that maybe isn’t news.
What are they trying to do to me, these two?’
‘Do go along with him and stop his shouting.’
She raised her voice against the closing door:
‘Who wants to hear your news, you- dreadful fool?’

New Hampshire – Poem by Robert Frost

I met a lady from the South who said
(You won’t believe she said it, but she said it):
‘None of my family ever worked, or had
A thing to sell.’ I don’t suppose the work
Much matters. You may work for all of me.
I’ve seen the time I’ve had to work myself.
The having anything to sell is what
Is the disgrace in man or state or nation.

I met a traveler from Arkansas
Who boasted of his state as beautiful
For diamonds and apples. ‘Diamonds
And apples in commercial quantities?’
I asked him, on my guard. ‘Oh, yes,’ he answered,
Off his. The time was evening in the Pullman.
I see the porter’s made your bed,’ I told him.

I met a Californian who would
Talk California—a state so blessed,
He said, in climate, none bad ever died there
A natural death, and Vigilance Committees
Had had to organize to stock the graveyards
And vindicate the state’s humanity.
‘Just the way Stefansson runs on,’ I murmured,
‘About the British Arctic. That’s what comes
Of being in the market with a climate.’

I met a poet from another state,
A zealot full of fluid inspiration,
Who in the name of fluid inspiration,
But in the best style of bad salesmanship,
Angrily tried to male me write a protest
(In verse I think) against the Volstead Act.
He didn’t even offer me a drink
Until I asked for one to steady him.
This is called having an idea to sell.

It never could have happened in New Hampshire.

The only person really soiled with trade
I ever stumbled on in old New Hampshire
Was someone who had just come back ashamed
From selling things in California.
He’d built a noble mansard roof with balls
On turrets, like Constantinople, deep
In woods some ten miles from a railroad station,
As if to put forever out of mind
The hope of being, as we say, received.
I found him standing at the close of day
Inside the threshold of his open barn,
Like a lone actor on a gloomy stage—
And recognized him, through the iron gray
In which his face was muffled to the eyes,
As an old boyhood friend, and once indeed
A drover with me on the road to Brighton.
His farm was ‘grounds,’ and not a farm at all;
His house among the local sheds and shanties
Rose like a factor’s at a trading station.
And be was rich, and I was still a rascal.
I couldn’t keep from asking impolitely,
Where bad he been and what had he been doing?
How did he get so? (Rich was understood.)
In dealing in ‘old rags’ in San Francisco.
Ob, it was terrible as well could be.
We both of us turned over in our graves.

Just specimens is all New Hampshire has,
One each of everything as in a showcase,
Which naturally she doesn’t care to sell.

She had one President. (Pronounce him Purse,
And make the most of it for better or worse.
He’s your one chance to score against the state.)
She had one Daniel Webster. He was all
The Daniel Webster ever was or shall be.
She had the Dartmouth’ needed to produce him.

I call her old. She has one family
Whose claim is good to being settled here
Before the era of colonization,
And before that of exploration even.
John Smith remarked them as be coasted by,
Dangling their legs and fishing off a wharf
At the Isles of Shoals, and satisfied himself
They weren’t Red Indians but veritable
Pre-primitives of the white race, dawn people,
Like those who furnished Adam’s sons with wives;
However uninnocent they may have been
In being there so early in our history.
They’d been there then a hundred years or more.
Pity he didn’t ask what they were up to
At that date with a wharf already built,
And take their name. They’ve since told me their name—
Today an honored one in Nottingham.
As for what they were up to more than fishing—
Suppose they weren’t behaving Puritanly,
The hour bad not yet struck for being good,
Mankind had not yet gone on the Sabbatical.
It became an explorer of the deep
Not to explore too deep in others’ business.

Did you but know of him, New Hampshire has
One real reformer who would change the world
So it would be accepted by two classes,
Artists the minute they set up as artists,
Before, that is, they are themselves accepted,
And boys the minute they get out of college.
I can’t help thinking those are tests to go by.

And she has one I don’t know what to call him,
Who comes from Philadelphia every year
With a great flock of chickens of rare breeds
He wants to give the educational
Advantages of growing almost wild
Under the watchful eye of hawk and eagle
Dorkings because they’re spoken of by Chaucer,
Sussex because they’re spoken of by Herrick.

She has a touch of gold. New Hampshire gold—
You may have heard of it. I had a farm
Offered me not long since up Berlin way
With a mine on it that was worked for gold;
But not gold in commercial quantities,
Just enough gold to make the engagement rings
And marriage rings of those who owned the farm.
What gold more innocent could one have asked for?
One of my children ranging after rocks
Lately brought home from Andover or Canaan
A specimen of beryl with a trace
Of radium. I know with radium
The trace would have to be the merest trace
To be below the threshold of commercial;
But trust New Hampshire not to have enough
Of radium or anything to sell.

A specimen of everything, I said.
She has one witch—old style. She lives in Colebrook.
(The only other witch I ever met
Was lately at a cut-glass dinner in Boston.
There were four candles and four people present.
The witch was young, and beautiful (new style),
And open-minded. She was free to question
Her gift for reading letters locked in boxes.
Why was it so much greater when the boxes
Were metal than it was when they were wooden?
It made the world seem so mysterious.
The S’ciety for Psychical Research
Was cognizant. Her husband was worth millions.
I think he owned some shares in Harvard College.)

New Hampshire used to have at Salem
A company we called the White Corpuscles,
Whose duty was at any hour of night
To rush in sheets and fool’s caps where they smelled
A thing the least bit doubtfully perscented
And give someone the Skipper Ireson’s Ride.

One each of everything as in a showcase.

More than enough land for a specimen
You’ll say she has, but there there enters in
Something else to protect her from herself.
There quality makes up for quantity.
Not even New Hampshire farms are much for sale.
The farm I made my home on in the mountains
1 had to take by force rather than buy.

I caught the owner outdoors by himself
Raking.up after winter, and I said,
“I’m going to put you off this farm: I want it.’
“Where are you going to put me? In the road?”
“I’m going to put you on the farm next to it.”
“Why won’t the farm next to it do for you?’
‘I like this better.’ It was really better.

Apples? New Hampshire has them, but unsprayed,
With no suspicion in stern end or blossom end
Of vitriol or arsenate of lead,
And so not good for anything but cider.
Her unpruned grapes are flung like lariats
Far up the birches out of reach of man.

A state producing precious metals, stones,
And—writing; none of these except perhaps
The precious literature in quantity
Or quality to worry the producer
About disposing of it. Do you know,
Considering the market, there are more
Poems produced than any other thing?
No wonder poets sometimes have to seem
So much more businesslike than businessmen.
Their wares are so much harder to get rid of.

She’s one of the two best states in the Union.
Vermont’s the other. And the two have been
Yokefellows in the sap yoke from of old
In many Marches. And they lie like wedges,
Thick end to thin end and thin end to thick end,
And are a figure of the way the strong
Of mind and strong of arm should fit together,
One thick where one is thin and vice versa.

New Hampshire raises the Connecticut

In a trout hatchery near Canada,
But soon divides the river with Vermont.
Both are delightful states for their absurdly
Small towns—Lost Nation, Bungey, Muddy Boo,
Poplin, Still Corners (so called not because
The place is silent all day long, nor yet
Because it boasts a whisky still—because
It set out once to be a city and still
Is only corners, crossroads in a wood).
And I remember one whose name appeared
Between the pictures on a movie screen
Election night once in Franconia,
When everything had gone Republican
And Democrats were sore in need of comfort:
Easton goes Democratic, Wilson 4
Hughes 2. And everybody to the saddest
Laughed the loud laugh the big laugh at the little.
New York (five million) laughs at Manchester,
Manchester (sixty or seventy thousand) laughs
At Littleton (four thousand), Littleton
Laughs at Franconia (seven hundred), and
Franconia laughs, I fear—-did laugh that night­-
At Easton. What has Easton left to laugh at,
And like the actress exclaim ‘Oh, my God’ at?
There’s Bungey; and for Bungey there are towns,
Whole townships named but without population.

Anything I can say about New Hampshire
Will serve almost as well about Vermont,
Excepting that they differ in their mountains.
The Vermont mountains stretch extended straight;
New Hampshire mountains Curl up in a coil.

I had been coming to New Hampshire mountains.
And here I am and what am I to say?
Here first my theme becomes embarrassing.
Emerson said, ‘The God who made New Hampshire
Taunted the lofty land with little men.’
Anotner Massachusetts poet said,
‘I go no more to summer in New Hampshire.
I’ve given up my summer place in Dublin.’
But when I asked to know what ailed New Hampshire,
She said she couldn’t stand the people in it,
The little men (it’s Massachusetts speaking).
And when I asked to know what ailed the people,
She said, ‘Go read your own books and find out.’
I may as well confess myself the author
Of several books against the world in general.
To take them as against a special state
Or even nation’s to restrict my meaning.
I’m what is called a sensibilitist,
Or otherwise an environmentalist.
I refuse to adapt myself a mite
To any change from hot to cold, from wet
To dry, from poor to rich, or back again.
I make a virtue of my suffering
From nearly everything that goes on round me.
In other words, I know wherever I am,
Being the creature of literature I am,
1 sball not lack for pain to keep me awake.
Kit Marlowe taught me how to say my prayers:
‘Why, this is Hell, nor am I out of it.’
Samoa, Russia, Ireland I complain of,
No less than England, France, and Italy.
Because I wrote my novels in New Hampshire
Is no proof that I aimed them at New Hampshire.
When I left Massachusetts years ago
Between two days, the reason why I sought
New Hampshire, not Connecticut,
Rhode Island, New York, or Vermont was this:
Where I was living then, New Hampshire offered
The nearest boundary to escape across.
I hadn’t an illusion in my handbag
About the people being better there
Than those I left behind. I thought they weren’t.
I thought they couldn’t be. And yet they were.
I’d sure had no such friends in Massachusetts
As Hall of Windham, Gay of Atkinson,
Bartlett of Raymond (now of Colorado),
Harris of Derry, and Lynch of Bethlehem.

The glorious bards of Massachusetts seem
To want to make New Hampshire people over.
They taunt the lofty land with little men.
I don’t know what to say about the people.
For art’s sake one could almost wish them worse
Rather than better. How are we to write
The Russian novel in America
As long as life goes so unterribly?
There is the pinch from which our only outcry
In literature to date is heard to come.
We get what little misery we can
Out of not having cause for misery.
It makes the guild of novel writers sick
To be expected to be Dostoievskis
On nothing worse than too much luck and comfort.
This is not sorrow, though; it’s just the vapors,
And recognized as such in Russia itself
Under the new regime, and so forbidden.

If well it is with Russia, then feel free
To say so or be stood against the wall
And shot. It’s Pollyanna now or death.
This, then, is the new freedom we hear tell of;
And very sensible. No state can build
A literature that shall at once be sound
And sad on a foundation of well-being.

To show the level of intelligence
Among us: it was just a Warren farmer
Whose horse had pulled him short up in the road
By me, a stranger. This is what he said,
From nothing but embarrassment and want
Of anything more sociable to say:
‘You hear those bound dogs sing on Moosilauke?
Well, they remind me of the hue and cry
We’ve heard against the Mid – Victorians
And never rightly understood till Bryan
Retired from politics and joined the chorus.
The matter with the Mid-Victorians
Seems to have been a man named Joh n L. Darwin.’
‘Go ‘long,’ I said to him, he to his horse.

I knew a man who failing as a farmer
Burned down his farmhouse for the fire insurance,
And spent the proceeds on a telescope
To satisfy a lifelong curiosity
About our place among the infinities.
And how was that for otherworldliness?

If I must choose which I would elevate —
The people or the already lofty mountains
I’d elevate the already lofty mountains
The only fault I find with old New Hampshire
Is that her mountains aren’t quite high enough.
I was not always so; I’ve come to be so.
How, to my sorrow, how have I attained
A height from which to look down critical
On mountains? What has given me assurance
To say what height becomes New Hampshire mountains,
Or any mountains? Can it be some strength
I feel, as of an earthquake in my back,
To heave them higher to the morning star?
Can it be foreign travel in the Alps?
Or having seen and credited a moment
The solid molding of vast peaks of cloud
Behind the pitiful reality
Of Lincoln, Lafayette, and Liberty?
Or some such sense as says bow high shall jet
The fountain in proportion to the basin?
No, none of these has raised me to my throne
Of intellectual dissatisfaction,
But the sad accident of having seen
Our actual mountains given in a map
Of early times as twice the height they are—
Ten thousand feet instead of only five—
Which shows how sad an accident may be.
Five thousand is no longer high enough.
Whereas I never had a good idea
About improving people in the world,
Here I am overfertile in suggestion,
And cannot rest from planning day or night
How high I’d thrust the peaks in summer snow
To tap the upper sky and draw a flow
Of frosty night air on the vale below
Down from the stars to freeze the dew as starry.

The more the sensibilitist I am
The more I seem to want my mountains wild;
The way the wiry gang-boss liked the logjam.
After he’d picked the lock and got it started,
He dodged a log that lifted like an arm
Against the sky to break his back for him,
Then came in dancing, skipping with his life
Across the roar and chaos, and the words
We saw him say along the zigzag journey
Were doubtless as the words we heard him say
On coming nearer: ‘Wasn’t she an i-deal
Son-of-a-bitch? You bet she was an i-deal.’

For all her mountains fall a little short,
Her people not quite short enough for Art,
She’s still New Hampshire; a most restful state.

Lately in converse with a New York alec
About the new school of the pseudo-phallic,
I found myself in a close corner where
I bad to make an almost funny choice.
‘Choose you which you will be—a prude, or puke,
Mewling and puking in the public arms.’
‘Me for the hills where I don’t have to choose.”
‘But if you bad to choose, which would you be?’
1 wouldn’t be a prude afraid of nature.
I know a man who took a double ax
And went alone against a grove of trees;
But his heart failing him, he dropped the ax
And ran for shelter quoting Matthew Arnold:
”Nature is cruel, man is sick of blood’:
There s been enough shed without shedding mine.
Remember Birnam Wood! The wood’s in flux!’

He had a special terror of the flux
That showed itself in dendrophobia.
The only decent tree had been to mill
And educated into boards, be said.
He knew too well for any earthly use
The line where man leaves off and nature starts.
And never overstepped it save in dreams.
He stood on the safe side of the line talking—
Which is sheer Matthew Arnoldism,
The cult of one who owned himself ‘a foiled
Circuitous wanderer,’ and ‘took dejectedly
His seat upon the intellectual throne’—
Agreed in ‘frowning on these improvised
Altars the woods are full of nowadays,
Again as in the days when Ahaz sinned
By worship under green trees in the open.
Scarcely a mile but that I come on one,
A black-checked stone and stick of rain-washed charcoal.
Even to say the groves were God’s first temples
Comes too near to Ahaz’ sin for safety.
Nothing not built with hands of course is sacred.
But here is not a question of what’s sacred;
Rather of what to face or run away from.
I’d hate to be a runaway from nature.
And neither would I choose to be a puke
Who cares not what be does in company,
And when he can’t do anything, falls back
On words, and tries his worst to make words speak
Louder than actions, and sometimes achieves it.
It seems a narrow choice the age insists on
8ow about being a good Greek, for instance)
That course, they tell me, isn’t offered this year.
‘Come, but this isn’t choosing—puke or prude?’

Well, if I have to choose one or the other,
I choose to be a plain New Hampshire farmer
With an income in cash of, say, a thousand
(From, say, a publisher in New York City).
It’s restful to arrive at a decision,
And restful just to think about New Hampshire.
At present I am living in Vermont.

The Kitchen Chimney – Poem by Robert Frost

Builder, in building the little house,
In every way you may please yourself;
But please please me in the kitchen chimney:
Don’t build me a chimney upon a shelf.

However far you must go for bricks,
Whatever they cost a-piece or a pound,
But me enough for a full-length chimney,
And build the chimney clear from the ground.

It’s not that I’m greatly afraid of fire,
But I never heard of a house that throve
(And I know of one that didn’t thrive)
Where the chimney started above the stove.

And I dread the ominous stain of tar
That there always is on the papered walls,
And the smell of fire drowned in rain
That there always is when the chimney’s false.

A shelf’s for a clock or vase or picture,
But I don’t see why it should have to bear
A chimney that only would serve to remind me
Of castles I used to build in air.

The Generations of Men – Poem by Robert Frost

A governor it was proclaimed this time,
When all who would come seeking in New Hampshire
Ancestral memories might come together.
And those of the name Stark gathered in Bow,
A rock-strewn town where farming has fallen off,
And sprout-lands flourish where the axe has gone.
Someone had literally run to earth
In an old cellar hole in a by-road
The origin of all the family there.
Thence they were sprung, so numerous a tribe
That now not all the houses left in town
Made shift to shelter them without the help
Of here and there a tent in grove and orchard.
They were at Bow, but that was not enough:
Nothing would do but they must fix a day
To stand together on the crater’s verge
That turned them on the world, and try to fathom
The past and get some strangeness out of it.
But rain spoiled all. The day began uncertain,
With clouds low trailing and moments of rain that misted.
The young folk held some hope out to each other
Till well toward noon when the storm settled down
With a swish in the grass. ‘What if the others
Are there,’ they said. ‘It isn’t going to rain.’
Only one from a farm not far away
Strolled thither, not expecting he would find
Anyone else, but out of idleness.
One, and one other, yes, for there were two.
The second round the curving hillside road
Was a girl; and she halted some way off
To reconnoitre, and then made up her mind
At least to pass by and see who he was,
And perhaps hear some word about the weather.
This was some Stark she didn’t know. He nodded.
‘No fête to-day,’ he said.
‘It looks that way.’
She swept the heavens, turning on her heel.
‘I only idled down.’
‘I idled down.’
Provision there had been for just such meeting
Of stranger cousins, in a family tree
Drawn on a sort of passport with the branch
Of the one bearing it done in detail-
Some zealous one’s laborious device.
She made a sudden movement toward her bodice,
As one who clasps her heart. They laughed together.
‘Stark?’ he inquired. ‘No matter for the proof.’
‘Yes, Stark. And you?’
‘I’m Stark.’ He drew his passport.
‘You know we might not be and still be cousins:
The town is full of Chases, Lowes, and Baileys,
All claiming some priority in Starkness.
My mother was a Lane, yet might have married
Anyone upon earth and still her children
Would have been Starks, and doubtless here to-day.’
‘You riddle with your genealogy
Like a Viola. I don’t follow you.’
‘I only mean my mother was a Stark
Several times over, and by marrying father
No more than brought us back into the name.’
‘One ought not to be thrown into confusion
By a plain statement of relationship,
But I own what you say makes my head spin.
You take my card- you seem so good at such things-
And see if you can reckon our cousinship.
Why not take seats here on the cellar wall
And dangle feet among the raspberry vines?’
‘Under the shelter of the family tree.’
‘Just so- that ought to be enough protection.’
‘Not from the rain. I think it’s going to rain.’
‘It’s raining.’
‘No, it’s misting; let’s be fair.
Does the rain seem to you to cool the eyes?’
The situation was like this: the road
Bowed outward on the mountain half-way up,
And disappeared and ended not far off.
No one went home that way. The only house
Beyond where they were was a shattered seedpod.
And below roared a brook hidden in trees,
The sound of which was silence for the place.
This he sat listening to till she gave judgment.
‘On father’s side, it seems, we’re- let me see- – ‘
‘Don’t be too technical.- You have three cards.’
‘Four cards, one yours, three mine, one for each branch
Of the Stark family I’m a member of.’
‘D’you know a person so related to herself
Is supposed to be mad.’
‘I may be mad.’
‘You look so, sitting out here in the rain
Studying genealogy with me
You never saw before. What will we come to
With all this pride of ancestry, we Yankees?
I think we’re all mad. Tell me why we’re here
Drawn into town about this cellar hole
Like wild geese on a lake before a storm?
What do we see in such a hole, I wonder.’
‘The Indians had a myth of Chicamoztoc,
Which means The Seven Caves that We Came out of.
This is the pit from which we Starks were digged.’
‘You must be learned. That’s what you see in it?’
‘And what do you see?’
‘Yes, what do I see?
First let me look. I see raspberry vines- – ‘
‘Oh, if you’re going to use your eyes, just hear
What I see. It’s a little, little boy,
As pale and dim as a match flame in the sun;
He’s groping in the cellar after jam,
He thinks it’s dark and it’s flooded with daylight.’
‘He’s nothing. Listen. When I lean like this
I can make out old Grandsir Stark distinctly,-
With his pipe in his mouth and his brown jug-
Bless you, it isn’t Grandsir Stark, it’s Granny,
But the pipe’s there and smoking and the jug.
She’s after cider, the old girl, she’s thirsty;
Here’s hoping she gets her drink and gets out safely.’
‘Tell me about her. Does she look like me?’
‘She should, shouldn’t she, you’re so many times
Over descended from her. I believe
She does look like you. Stay the way you are.
The nose is just the same, and so’s the chin-
Making allowance, making due allowance.’
‘You poor, dear, great, great, great, great Granny!’
‘See that you get her greatness right. Don’t stint her.’
‘Yes, it’s important, though you think it isn’t.
I won’t be teased. But see how wet I am.’
‘Yes, you must go; we can’t stay here for ever.
But wait until I give you a hand up.
A bead of silver water more or less
Strung on your hair won’t hurt your summer looks.
I wanted to try something with the noise
That the brook raises in the empty valley.
We have seen visions- now consult the voices.
Something I must have learned riding in trains
When I was young. I used the roar
To set the voices speaking out of it,
Speaking or singing, and the band-music playing.
Perhaps you have the art of what I mean.
I’ve never listened in among the sounds
That a brook makes in such a wild descent.
It ought to give a purer oracle.’
‘It’s as you throw a picture on a screen:
The meaning of it all is out of you;
The voices give you what you wish to hear.’
‘Strangely, it’s anything they wish to give.’
‘Then I don’t know. It must be strange enough.
I wonder if it’s not your make-believe.
What do you think you’re like to hear to-day?’
‘From the sense of our having been together-
But why take time for what I’m like to hear?
I’ll tell you what the voices really say.
You will do very well right where you are
A little longer. I mustn’t feel too hurried,
Or I can’t give myself to hear the voices.’
‘Is this some trance you are withdrawing into?’
‘You must be very still; you mustn’t talk.’
‘I’ll hardly breathe.’
‘The voices seem to say- – ‘
‘I’m waiting.’
‘Don’t! The voices seem to say:
Call her Nausicaa, the unafraid
Of an acquaintance made adventurously.’
‘I let you say that- on consideration.’
‘I don’t see very well how you can help it.
You want the truth. I speak but by the voices.
You see they know I haven’t had your name,
Though what a name should matter between us- – ‘
‘I shall suspect- – ‘
‘Be good. The voices say:
Call her Nausicaa, and take a timber
That you shall find lies in the cellar charred
Among the raspberries, and hew and shape it
For a door-sill or other corner piece
In a new cottage on the ancient spot.
The life is not yet all gone out of it.
And come and make your summer dwelling here,
And perhaps she will come, still unafraid,
And sit before you in the open door
With flowers in her lap until they fade,
But not come in across the sacred sill- – ‘
‘I wonder where your oracle is tending.
You can see that there’s something wrong with it,
Or it would speak in dialect. Whose voice
Does it purport to speak in? Not old Grandsir’s
Nor Granny’s, surely. Call up one of them.
They have best right to be heard in this place.’
‘You seem so partial to our great-grandmother
(Nine times removed. Correct me if I err.)
You will be likely to regard as sacred
Anything she may say. But let me warn you,
Folks in her day were given to plain speaking.
You think you’d best tempt her at such a time?’
‘It rests with us always to cut her off.’
‘Well then, it’s Granny speaking: ‘I dunnow!
Mebbe I’m wrong to take it as I do.
There ain’t no names quite like the old ones though,
Nor never will be to my way of thinking.
One mustn’t bear too hard on the new comers,
But there’s a dite too many of them for comfort.
I should feel easier if I could see
More of the salt wherewith they’re to be salted.
Son, you do as you’re told! You take the timber-
It’s as sound as the day when it was cut-
And begin over- – ‘ There, she’d better stop.
You can see what is troubling Granny, though.
But don’t you think we sometimes make too much
Of the old stock? What counts is the ideals,
And those will bear some keeping still about.’
‘I can see we are going to be good friends.’
‘I like your ‘going to be.’ You said just now
It’s going to rain.’
‘I know, and it was raining.
I let you say all that. But I must go now.’
‘You let me say it? on consideration?
How shall we say good-bye in such a case?’
‘How shall we?’
‘Will you leave the way to me?’
‘No, I don’t trust your eyes. You’ve said enough.
Now give me your hand up.- Pick me that flower.’
‘Where shall we meet again?’
‘Nowhere but here
Once more before we meet elsewhere.’
‘In rain?’
‘It ought to be in rain. Sometime in rain.
In rain to-morrow, shall we, if it rains?
But if we must, in sunshine.’ So she went.

The Pauper Witch of Grafton – Poem by Robert Frost

NOW that they’ve got it settled whose I be,
I’m going to tell them something they won’t like:
They’ve got it settled wrong, and I can prove it.
Flattered I must be to have two towns fighting
To make a present of me to each other.
They don’t dispose me, either one of them,
To spare them any trouble. Double trouble’s
Always the witch’s motto anyway.
I’ll double theirs for both of them- you watch me.
They’ll find they’ve got the whole thing to do over,
That is, if facts is what they want to go by.
They set a lot (now don’t they?) by a record
Of Arthur Amy’s having once been up
For Hog Reeve in March Meeting here in Warren.
I could have told them any time this twelvemonth
The Arthur Amy I was married to
Couldn’t have been the one they say was up
In Warren at March Meeting for the reason
He wa’n’t but fifteen at the time they say.
The Arthur Amy I was married to
voted the only times he ever voted,
Which wasn’t many, in the town of Wentworth.
One of the times was when ’twas in the warrant
To see if the town wanted to take over
The tote road to our clearing where we lived.
I’ll tell you who’d remember- Heman Lapish.
Their Arthur Amy was the father of mine.
So now they’ve dragged it through the law courts once
I guess they’d better drag it through again.
Wentworth and Warren’s both good towns to live in,
Only I happen to prefer to live
In Wentworth from now on; and when all’s said,
Right’s right, and the temptation to do right
When I can hurt someone by doing it
Has always been too much for me, it has.
I know of some folks that’d be set up
At having in their town a noted witch:
But most would have to think of the expense
That even I would be. They ought to know
That as a witch I’d often milk a bat
And that’d be enough to last for days.
It’d make my position stronger, I think,
If I was to consent to give some sign
To make it surer that I was a witch?
It wa’n’t no sign, I s’pose, when Mallice Huse
Said that I took him out in his old age
And rode all over everything on him
Until I’d had him worn to skin and bones,
And if I’d left him hitched unblanketed
In front of one Town Hall, I’d left him hitched
In front of every one in Grafton County.
Some cried shame on me not to blanket him,
The poor old man. It would have been all right
If some one hadn’t said to gnaw the posts
He stood beside and leave his trade mark on them,
So they could recognize them. Not a post
That they could hear tell of was scarified.
They made him keep on gnawing till he whined.
Then that same smarty someone said to look-
He’d bet Huse was a cribber and had gnawed
The crib he slept in- and as sure’s you’re born
They found he’d gnawed the four posts of his bed,
All four of them to splinters. What did that prove?
Not that he hadn’t gnawed the hitching posts
He said he had besides. Because a horse
Gnaws in the stable ain’t no proof to me
He don’t gnaw trees and posts and fences too.
But everybody took it for proof.
I was a strapping girl of twenty then.
The smarty someone who spoiled everything
Was Arthur Amy. You know who he was.
That was the way he started courting me.
He never said much after we were married,
But I mistrusted he was none too proud
Of having interfered in the Huse business.
I guess he found he got more out of me
By having me a witch. Or something happened
To turn him round. He got to saying things
To undo what he’d done and make it right,
Like, ‘No, she ain’t come back from kiting yet.
Last night was one of her nights out. She’s kiting.
She thinks when the wind makes a night of it
She might as well herself.’ But he liked best
To let on he was plagued to death with me:
If anyone had seen me coming home
Over the ridgepole, ‘stride of a broomstick,
As often as he had in the tail of the night,
He guessed they’d know what he had to put up with.
Well, I showed Arthur Amy signs enough
Off from the house as far as we could keep
And from barn smells you can’t wash out of ploughed ground
With all the rain and snow of seven years;
And I don’t mean just skulls of Roger’s Rangers
On Moosilauke, but woman signs to man,
Only bewitched so I would last him longer.
Up where the trees grow short, the mosses tall,
I made him gather me wet snow berries
On slippery rocks beside a waterfall.
I made him do it for me in the dark.
And he liked everything I made him do.
I hope if he is where he sees me now
He’s so far off he can’t see what I’ve come to.
You can come down from everything to nothing.
All is, if I’d a-known when I was young
And full of it, that this would be the end,
It doesn’t seem as if I’d had the courage
To make so free and kick up in folks’ faces.
I might have, but it doesn’t seem as if.