Posted by: jeannineatkins | September 24, 2010

A Visit to the Robert Frost Stone House Museum

A few days ago my husband and I visited one of the three Robert Frost homes open to the public, this one just north of Bennington, Vermont, where the poet is buried. Here’s a view of the house though I couldn’t fit in the birches, which of all the trees Frost wrote about I think he treated the most tenderly. He said, “I never go down the shoreline to New York without watching the birch trees to see if they live up to what I say about them in my poems.”

The walls are stone and plaster, the floors wide pine planks. There’s some original furniture,and the windows are tall and narrow with views toward fledging apple orchards. The Friends are trying to buy back some surrounding farmland and plant trees that Frost and his son, Carol, grew: MacIntosh, Northern Spy, Golden Delicious, and Red Astrachan. One room had a display of woodcuts by J. J. Lankes and another was devoted to family photos and brief histories, a bit rosier than the Frost bios I’ve read –no family dramas with, for instance, guns –and which we get a hint of in the words Frost chose for his gravestone: I had a lover’s quarrel with the world. How much love, and how much quarrel depends on the beholder. Darkness pervades many poems and most readers feel a chill in the last lines of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” The former dining room is dedicated to the poem, which Frost wrote there one hot June 1922 morning. Here’s a copy of the original manuscript.

And the lilac bush that cast shadows that morning is still there, though only surrounding asters are now in bloom.

Visiting made me want to read more of Frost’s thoughts on writing as well as his poems. He believed that children who missed Mother Goose would never be predisposed to poetry. He said that it didn’t take a long time to write his poems, “but it takes a long time to live them,” and part of his depression may have come from the many years he wrote before he felt his work was appreciated: his first poem was published at nineteen, but it was another twenty years before he published a book. He was, of course, an advocate for rhyme and meter and wrote of his poetry as a commitment to convention, or “a series of reckless commitments:” once a line was put down, he had to follow that meter and look for repeated sounds. He wanted to compose “one or two poems that would be hard to get rid of.” Most would agree he did.

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  1. We visited the Stone House Museum last year — loved it! I learned so much about Frost from the SHM exhibits; like you, I came home with a thirst for more. We also took a short sidetrip to scatter fall foliage on his grave. (If you wanna see pics of all that, click here:

  2. Oh, I LOVE that quote about birches living up to his poems. This is all positively lovely…

  3. Melodye, thank you so much for your link: what gorgeous photos, and how wonderfully you decorated that gravestone. It was a great way to step back, besides reading Birches, which I think is my favorite, once again.

  4. Thanks, Liz. I’m giving the local birches a stern eye, too, making sure they are their birch best! But am forgiving, too: once the maple and oak leaves fall, birches are going to do a lot for us with their white and black leanness.

  5. “He believed that children who missed Mother Goose would never be predisposed to poetry.”
    There is something so musical about Mother Goose–I’ve loved those poems since I was very young.
    My kids still quote so many of them, especially my favorite “One misty moisty morning, when cloudy was the weather…”
    Thanks for taking us along on this wonderful excursion, Jeannine. Someday, I hope to make a trip back into New England–it’s been way too long.

  6. That is a wonderful Mother Goose quote, and one I’d never heard: thank you, Lorraine! Yes, there’s great music and delightful nonsense that can get in your blood stream.
    And I hope one day you can get back to New England! I’d love to see some of it through your good eyes….

  7. Lorraine!! So funny: That’s one of my favorites, too!
    We don’t get many of those “misty, moisty mornings” around here….and when we do, it’s mainly due to a low-lying marine layer, typically in May and/or June.
    (My other favorite is “Home again, home again, jiggity-jig.”)

  8. “One misty moisty morning” is one of my favorites, too! Lovely to know I’m in such good company. (I’m partial to Jiggity-jig, too, Melodye, and Sweetpea LOVES it.)
    Jeannine, thank you for that wonderful tour and especially for all your thoughts on Frost. One of the things I love best about his poems is that they were so inviting to me as a child, and yet now have added resonance for me as an adult. I think that has something to with how concrete he was — but maybe also with how it “took a long time to live them.”

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