March 26, 2011

Frost: and I am everywhere!

Though he would be defined as a New Englander for most of his life and career, it was in San Francisco, California that Robert Frost was born on March 26, 1874. He moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1885 and graduated from high school there as co-valedictorian, along with his future wife Elinor White. Often, his first published book is listed as A Boy's Will in 1913 but, strictly speaking, that's not entirely correct.

Frost self-published only two copies of Twilight in 1894, a small pamphlet collecting five of his earliest poems. One copy was given to Elinor White in the hopes of wooing her, the other he kept for himself. He traveled to Canton, New York expressly to offer her the gift but she did not seem interested (partly because he arrived unannounced and outside the visitation hours allowed by the all-women's school White attended) he burned his own copy of Twilight in frustration. Nevertheless, things eventually worked out and the couple married a year later.

Of the poems in Twilight, only one was collected in a later edition of Frost's poetry ("My Butterfly," collected in A Boy's Will). They were finally included in the Library of America edition of Frost's works, including the "Twilight," the title poem:

Why am I first in thy so sad regard,
O twilight gazing from I know not where?
I fear myself as one more than I guessed!
Am I instead of one so very fair?—
That thou art sorrowful and I oppressed?

High in the isolating air,
Over the inattentive moon,
Two birds sail on great wings,
      And vanish soon.
(And they leave the north sky bare!)

The far-felt solitudes that harbor night,
Wake to the singing of the wood-bird's fright.
By invocation, O wide silentness,
Thy spirit and my spirit pass in air!
They are unmemoried consciousness,
      Nor great nor less!
And thou art here and I am everywhere!

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