Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Robert Frost's misogyny

I like Robert Frost's poetry a lot, but as many writers do, he has his biases that I have a hard time reconciling. For example, it's hard to read Christopher Marlowe's The Jew of Malta or Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice without being very aware of the anti-Semitism (though the latter is much more humane than the former). Not that Frost was an anti-Semite, but his views about women are certainly difficult to approach. With that in mind, I present (without comment) a couple of things I've found in my research: an early draft of Robert Frost's famous poem "Birches," and the original dust jacket art for his collection North of Boston.


Robert Frost


When I see bitches 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.
Pimping does that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a fuck. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their makeup.
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 my apartment 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 junk in 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
(Now am I free to be poetical, mother fucker?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend me
As he went out and in to fetch them cows
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself—himself—
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's hos
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 ho away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim, if you know what I mean.
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 bitches.
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 fingernail’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—oooh, 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 bitch
Toward heaven, till the girl could bear no more,
But dipped her top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of bitches.


Chicky Wang said...

You so wrong, boy.

L-BO Jengles said...


Anonymous said...

Yep, you definitely are going to hell for that - jpg

Paul said...

Aye. You have no idea what you are talking about. That or you just don't understand poetry or metaphors.