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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Number 69: Robert Frost "Come In"

Come In

As I came to the edge of the woods,
Thrush music -- hark!
Now if it was dusk outside,
Inside it was dark.

Too dark in the woods for a bird
By sleight of wing
To better its perch for the night,
Though it still could sing.

The last of the light of the sun
That had died in the west
Still lived for one song more
In a thrush's breast.

Far in the pillared dark
Thrush music went --
Almost like a call to come in
To the dark and lament.

But no, I was out for stars;
I would not come in.
I meant not even if asked;
And I hadn't been.

--Robert Frost

Hap Notes: This is the second of the bird poems this week to highlight the Great Backyard Birdcount in which I encourage you to participate: You can help for 15 minutes or 4 days- it's up to you.

I love Frost's twist on the term "sleight of hand" to "sleight of wing." It's true that at some point it is too dark in the deep woods for a bird to adjust itself on an unfamiliar branch. Birds generally sing at sunrise and sunset, although ornithologists make a distinction between "calls" and "songs." Song is generally for mating and calls are for communication. In the poem, the birds are calling out to each other just before bedtime, maybe telling each other where they are.

Frankly, to me, most of it sounds like singing. And while science says there are specific reasons for bird sounds, I think it's presumptuous to say that this is all there is to bird song. I think birds sing, at the very least, for all the all the various reasons people sing and talk and probably have reasons we don't understand, too. Frost's take on the thrush is that it has a mournful, melancholy sound. Want to hear for yourself? Visit here--
Sound of a Wood Thrush:
Sounds almost flute-like doesn't it? Not bad for a dinosaur, eh? Imagine what this would sound like with more than one thrush singing.

When I was in school our choir sang the Randall Thompson music for this poem. We didn't sound nearly this good, but here's how the song goes- it's quite beautiful: to forget a poem once you sing it. Note how the flute isn't nearly as beautiful as the thrush- it can't be- the thrush's equipment is a lot more complex. The symphony with song really adds to the drama of the Thompson song.

Of course there's a dark side to this poem but I'll let you figure it out this time. A few questions: Is the bird's song somewhat tempting? And it tempts him to go into the darkness? Is the poet fighting depression or some sadness? Just think on it and remember what it feels like in the woods at twilight- there's a loveliness but also maybe some sorrow- about what? The end of the day? The end of something? What does "out for stars" mean to you?

Here's our first Frost poem with more info:

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