Back Robert Frost, “In the Home Stretch”

Robert Frost (1874–1963)
From Robert Frost: Collected Poems, Prose, & Plays

Three of the pen-and-ink drawings by American illustrator John Wolcott Adams (1874–1925) for Robert Frost’s “In the Home Stretch” in the July 1916 issue of The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. First panel: “Where will I put this walnut bureau, lady?” Second: “Come from that window where you see too much.” The third panel appears above the stanza that begins, “You’re tired. / I’m drunk-nonsensical tired out.” Three decades later, Frost inscribed an issue of the magazine to his friend and biographer Louis Mertins with the comment, “The places resemble neither the Derry nor the Franconia farm in any least detail.” (Library of Congress)

Robert Frost was born 147 years ago, on March 26, 1874.

The famous poet is often associated with New England farming, but “there were so many things they didn’t know about the soil or about agriculture,” longtime friend Louis Mertins wrote, looking back on the year (1900) that Robert and Elinor Frost moved to their new farm in Derry, New Hampshire.

A month after they bought a cow, a neighbor asked Frost how the animal was faring. “Not so well,” he answered. “What time of day do you milk her?” the farmer inquired. “Whenever we need milk,” answered Frost, having no idea that his answer was the reason for his cow’s woes. For ten years Frost worked the farm, barely able to make ends meet, and he was forced to take a teaching job to keep the place going. But the experience gave him enough material for a lifetime of writing.

“To a large extent the terrain of my poetry is the Derry landscape, the Derry farm,” Frost wrote later to a friend. “Poems growing out of this, though composite, were built on incidents and are therefore autobiographical. There was something about the experience of Derry which stayed in my mind, and was tapped for poetry in the years that came after.”

Our Story of the Week selection, Frost’s narrative poem “In the Home Stretch,” takes us back to the day it all began, when he and his wife moved into the farmhouse, “dumped down in paradise.”

Read “In the Home Stretch” by Robert Frost

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