Blueberries

- 1874-1963

"You ought to have seen what I saw on my way 
To the village, through Mortenson's pasture to-day: 
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb, 
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum 
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!         
And all ripe together, not some of them green 
And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!" 

"I don't know what part of the pasture you mean." 

"You know where they cut off the woods—let me see— 
It was two years ago—or no!—can it be         
No longer than that?—and the following fall 
The fire ran and burned it all up but the wall." 

"Why, there hasn't been time for the bushes to grow. 
That's always the way with the blueberries, though: 
There may not have been the ghost of a sign         
Of them anywhere under the shade of the pine, 
But get the pine out of the way, you may burn 
The pasture all over until not a fern 
Or grass-blade is left, not to mention a stick, 
And presto, they're up all around you as thick         
And hard to explain as a conjuror's trick." 

"It must be on charcoal they fatten their fruit. 
I taste in them sometimes the flavour of soot. 
And after all really they're ebony skinned: 
The blue's but a mist from the breath of the wind,         
A tarnish that goes at a touch of the hand, 
And less than the tan with which pickers are tanned." 

"Does Mortenson know what he has, do you think?" 

"He may and not care and so leave the chewink 
To gather them for him—you know what he is.         
He won't make the fact that they're rightfully his 
An excuse for keeping us other folk out." 

"I wonder you didn't see Loren about." 

"The best of it was that I did. Do you know, 
I was just getting through what the field had to show         
And over the wall and into the road, 
When who should come by, with a democrat-load 
Of all the young chattering Lorens alive, 
But Loren, the fatherly, out for a drive." 

"He saw you, then? What did he do? Did he frown?"         

"He just kept nodding his head up and down. 
You know how politely he always goes by. 
But he thought a big thought—I could tell by his eye— 
Which being expressed, might be this in effect: 
'I have left those there berries, I shrewdly suspect,         
To ripen too long. I am greatly to blame.'" 

"He's a thriftier person than some I could name." 

"He seems to be thrifty; and hasn't he need, 
With the mouths of all those young Lorens to feed? 
He has brought them all up on wild berries, they say,         
Like birds. They store a great many away. 
They eat them the year round, and those they don't eat 
They sell in the store and buy shoes for their feet." 

"Who cares what they say? It's a nice way to live, 
Just taking what Nature is willing to give,         
Not forcing her hand with harrow and plow." 

"I wish you had seen his perpetual bow— 
And the air of the youngsters! Not one of them turned, 
And they looked so solemn-absurdly concerned." 

"I wish I knew half what the flock of them know         
Of where all the berries and other things grow, 
Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top 
Of the boulder-strewn mountain, and when they will crop. 
I met them one day and each had a flower 
Stuck into his berries as fresh as a shower;         
Some strange kind—they told me it hadn't a name." 

"I've told you how once not long after we came, 
I almost provoked poor Loren to mirth 
By going to him of all people on earth 
To ask if he knew any fruit to be had         
For the picking. The rascal, he said he'd be glad 
To tell if he knew. But the year had been bad. 
There had been some berries—but those were all gone. 
He didn't say where they had been. He went on: 
'I'm sure—I'm sure'—as polite as could be.         
He spoke to his wife in the door, 'Let me see, 
Mame, we don't know any good berrying place?' 
It was all he could do to keep a straight face. 

"If he thinks all the fruit that grows wild is for him, 
He'll find he's mistaken. See here, for a whim,         
We'll pick in the Mortensons' pasture this year. 
We'll go in the morning, that is, if it's clear, 
And the sun shines out warm: the vines must be wet. 
It's so long since I picked I almost forget 
How we used to pick berries: we took one look round,         
Then sank out of sight like trolls underground, 
And saw nothing more of each other, or heard, 
Unless when you said I was keeping a bird 
Away from its nest, and I said it was you. 
'Well, one of us is.' For complaining it flew         
Around and around us. And then for a while 
We picked, till I feared you had wandered a mile, 
And I thought I had lost you. I lifted a shout 
Too loud for the distance you were, it turned out, 
For when you made answer, your voice was as low         
As talking—you stood up beside me, you know." 

"We sha'n't have the place to ourselves to enjoy— 
Not likely, when all the young Lorens deploy. 
They'll be there to-morrow, or even to-night. 
They won't be too friendly—they may be polite—         
To people they look on as having no right 
To pick where they're picking. But we won't complain. 
You ought to have seen how it looked in the rain, 
The fruit mixed with water in layers of leaves, 
Like two kinds of jewels, a vision for thieves."

More by Robert Frost

Home Burial

He saw her from the bottom of the stairs
Before she saw him.  She was starting down,
Looking back over her shoulder at some fear.
She took a doubtful step and then undid it
To raise herself and look again.  He spoke
Advancing toward her:  'What is it you see
From up there always--for I want to know.'
She turned and sank upon her skirts at that,
And her face changed from terrified to dull.
He said to gain time:  'What is it you see,'
Mounting until she cowered under him.
'I will find out now--you must tell me, dear.'
She, in her place, refused him any help
With the least stiffening of her neck and silence.
She let him look, sure that he wouldn't see,
Blind creature; and awhile he didn't see.
But at last he murmured, 'Oh,' and again, 'Oh.'

'What is it--what?' she said.
					'Just that I see.'

'You don't,' she challenged.  'Tell me what it is.'

'The wonder is I didn't see at once.
I never noticed it from here before.
I must be wonted to it--that's the reason.
The little graveyard where my people are!
So small the window frames the whole of it.
Not so much larger than a bedroom, is it?
There are three stones of slate and one of marble,
Broad-shouldered little slabs there in the sunlight
On the sidehill.  We haven't to mind those.
But I understand:  it is not the stones,
But the child's mound--'

				'Don't, don't, don't, don't,' she cried.

She withdrew shrinking from beneath his arm
That rested on the bannister, and slid downstairs;
And turned on him with such a daunting look,
He said twice over before he knew himself:
'Can't a man speak of his own child he's lost?'

'Not you!  Oh, where's my hat?  Oh, I don't need it!
I must get out of here.  I must get air.
I don't know rightly whether any man can.'

'Amy!  Don't go to someone else this time.
Listen to me.  I won't come down the stairs.'
He sat and fixed his chin between his fists.
'There's something I should like to ask you, dear.'

'You don't know how to ask it.'

					'Help me, then.'

Her fingers moved the latch for all reply.

'My words are nearly always an offense.
I don't know how to speak of anything
So as to please you.  But I might be taught
I should suppose.  I can't say I see how.
A man must partly give up being a man
With women-folk.  We could have some arrangement
By which I'd bind myself to keep hands off
Anything special you're a-mind to name.
Though I don't like such things 'twixt those that love.
Two that don't love can't live together without them.
But two that do can't live together with them.'
She moved the latch a little.  'Don't--don't go.
Don't carry it to someone else this time.
Tell me about it if it's something human.
Let me into your grief.  I'm not so much
Unlike other folks as your standing there
Apart would make me out.  Give me my chance.
I do think, though, you overdo it a little.
What was it brought you up to think it the thing
To take your mother--loss of a first child
So inconsolably--in the face of love.
You'd think his memory might be satisfied--'

'There you go sneering now!'

					'I'm not, I'm not!
You make me angry.  I'll come down to you.
God, what a woman!  And it's come to this,
A man can't speak of his own child that's dead.'

'You can't because you don't know how to speak.
If you had any feelings, you that dug
With your own hand--how could you?--his little grave;
I saw you from that very window there,
Making the gravel leap and leap in air,
Leap up, like that, like that, and land so lightly
And roll back down the mound beside the hole.
I thought, Who is that man?  I didn't know you.
And I crept down the stairs and up the stairs
To look again, and still your spade kept lifting.
Then you came in.  I heard your rumbling voice
Out in the kitchen, and I don't know why,
But I went near to see with my own eyes.
You could sit there with the stains on your shoes
Of the fresh earth from your own baby's grave
And talk about your everyday concerns.
You had stood the spade up against the wall
Outside there in the entry, for I saw it.'

'I shall laugh the worst laugh I ever laughed.
I'm cursed.  God, if I don't believe I'm cursed.'

'I can repeat the very words you were saying.
"Three foggy mornings and one rainy day
Will rot the best birch fence a man can build."
Think of it, talk like that at such a time!
What had how long it takes a birch to rot
To do with what was in the darkened parlor.
You couldn't care!  The nearest friends can go
With anyone to death, comes so far short
They might as well not try to go at all.
No, from the time when one is sick to death,
One is alone, and he dies more alone.
Friends make pretense of following to the grave,
But before one is in it, their minds are turned
And making the best of their way back to life
And living people, and things they understand.
But the world's evil.  I won't have grief so
If I can change it.  Oh, I won't, I won't!'

'There, you have said it all and you feel better.
You won't go now.  You're crying.  Close the door.
The heart's gone out of it:  why keep it up.
Amy!  There's someone coming down the road!'

'You--oh, you think the talk is all.  I must go--
Somewhere out of this house.  How can I make you--'

'If--you--do!'  She was opening the door wider.
'Where do you mean to go?  First tell me that.
I'll follow and bring you back by force.  I will!--'

To Earthward

Love at the lips was touch
As sweet as I could bear;
And once that seemed too much;
I lived on air

That crossed me from sweet things,
The flow of—was it musk
From hidden grapevine springs
Downhill at dusk?

I had the swirl and ache
From sprays of honeysuckle
That when they're gathered shake
Dew on the knuckle.

I craved strong sweets, but those
Seemed strong when I was young;
The petal of the rose
It was that stung.

Now no joy but lacks salt,
That is not dashed with pain
And weariness and fault;
I crave the stain

Of tears, the aftermark
Of almost too much love,
The sweet of bitter bark
And burning clove.

When stiff and sore and scarred
I take away my hand
From leaning on it hard
In grass and sand,

The hurt is not enough:
I long for weight and strength
To feel the earth as rough
To all my length. 

Christmas Trees

A Christmas circular letter
  
  
The city had withdrawn into itself  
And left at last the country to the country;  
When between whirls of snow not come to lie  
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove  
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,   
Yet did in country fashion in that there  
He sat and waited till he drew us out,  
A-buttoning coats, to ask him who he was.  
He proved to be the city come again  
To look for something it had left behind   
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.  
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;  
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place  
Where houses all are churches and have spires.  
I hadn't thought of them as Christmas trees.    
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment  
To sell them off their feet to go in cars  
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,  
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.  
I'd hate to have them know it if I was.      
Yet more I'd hate to hold my trees, except  
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,  
Beyond the time of profitable growth—  
The trial by market everything must come to.  
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.      
Then whether from mistaken courtesy  
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether  
From hope of hearing good of what was mine,  
I said, "There aren't enough to be worth while."
  
"I could soon tell how many they would cut,     
You let me look them over."  
 
                                    "You could look.  
But don't expect I'm going to let you have them."  
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close  
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few     
Quite solitary and having equal boughs  
All round and round. The latter he nodded "Yes" to,  
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,  
With a buyer's moderation, "That would do."  
I thought so too, but wasn't there to say so.   
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,  
And came down on the north. 
 
                                    He said, "A thousand."  
  
"A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?"  
  
He felt some need of softening that to me:       
"A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars."  
  
Then I was certain I had never meant  
To let him have them. Never show surprise!  
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside  
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents    
(For that was all they figured out apiece)—   
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends  
I should be writing to within the hour  
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,  
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools     
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
  
A thousand Christmas trees I didn't know I had!  
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,  
As may be shown by a simple calculation.  
Too bad I couldn't lay one in a letter.       
I can't help wishing I could send you one,  
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.