Robert Frost - 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


I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth--
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.

Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs.  The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side.  It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors?  Isn't it
Where there are cows?  But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.'  I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself.  I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'


When I see birches 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 
As ice-storms do.  Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain.  They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
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 the withered bracken 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 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
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
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 tree away
Clear to the ground.  He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
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 birches.
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 twig'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 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 birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.