I love the work of Robert Frost. It probably comes from my New England roots. The pictures that Frost paints with his poetry bring back so many vivid images from growing up in rural New Hampshire.
I own many Frost first editions, and a beautiful portrait of America’s Poet Laurette by renowned photographer Lotte Jacobi (signed by both of them) is one of my prized possessions. So when this bit of news filtered down to me, you now can understand why it got my attention.
The Homer Noble Farm in Ripton, Vermont, where Frost spent more than 20 summers before his death in 1963, was vandalized by a bunch of idiots in December of last year. A 17-year-old former Middlebury College employee decided to hold a party and gave a friend $100 to buy beer. Word spread. Up to 50 people descended on the farm, the revelry turning destructive after a chair broke and someone threw it into the fireplace. When it was over, windows, antiques and china had been broken, fire extinguishers discharged, and carpeting soiled with vomit and urine. Empty beer cans and drug paraphernalia were left behind. The damage was put at $10,600.
Twenty-eight people — all but two of them teenagers — were charged. You’ll never believe their sentence…
Twenty-five of them agreed to undergo two sessions with a Middlebury College professor of poetry and Frost biographer. Jay Parini discussed Frost’s poems “The Road Not Taken” and “Out, Out” seizing on parts with particular relevance to draw parallels to their case.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” he thundered, reciting the opening line of the first poem, which he called symbolic of the need to make choices in life.
“This is where Frost is relevant. This is the irony of this whole thing. You come to a path in the woods where you can say, ‘Shall I go to this party and get drunk out of my mind?”’ he said. “Everything in life is choices.”
Even the setting had parallels, he said:
“Believe me, if you’re a teenager, you’re always in the damned woods. Literally, you’re in the woods — probably too much you’re in the woods. And metaphorically you’re in the woods, in your life. Look at you here, in court diversion! If that isn’t ‘in the woods,’ what the hell is ‘in the woods’? You’re in the woods!”
The ending to this poem is so great…
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I hope for these kids — and for you and me — we choose wisely.