Robert Lee Frost was born in San Francisco, but he was named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee. I found that ironic as he is well-known for being a Yankee from New England. In fact, I fell in love with New England from reading Frost’s poems. He romanticized the area and I hope that someday I’ll get to spend time in Vermont and see the walls, the birches, the little towns and farms I have imagined all my life.
In Early Poems of Robert Frost, published by Avenel Books, I read about Frost’s love life. He fell in love with Elinor White in high school. As many young lovers do, they suffered a few breakups. Frost and Elinor attended different colleges. Frost left after only one semester, but Elinor, although Frost wanted her to quit and marry him, continued her studies.
Can’t you imagine the temptation she felt? I had friends who did drop out and married high school sweethearts. Both ended in divorce. Elinor evidently loved Robert and wanted to be with him, but she put her education first.
Frost, in trying to woo her back, had five of his poems, written just for her, privately published and titled Twilight. He took her a copy. But at her school dorm where he surprised her, he was quickly turned away. Elinor was probably very perturbed at Robert for his pressuring her to quit school, and she was not ready to accept his offering. Frustrated and angry, the poet destroyed one of only two copies printed of Twilight.
Frost's actions reminded me of my father’s courting of my mother. My father, so in love with Lois, his sweetheart, traveled many miles to see her. He had no car in 1923, so he got off the train, in her home town, went straight away and bought a marriage license. He planned to surprise Lois. As he approached her house on foot, he saw her sitting on her porch with another man. He turned in his tracks, walked away and ripped up the marriage license.
I am happy to tell you that both the broken-hearted suitors persevered and eventually married their loves.
Why am I first in thy so sad regard,
O Twilight gazing from I know not where?
I fear myself as one more than I guessed!
Am I instead of one so very fair?
That thou art sorrowful and I oppressed?
High in the isolating air,
Over the inattentive moon,
Two birds sail on great wings
And vanish soon.
(And they leave the north sky bare!)
The far-felt solitudes that harbor night,
Wake to the singing of the wood-bird's fright.
By invocation, O wide silentness
Thy spirit and my spirit pass in air!
They are unmemoried consciousness
Nor great nor less!
And thou art here and I am everywhere!
From Early Poems by Robert Frost,
Avenel Books, New York