Las Vegas, NV
May 20, 2020
Garrison Keillor hits Las Vegas with a new solo show!
April 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor comes to the Rochester Civic Theatre for a night of stories, songs, poetry, and humor. Tickets $50 and up
February 19, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 2 of 2. Tickets $30+
February 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 1 of 2. Tickets $30+
by Robert Frost
Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.
The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.
And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question ‘Whither?’
Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?
“Reluctance” by Robert Frost. Public domain.(buy now)
It was on this day in 1894 that Robert Frost‘s first poem was published (books by this author). It was called “My Butterfly,” and it was published in The Independent. But when it came out, Frost was not celebrating — he was depressed and lost in the Dismal Swamp, a 20-mile stretch of bog on the border between Virginia and North Carolina.
Frost graduated from his small high school in Lawrence, Massachusetts, at the top of his class. His graduation speech was praised in a local paper, which said that Frost “combined in a rare degree poetic thought, a fine range of imagination, and devotion to a high ideal.” He won a scholarship to Dartmouth. His co-valedictorian was his high school sweetheart, Elinor White, who was going on to St. Lawrence University. The summer after graduation, they were engaged, and Frost had high hopes of his Dartmouth experience and life with Elinor.
But Frost did not like Dartmouth. He left in November and went back home, where his intelligent and gentle mother, a schoolteacher, was struggling to keep her students under control. Frost took over some of his mother’s classes, and with the aid of a paddle, quickly got the classroom back in order. He also worked at the sawmill, at a farm, and as a journalist, but none of these jobs lasted very long. The general consensus in Lawrence was that Frost had failed to live up to his potential.
Frost worried that Elinor was beginning to feel the same way. She was thoroughly enjoying college life, making lots of friends, and as far as Frost was concerned, spending far too much time with other young men. Frost wrote her a despairing poem, which began: “The day will come when you will cease to know, / The heart will cease to tell you; sadder yet, / Tho’ you say o’er and o’er what once you knew, / You will forget, you will forget.” He also referred to her in this poem as a “lost soul.” Elinor was not pleased by the poem, and things became tense between them. He wanted to get married immediately, but she insisted on waiting until she had finished college, and suggested that she would be more enthusiastic about marriage if he would follow through on all his talk of becoming a poet and actually get something published.
Finally, Frost wrote “My Butterfly,” and he was proud of it. He sent it off for publication, and in the meantime, in an attempt to impress Elinor, he had “My Butterfly” and four other poems made into a small book printed on handmade paper, bound in leather, with the title, Twilight, stamped in gold. He made two copies. He showed up unexpectedly at St. Lawrence University to deliver one to Elinor, but she did not take the surprise drop-in very well — she was not allowed to have male visitors to the room where she was boarding — and she sent him away. He tore up his own copy of Twilight on the way home.
Then he got a letter from Elinor that he interpreted to mean that she was ending their engagement. He was sure she was in love with someone else. Totally depressed, he sneaked out of his house and took a train to the most depressing place he could think of: the Dismal Swamp. Frost had read about the Dismal Swamp in poems by Thomas Moore and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who made use of its fitting name for their gloomy poems.
Frost took a train to Boston, another to New York, and a steamer to Norfolk, Virginia. From there, he headed straight into the heart of the swamp. It was dark, and Frost was afraid of the dark; and even in the light the swamp was treacherous — thick with vines and briar, it sheltered rattlesnakes, water moccasins, and quicksand. He walked 10 miles into the depths of the swamp, not caring whether he lived or died.
But at some point, he decided to live. He came upon a group of duck hunters, and they gave him a lift back to civilization. By the time he made it back to Lawrence three weeks later, “My Butterfly” had been published. He wrote a thank-you letter to Susan Hayes Ward, the literary editor at the Independent. He wrote: “Four weeks ago and until Friday last I was in Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland, very liberally and without address, so that I have not been aware of my own doings as expressed in the phrase I ‘published a poem.’ That is the point of points: — I thank you tardily because I for my part have been out of time a little while, and thank you because you and not I published a poem, a work that certainly requires qualities I lack. And the poem does look well — don’t you think it does?”
Cheered by the publication and by his newfound will to live, Frost continued to write. A year later, in December of 1895, Robert Frost and Elinor White were married.
On this day in 1731, a group of young men in Philadelphia pooled their money to set up the first library in America. The idea for a library came about when Benjamin Franklin started a club with about 50 friends so they could debate about politics, morality, and the natural sciences. The group was called the Club of Mutual Improvement. When they disagreed about a topic, they liked to consult books. But books were expensive in those days, so they combined their resources to found a subscription library. They called it the Philadelphia Library Company. The rule was that any “civil gentleman” could browse through the volumes, but only subscribers were allowed to borrow them. The library expanded over the years. Later it moved to Carpenter’s Hall, the building where the First Continental Congress met in 1774. Franklin said that after the library opened, “reading became fashionable, and our people, having no public amusements to divert their attention from study, became better acquainted with books.”
It’s the birthday of the woman who said, “In a weak moment, I have written a book.” That’s Margaret Mitchell (books by this author), born on this day in 1900, and that book is the epic novel Gone With the Wind. (1937). It’s one of the best-selling American novels of all time, having sold more than 30 million copies.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®