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Robert’s Frost voice heard at SUNY Plattsburgh

Robert Frost in 1954
Photo provided by SUNY Plattsburgh
Robert Frost in 1954

Robert Frost: "Forgive Oh Lord my little jokes on thee and I’ll forgive thy great big one on me!"

Frost often visited Plattsburgh to visit his friend, then-SUNY Plattsburgh Dean of Students Dr. Edward Redcay. During his summer visits, Frost would give readings on campus, some of which were recorded.

Chair and Professor of English Dr. Anna Battigelli said Frost would often speak conversationally before launching into a reading.

“His poems always sound conversational as if we are hearing the familiar voice of a friend sharing observations or telling a story.”

“I was thinking how many educational things have crept into my poems. For instance The Mending Wall poem. And in that there’s a line that I never would have put in if I had never been a teacher, hadn’t been a troubled teacher! See if you can catch it. No you won’t catch it until I point it out. But I’ll point it out.

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 build 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’d say it for himself.

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again ''Good fences make good neighbors."

“The line that I got out of being a teacher is you know I’d rather he’d said it for himself. All the years that I’ve ached that some of the students would say something for themselves that I didn’t put into their heads.”

Journalism Professor Dr. Ron Davis made copies of some of Robert Frost’s 1958 and 1959 readings from Special Collections. He recently had Professor Tim Clukey digitize and restore his copies. But, Davis notes, the remainder are missing.

“When I came here it was still in the Special Collections, one of the tapes. And I recorded from that tape to play in my class. I had a poetry class and what we heard was from my tape of the disappeared tapes that we had at the library.”

“This is An Objection to Being Stepped On:

At the end of the row

I stepped on the toe

Of an unemployed hoe.

It rose in offense

And struck me a blow

In the seat of my sense.

It wasn't to blame

But I called it a name.

And I must say it dealt

Me a blow that I felt

Like malice prepense.

You may call me a fool,

But was there a rule

The weapon should be

Turned into a tool?

And what do we see?

The first tool I step on

Turned into a weapon.

Does that rhyme?"

SUNY Plattsburgh "An Evening with Robert Frost"