« Lovely October | Main | YoYos and Passion »

Robert Frost’s “War Thoughts at Home”

Robert Stilling, a University of Virginia English Ph.D. candidate, has discovered a formerly unpublished poem by Robert Frost entitled ”War Thoughts at Home.” Stilling has written up the story of his find and the background of the poem in an article titled “Between Friends: Rediscovering the War Thoughts of Robert Frost.” Stilling explains

I was digging around the University of Virginia’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. I had been tipped off about a new collection of Frost’s correspondence and rare editions. These books and papers once belonged to Frederic Melcher[. . . .] After just an hour or so sifting through some not-yet-catalogued binders, I found a few letters that set off little scholarly alarm bells. The first was from Charles R. Green, the librarian of the Jones Library in Amherst Massachusetts. In 1947, Green wrote to Melcher, “Knowing [his] long time and intimate friendship with Mr. Frost,” to inquire whether Melcher had any “important” or “interesting” inscriptions that the library might preserve on his behalf. Melcher, demurring, replied:

I would like to think the inscriptions in my books were important, but they’re really not. . . . [A] copy of a “North of Boston” which [Alfred] Harcourt gave me way back in 1918 has an unpublished poem about the war which has not been reprinted, and I am not sure whether he would want me to pass it around, even for filing purposes.

The words “unpublished poem” written in 1947 could easily mean, “published hundreds of times since.” Still, I went back to the desk for the book in question and, within minutes, I had in my hands a puzzle. There, inscribed by Frost, was a poem that began with a “flurry of bird war” and ended with a train of sheds laying “dead on a side track.” What war thoughts were these, and who was this Melcher who had held on to them?

NPR is carrying two stories regarding the find, one about the discovery itself and another about Virginia Quarterly Review more generally. I remember Ted Genoways quite well and am glad he’s helping bring to light such important material.

When I surfed over to VQR to read Stilling’s article, I was surprised to find that Art Spiegelman is publishing a series of comix titled Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@?*! about his development as an artist as an exclusive for VQR.

Hm. end of article