“Gabble-gabble,… brethren,… gabble-gabble!” My window frames forest and heather. I hardly hear the tuneful babble, Not knowing nor much caring whether The text is praise or exhortation, Prayer or thanksgiving, or damnation.
Outside it blows wetter and wetter, The tossing trees never stay still. I shift my elbows to catch better The full round sweep of heathered hill. The tortured copse bends to and fro In silence like a shadow-show.
The parson’s voice runs like a river Over smooth rocks. I like this church: The pews are staid, they never shiver, They never bend or sway or lurch. “Prayer,” says the kind voice, “is a chain That draws down Grace from Heaven again.”
I add the hymns up, over and over, Until there’s not the least mistake. Seven-seventy-one. (Look! there’s a plover! It’s gone!) Who’s that Saint by the lake? The red light from his mantle passes Across the broad memorial brasses.
It’s pleasant here for dreams and thinking, Lolling and letting reason nod, With ugly serious people linking Sad prayers to a forgiving God…. But a dumb blast sets the trees swaying With furious zeal like madmen praying.
The Land of Nod is from Robert Louis Stevenson’s collection, A Child’s Garden of Verses (1905).
From breakfast on through all the day
At home among my friends I stay,
But every night I go abroad
Afar into the Land of Nod.
All by myself I have to go,
With none to tell me what to do—
All alone beside the streams
And up the mountain sides of dreams.
The strangest things are there for me,
Both things to eat and things to see,
And many frightening sights abroad
Till morning in the land of Nod.
Try as I like to find the way,
I never can get back by day,
Nor can remember plain and clear
The curious music that I hear.
A Thing of Beauty Is a Joy Forever was published in 1818 as Endymion, Book I.
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: Its lovliness increases; it will never Pass into nothingness; but still will keep A bower quiet for us, and a sleep Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing A flowery band to bind us to the earth, Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth Of noble natures, of the gloomy days, Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkn’d ways Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all, Some shape of beauty moves away the pall From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon, Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon For simple sheep; and such are daffodils With the green world they live in; and clear rills That for themselves a cooling covert make ‘Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake, Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms: And such too is the grandeur of the dooms We have imagined for the mighty dead; An endless fountain of immortal drink, Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.
Take this kiss upon the brow! And, in parting from you now, Thus much let me avow– You are not wrong, who deem That my days have been a dream; Yet if hope has flown away In a night, or in a day, In a vision, or in none, Is it therefore the less gone? All that we see or seem Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar Of a surf-tormented shore, And I hold within my hand Grains of the golden sand– How few! yet how they creep Through my fingers to the deep, While I weep–while I weep! O God! can I not grasp Them with a tighter clasp? O God! can I not save One from the pitiless wave? Is all that we see or seem But a dream within a dream?
Some say this poem represents the quintessential American expression of free will, but many get its meaning wrong. Frost’s oft-quoted poem was published in his poetry collection, Maintain Interval (1916). Both paths were actually equally worn, the author planned to recreate the scene for others later with a slight twist: He will claim that he took the less-traveled road.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
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.
The Road Not Taken was featured as The Short Story of the Day on Tue, Mar 26, 2019