Photo of Robert Frost published in 1941
This week: From Commentary on Line 347 to Commentary on Line 431 (pages 123 to 136 in my old paperback).
Commentary to Line 376: The poem Shade is attacking is "Four Quartets" by T.S. Eliot, as I found when I Googled the words that Hazel Shade asks about: "chthonic semipiternal grimpen."
Commentary to Lines 385-386: If our unreliable narrator can be trusted, the most dramatic event in the poem Pale Fire turns on a misunderstanding. Compare with "white fountain" versus "mountain," lines 750-802 in the poem.
Commentary to Line 426
Was it really true once, or is it true now, that every American knows Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," as Kinbote asserts? I don't have that much faith in American schools. (But Eric Wagner, who is an English teacher, says many students know the poem -- see his comment below. So maybe I just don't know.) I encountered the poem when my father pulled out one of his old college textbooks and showed it to me. And I agree with Kinbote that it is "one of the greatest short poems in the English language." For your convenience, here it is:
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Andrew Pitzer, in her The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov, writes that Nabokov did readings with Frost, "once being in the unenviable position of opening for him in Boston." She says Edmund Wilson despised Frost.