Poetry Review: “Looking for a Sunset Bird in Winter” by Robert Frost

(photo by m.a.h. hinton)

(photo by m.a.h. hinton)

Winter has come to the North Country. Last year by this time we were already buried under snow and had much more still to come. This year there has been just two dustings, but the extended cold stayed away long enough that only the second dusting remains… a few inches of frozen-white that crunches beneath our feet.

Frost is a rural poet and a Northern poet. He is a poet of trees and winter, of the four seasons.

Having lived all my but 5 years of my life in lands of four seasons, I wonder sometimes how Frost plays in those places where snow is a rarity, where seasons are merely approximated. Surely something almost-vital is lost, like when I read Derek Walcott.

On a cold December day, Frost seems like just the thing.

Enjoy!

 

Looking for a Sunset Bird in Winter
The west was getting out of gold,
The breath of air had died of cold,
When shoeing home across the white,
I thought I saw a bird alight.

In summer when I passed the place
I had to stop and lift my face;
A bird with an angelic gift
Was singing in it sweet and swift.

No bird was singing in it now.
A single leaf was on a bough,
And that was all there was to see
In going twice around the tree.

From my advantage on a hill
I judged that such a crystal chill
Was only adding frost to snow
As gilt to gold that wouldn’t show.

A brush had left a crooked stroke
Of what was either cloud or smoke
From north to south across the blue;
A piercing little star was through.

 

Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:

 A brush had left a crooked stroke
Of what was either cloud or smoke
From north to south across the blue;
A piercing little star was through.

In the right hands, rhyme can create great, memorable lines. In the wrong hands, it creates the worst poetry possible… and frequently does. In the hands of Frost… rhyme reached its American zenith. Frost is a rhymer by nature. It was in his bones. He did it so well that no American afterwards will really be able to do it again.

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