Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A road less traveled... led to Robert Frost's home

"Because it was grassy and wanted wear..."

The walking path to the Frost Place from the parking lot down the hill.

I had the extreme pleasure a few weeks ago, October 5th, of driving around the White Mountains of New Hampshire and visiting Robert Frost's home in Franconia. What a beautiful setting, which has been credited with providing the inspiration for some of his most beloved poems, including Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. And before stopping by the Frost Place, we lunched in the nearby village of Franconia and I wondered if it were the village of the owner of the woods in the poem. And later, while viewing the woods around Frost's home... were they the woods Frost viewed from his front porch? I sat in an old chair on Frost's porch and viewed the White Mountains and the woods, the same view he likely had a hundred years ago. On a quiet autumn afternoon, and I imagine it's always quiet there, you could almost hear a horse in the distance giving his harness bells a shake... Had a few snowflakes begun to fall, I think I would have even seen the horse and buggy!

This visit provided an enjoyable connection to a writer I have long admired and identified with because of our respective connections to the Granite State. My family history runs deep in smaller mountains about 60 miles southeast of Franconia.

In 1923, my great-grandmother bought a copy of Frost's new book of poems titled New Hampshire, published by Henry Holt & Company, New York, in 1923. It has passed down to me and is one of my most prized possessions--a first edition Robert Frost, a Pulitzer Prize winning book no less. And speaking of first editions, the Frost Place museum had a collection of signed, or inscribed, first editions of many of Frost's works. Seeing such a venerable collection, inscribed in Frost's hand, was quite a thrill for me, as both a bookseller and collector.

And in the middle of them was a familiar cover--the book I admired many years in my grandmother's library (her mother's copy) and for many years now in my home. The museum copy bore a nice inscription from Frost.

My copy is not inscribed by Frost (and of course I wish it were!), but it does bear my great-grandmother's bookplate, which is a nice reminder of my family connection across the generations to New Hampshire--both the state and the words of Robert Frost. Seeing the museum copy of that book I own, I was reminded of the title poem, New Hampshire, and how it ended:
Well, if I have to choose one or the other,
I choose to be a plain New Hampshire farmer
With an income in cash of say a thousand
(From say a publisher in New York City).
It's restful to arrive at a decision,
And restful just to think about New Hampshire.
At present I am living in Vermont.