Tuesday, January 19, 2016

the last book I ever read (David Orr's The Road Not Taken, excerpt three)

from The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong by David Orr:

It’s important to remember that while “The Road Not Taken” isn’t strictly “about” Edward Thomas, it was, at least, strongly associated with Thomas by Frost. And as the scholar Katherine Kearns rightly notes, Frost “by all accounts was genuinely fond of Thomas.” Indeed, “Frost’s protean ability to assume dramatic masks never elsewhere included such a friend as Thomas, whom he loved and admired, tellingly, more than ‘anyone in England or anywhere else in the world.’” If you admire someone more than anyone “anywhere else in the world,” you probably aren’t going to link that person with a poem whose speaker comes off as either obnoxious or enfeebled. But you might well connect him with an exquisitely sensitive and self-aware speaker who thinks of himself—probably incorrectly—as fundamentally weak, and likely to behave in ways that will cause others to lose patience. “But you know already how I waver,” Thomas wrote to Frost in early 1914, and “on what wavering things I depend.” This is the figure who emerges between the two more common interpretations of “The Road Not Taken,” and his doubting yet ardent sensibility is the secret warmth of the poem. This is what is, or can be, “absolutely saving.”

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