Poetry as Prayer: Robert Frost
WELCOME TO TODAY'S WORSHIP SERVICE BY THE SWEDENBORGIAN ON-LINE COMMUNITY
August 1, 2010
POEMS AS PRAYERS:
Light a candle
FROM THE BIBLE
23Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
27"Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name!"
Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." 29The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
30Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." 33He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
34The crowd spoke up, "We have heard from the Law that the Christ[f] will remain forever, so how can you say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this 'Son of Man'?"
35Then Jesus told them, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light." When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.
Arcana Coelestia (Potts) n. 6476
6476. Whenever I have been reading the Lord's prayer, I have plainly perceived an elevation toward the Lord which was like an attraction, and at the same time my ideas were open, and from this there was effected a communication with some societies in heaven; and I noticed that there was an influx from the Lord into every detail of the prayer, thus into every idea of my thought that was from the meaning of the things in the prayer. The influx was effected with inexpressible variety, that is, not the same at one time as another; hence also it was made evident how infinite are the things contained in the prayer, and that the Lord is present in every one of them.
[note: for video or audio of the message below, see the Worship Page.]
Poetry as Prayer: Robert Frost
Ah, August in Kennnnebunk, Maine!
I love Saturday mornings. Farmers from the area gather down town for an outdoor market of fresh vegetables, maple syrup, and home baked goodies. The main area is closed to cars, so kids and dogs are happily romping and neighbors chatting with each other.
When I was in town this morning for my fresh veggies, I noticed a big sign from one of the local churches about a morning church camp for a week in August; it was called an “Exploration.” When I was growing up, we had events like that in the summer that we called ‘Vacation Bible School.” I have such fond memories of those summer mornings! I’d get to wear shorts and t-shirt to the church, and the teacher would come in with a arm load of books and projects. We always had a fun story, a craft project, some singing, and of course snacks. I especially remember the cookies and Kool-aid!
Still, in my mind, is the idea of summer as a relaxec and enjoyable time for learning through spiritual stories. Our theme for August is “Poetry as Prayer: Poets & Swedenborg.” We’ll be experiencing poetry as a restful form of worship, by reading poets who were/ are Swedenborgians or were/are influenced by Swedenborg.
Today, our poet is Robert Frost. I have some happy church camp songs for us, and a story. Then you can have a quiet meditative time listening to or reading poems. You’re on your own for cookies and Kool-aid!
Robert Lee Frost was born march 26th, 1874, in San Francisco. He was named after General Robert E. Lee. His father, William Prescott Frost, was a Confederate, a Universalist, and an active alcoholic.
The Frosts had not been in San Francisco for long. Mrs. Frost was Presbyterian, but not finding the right worship community with Presbyterian churches. She enjoyed books of UU minister Thomas Starr King, so they attended King’s former San Francisco congregation for a while. She started reading Emerson, and soon found herself reading Swedenborg.
Frost’s mother joined the Swedenborgian church in San Francisco. When Robert was in 2nd grade, she had him baptized, by Rev. John Doughty.
Not long afterwards, he started hearing voices. When he told his mother, she said that he had "second sight," as she did. She encouraged him not to talk about it with others.
in 1885, his father died of TB, and Rev. Doughty did the service. Then Robert, with his mother and little sister, moved to Lawrence, MA. to live with his father's family. He hated the discipline of the Frost household. He started attending Universalist services with his grandparents.
His mother moved the children to Salem, N.H. to teach school there.
And so Robert grew to adulthood. He attended Harvard briefly, and fell in love fellow student, Elinor White. In 1895, when he was a reporter in Lawrence, they got married.
Neither of them belonged to a church, but Rev. John Haynes, the Salem Swedenborian minister, performed the ceremony December, 19, 1895. The service was held in the school where Robert’s mother had her private school and Elinor was a teacher. The Lawrence Swedenborgians met in the same rented downtown office space, and the Frost family also lived there. Most of the guests were Swedenborgians.
In 1923, he wrote: "What is my philosophy? That is hard to say. I was brought up a Swedenborgian. I am not a Swedenborgian now. But there is a good deal of it that's left with me. I am a mystic. I believe in symbols. I believe in change and in changing symbols. Yet that does not take me away from the kindly contact of human beings. No, it brings me closer to them."
Frost died Jan. 29, 1963. He died on Swedenborg's birthday!
His daughter Lesley asked the Unitarian minister Palfrey Perkins to conduct a service.
Some of Swedenborg's concepts that are in Frost's poetry include: Love as the essence of reality, correspondences, and a process of spiritual growth.
Below are some poems by Frost.
Listen to them as prayers.
The Road Not Taken
Nothing Gold can Stay
The Mending Wall
Here are others:
A Prayer in Spring
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love,
To which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends he will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.
'Twas something we knew all about to begin with
And needn't have fared into space like his master
To find 'twas the effort, the essay of love.
Back out of all this now too much for us,
Back in a time made simple by the loss
Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,
There is a house that is no more a house
Upon a farm that is no more a farm
And in a town that is no more a town.
The road there, if you’ll let a guide direct you
Who only has at heart your getting lost,
May seem as if it should have been a quarry—
Great monolithic knees the former town
Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.
And there’s a story in a book about it:
Besides the wear of iron wagon wheels
The ledges show lines ruled southeast-northwest,
The chisel work of an enormous Glacier
That braced his feet against the Arctic Pole.
You must not mind a certain coolness from him
Still said to haunt this side of Panther Mountain.
Nor need you mind the serial ordeal
Of being watched from forty cellar holes
As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins.
As for the woods’ excitement over you
That sends light rustle rushes to their leaves,
Charge that to upstart inexperience.
Where were they all not twenty years ago?
They think too much of having shaded out
A few old pecker-fretted apple trees.
Make yourself up a cheering song of how
Someone’s road home from work this once was,
Who may be just ahead of you on foot
Or creaking with a buggy load of grain.
The height of the adventure is the height
Of country where two village cultures faded
Into each other. Both of them are lost.
And if you’re lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.
Then make yourself at home. The only field
Now left’s no bigger than a harness gall.
First there’s the children’s house of make-believe,
Some shattered dishes underneath a pine,
The playthings in the playhouse of the children.
Weep for what little things could make them glad.
Then for the house that is no more a house,
But only a belilaced cellar hole,
Now slowly closing like a dent in dough.
This was no playhouse but a house in earnest.
Your destination and your destiny’s
A brook that was the water of the house,
Cold as a spring as yet so near its source,
Too lofty and original to rage.
(We know the valley streams that when aroused
Will leave their tatters hung on barb and thorn.)
I have kept hidden in the instep arch
Of an old cedar at the waterside
A broken drinking goblet like the Grail
Under a spell so the wrong ones can’t find it,
So can’t get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn’t.
(I stole the goblet from the children’s playhouse.)
Here are your waters and your watering place.
Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.
Online text © 1998-2010 Poetry X. All rights reserved.
From Steeple Bush | Holt, 1947
My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing dear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.
Close the Bible
For more information on Robert Frost:
The Mystic Lens of Robert Frost: Bent Rays from Swedenborg, by Dorothy Judd Hall
UU Sermon: The Religious Sensibilities of Robert Frost
Website with poetry and biography