Delaney: Gray November

Nov 22, 2017

One recent night I was late for a concert. But within minutes of my arrival in the hall, an unexpected harmony of words and melody startled me and brought tears to my eyes.

The orchestra and chorus had chosen to collaborate on a poem written by Robert Frost and set to music by Randall Thompson. The poem is only two stanzas and eight lines long but it’s a favorite of many, including me, for its elegant simplicity.

In The Pasture, Frost the poet speaks as the farmer he also is, telling us he’s “going out to clean the pasture spring... to fetch the little calf standing by its mother.” He ends the few short lines with the haunting words: “You come too.”

Those few lines and Thompson’s music stirred feelings in me of why I call this place home.

There are those who would say that November is an unattractive time in Vermont, but I’d be the exception to that, and Robert Frost supports me, for in another poem entitled November he declares his “love of bare November days.”

And bare those days are. In November, leaves that only weeks ago danced in the summer breeze, are now blown down and swept away, leaving the forest empty and bare. When I was young I used to imagine that nature came along in November with a large broom and gathered up all the leaves brought down in October.

And I appreciate the quiet and silence of November. I don’t have an iPhone so the quiet and silence are easily present and enjoyed. And it’s a time of year when the sun is stingy with its light and warmth, leading some to call the days gray. But that’s OK with me. Gray may not be an exciting color, but I like that it’s unpretentious. And that very quality can also speak of strength. It did this for Irina Ratushinskaya, who wrote while she was a Russian dissident in prison, that “gray is the color of hope.”

I’ve heard that some Vermont veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have taken up farming to help heal the scars of war. And I think that Robert Frost would both understand and approve.

So, to those veterans now becoming farmers, I’d like to welcome them home and wish them well with those few words of inclusion at the end of Frost’s poem: “You come too.”