Peter and I recently spent two days near the New Hampshire coast, then drove back home by way of Derry, to see The Robert Frost Farm. Like the Frost Place in Franconia and the Stone House near Bennington, Vermont, which we visited earlier this year, this farmhouse was full of inspiration. Robert and Elinor Frost raised four children here from 1900 to 1911, on a farm his grandfather promised could be his if he stayed ten years. About forty poems were written at or inspired by the site, where he struggled for publication and tended chickens and peach and apple trees.
Our knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide brought us past the double privy, then the laundry room, and into the kitchen, where details had been overlooked by the oldest daughter, Lesley Frost Ballantine. There was a Glenwood stove and Royal Doulton china, which many neighbors considered an affectation – steel plates should be good enough. The old tree that reflected many moods as Frost looked from the kitchen table is gone, but a new one has been planted.
Upstairs, we stood by a crib holding a small white nightgown that surely hadn’t been worn in a long, long time. Looking out toward the stairway, our guide spoke of Frost’s moving “Home Burial,” and the argument a bereaved couple have on the stairs. Neither Robert nor Elinor Frost may have ever fully recovered from the loss of a young son. There were two beds and two rooms for four children, and their daughter Lesley reported they shared by who was getting along with whom that day. Apparently Robert Frost’s parents celebrated their Scottish ancestry and literature by reciting ballads or reading at his bedtime, a tradition he continued with his children. His work of choice was Macbeth.
We stepped into the garret with slanting ceilings and saw the mattress on the floor. Here our guide spoke of “The Death of the Hired Man,” another poem that’s mostly dialogue, and which includes the line: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there,/They have to take you in.”
Frost said a scythe and a pen were his favorite tools. Peter and I walked on a path through the woods and around the old hayfield. Here’s our rainy-day view toward the house, which looks much prettier than it did in the 1950s when the owners filled it with broken-down cars, calling it Frosty Acres Automobile Graveyard. I was so shocked by the photos I didn’t get the Frost reference until Peter pointed it out. I suppose some of those neighbors were still talking about his high-faulting dinnerware. His daughter asked the state of New Hampshire for help buying it back and restoring it, which they did. She did her part staying in a trailer and overseeing details such as locating wallpaper and making sure that the washboard in the laundry room was made of glass and not steel, just like the one her mother used.
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