CM construes "mean-spirited" as a literary judgment. It's been over 50 years since I read Frost extensively and intensively, & I have forgotten most details. I remember an impression at about a little past half-way through the Collected Poems: In too many of them Frost was sneering at the reader: he would write a poem "imitating" his own style, & behind the poem was the poet sneering at the reader: I bet you don't know that this poem is a fake. Just an impression, which I wouldn't try to elaborate or defend.
Frost _could_ be pretty mean, but it's a hoot that cr thinks Mending Wall is an instance. As Nancy points out, the neighbor is the speaker of the fatuous line about good fences.
There are lines in 4Q in which the poet comes close to accusing himself of having been mean-spirited --
And last, the rending pain of re-enactment
Of all that you have done, and been; the shame
Of things ill done and done to others' harm
Which once you took for exercise of virtue.
These are the words of the "compound ghost," but that whole section is deliberately vague. The "you" of the last line?????
Poems don't discover or prove "true" propositions; they enact possibilities. Yeats's Irish Airman is very nearly a monster (he kills for fun). But the poem won't let the reader be easily satisfied with merely recognizing that. _One_ (but ONLY one) of the elements of the typist episode in TWL is the meanness of telling the story that way. So in that case meanness is a literary virtue. One need not like either Frost or Eliot (or Yeats) to find their poems powerful.
From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Nancy Gish
Sent: Wednesday, July 09, 2014 9:06 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Is this mean-spirited?
This is not an affirmation of fences. It is a reaction against it and the foolish neighbor. The narrator does not say the line about good neighbors; the neighbor does, and the next lines mock him for it.
Whether that is mean-spirited is not really a question that makes sense unless you identify with the naive neighbor or the sardonic speaker.
>>> Chanan Mittal 07/09/14 8:56 PM >>>
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.'
On Wednesday, July 9, 2014, P <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Frost wasn't a jazz man. He believed in filling in all the spaces. No room for open resonance, so his effects, such as they were, were intellectual. Subtle New England morality. He may well have been better than any other poet of the century. There was just one thing wrong. It was the wrong century. Good fences sell good dope.
My Untermeyer is 1950; it has a lot of Frost but neither of these. I can't seem to find if there was a later edition. Were these poems later than 1950? One would think that easy to find, but I haven't on line. Back to books.
Pound was responsible for getting Frost's first book published. He also predicted that Frost would sneer at his poetry (or something like that).
Frost was an SOB -- but (for example) "Design" and "Provide, Provide" are about as good as anything published in the 20th-c. I don't remember what Frost poems were in the Untermyer anthology. Randall Jarrell wrote some fine pieces on Frost.
Sent: Monday, July 07, 2014 7:48 PM
Subject: Re: Is this mean-spirited?
Perhaps E. was still smarting from what Pound did to TWL. I f it doesn't have a sensory effect, get rid of it. Frost's work was rather periphrastic in a worn out poetical fashion. E. was as hard on himself. Think of all the crumpled scraps of verse strewing 2nd rate stuff across his floor. Indeed, artists can be very mean-spirited. Only their way is right. About art. Politics - another matter. Anyone know what Pound thought of Frost?
>That reminds me of Carrol.
>3 New England's bad mouthing each other.
>>Is this mean-spirited?
>>I think so.
>> Mr Frost seems the nearest equivalent to an English poet,
>> specializing in New England torpor;
>> his verse, it is regretfully said, is uninteresting,
>> and what is uninteresting is unreadable,
>> and what is unreadable is not read.
>> There, that is done.
>>Published in The Dial magazine