Friday, February 11, 2011

Good-by and Keep Cold

Good-by and Keep Cold

by Robert Frost
(From Harper’s Magazine, July 1920)

THIS saying good-by on the edge of the dark
And cold to an orchard so young in the bark
Reminds me of all that can happen to harm
An orchard away at the end of the farm
All winter, cut off by a hill from the house.
I don’t want it girdled by rabbit and mouse,
I don’t want it dreamily nibbled for browse
By deer, and I don’t want it budded by grouse.
(If certain it wouldn’t be idle to call
I’d summon grouse, rabbit, and deer to the wall
And warn them away with a stick for a gun.)
I don’t want it stirred by the heat of the sun.
(We made it secure against being, I hope,
By setting it out on a northerly slope.)
No orchard’s the worse for the wintriest storm;
But one thing about it, it mustn’t get warm.
“How often already you’ve had to be told,
Keep cold, young orchard. Good-by and keep cold.
Dread fifty above more than fifty below.” 

I have to be gone for a season or so.
My business awhile is with different trees,
Less carefully nourished, less fruitful than these,
And such as is done to their wood with an ax—
Maples and birches and tamaracks.
I wish I could promise to lie in the night
And think of an orchard’s arboreal plight
When slowly (and nobody comes with a light)
Its heart sinks lower under the sod.
But something has to be left to God.

I am not an orchard. I am MORE THAN READY for fifty above. Bring it on, Spring, bring it on.

You can buy a $.99 mp3 file of Lesley Frost reading this poem. Lesley Frost was the second child of Robert and Elinor Frost.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted this week by Carol at Rasco from RIF.


  1. :-) Yes, I'm definitely ready for Spring now too. The snowdrops are finally out, so it must be on its way. Lovely to read a poem addressed to an orchard, though!

  2. Sigh...snow drops! It's been so long since we've even seen the grass...

    Maybe our "heat wave" (above freezing, finally) that's coming in the next few days will bring out some south-facing harbingers of spring for us, too!

    Happy Spring to you, though! I wouldn't begrudge that to anyone!!

  3. All I can say is, happy thaw! It's supposed to warm up here, too.

  4. I'm with you Mary Lee on the weariness of winter/wishing for Spring. I think we should all address an orchard from time to time. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Such a lovely poem (hadn't seen it before).

    Amen! on the wishing for spring -- its warmth, green, and spirit of promise.

  6. One of my high school English teachers was a Robert Frost aficionado, and I think we had to read every poem ever written by him, including this one.

    I'm a creature for summer climes, myself, and I really disliked the imagery of longing for a little more winter.

    But, it was explained to me that the poem is really about a farmer who is hoping for spring... just that it won't thaw too soon, as it hurts the crops. If they start to bud, and then there's another cold snap, it really hurts the yields at harvest.

    So, the poem is about a man hoping that the elements aren't against him.

  7. Anonymous1:15 PM

    This makes me feel a hint of the cold you must be feeling all too much of. I hope it warms up for you soon.

    Here in California I am wimping out at 60 in the early morning. For you that would be a heat wave, I know. :)

  8. I love the snow. I don't like driving in it, but I love the way it looks. Of course, here in Colorado our snow melts fast, so we have to enjoy it while we can before it turns to a slushy mess (as you know)!

    Thanks for reminding us all of classic poetry and for finding such amazing pictures to accompany them!

  9. Such a great poem. Love the ending. Frost is a master, no question. He is the first poet I loved and I still find him impressive.

  10. Our whole yard is being "dreamily nibbled for browse/By deer," and it's driving me crazy. Because of all the snow, they don't have enough to eat, and we often have a heard of nine eating away at our trees and plants. We're not even in the country!

    I'm with you, Mary Lee, 50 above would be just fine.

  11. A great poem to keep warm this very
    cold days.,.
    thanks for sharing.


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