Rough Draft, Lost, Not Forgotten

By now, everyone has heard about the latest Robert Frost poem found at the University of Virginia. “War Thoughts at Home” was published in Virginia Quarterly Review’s Fall 2006 Issue. Upon hearing the news about the once unknown poem, I rushed to the bookstore to pick up the issue. I’ve had the volume for almost a year now, though it has been in and out of my possession on occasion. I’ve read the poem many times, like I’ve read many of Robert Frost’s poems in the past.

Unlike many of his poems, it would seem this one is not finished. It is not as polished as some of his other works. But beyond that, the voice of the poem is not sure and steady. “So someone heeds from within/This flurry of bird war,/” Who is within watching? The next lines indicate it is a woman, but she seems ambivalent about watching given the sewing in her lap. It is the birds in the fifth stanza who are adamant their fight is not over like the war in France. The poem is dated January 1918, which suggests it was written during World War I, though the war ended that same year.

The thoughts of the birds now migrate to the woman who drifts into thoughts of camps where soldiers are groomed. My favorite and most haunting lines come at the end of the poem. “Shed behind shed in train/Like cars that long have lain/dead on a side track.//” Not only do these lines resemble the Frost I know and love, but also they signify a greater understanding about war and that it is never truly over. In fact, the lines of sheds mirroring train cars could allude to the later transportation of Jews to concentration camps during World War II. However, the poem was left as is in a book, so whether Frost had an epiphany or vision of the future will never be known.

****Here’s a little article from VQR that could shed light on this poem and topic for my readers.