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Excerpt from Robert Frost’s "The Black Cottage."

A minister, speaking of an old woman:

What are you going to do with such a person?
Strange how such innocence gets its own way.
I shouldn’t be surprised if in this world
It were the force that would at last prevail.
Do you know but for her there was a time
When to please younger members of the church,
Or rather say non-members in the church,
Whom we all have to think of nowadays,
I would have changed the Creed a very little?
Not that she ever had to ask me not to;
It never got so far as that; but the bare thought
Of her old tremulous bonnet in the pew,
And of her half asleep was too much for me.
Why, I might wake her up and startle her.
It was the words ‘descended into Hades’
That seemed too pagan to our liberal youth.
You know they suffered from a general onslaught.
And well, if they weren’t true why keep right on
Saying them like the heathen? We could drop them.
Only–there was the bonnet in the pew.
Such a phrase couldn’t have meant much to her.
But suppose she had missed it from the Creed
As a child misses the unsaid Good-night,
And falls asleep with heartache–how should I feel?
I’m just as glad she made me keep hands off,
For, dear me, why abandon a belief
Merely because it ceases to be true.
Cling to it long enough, and not a doubt
It will turn true again, for so it goes.
Most of the change we think we see in life
Is due to truths being in and out of favour.


  1. Jonathan Webb says

    I've never read this poem before, good stuff. Frost is my favorite. Thanks Matthew.

  2. Matthew,

    Get away from that garbage!

    Poetry is filthy stuff and turns you mind into a rotten pear.

    And Frost is one of the worst offenders… He'll have you thinking larks legislate the world or somesuch!

    You've been warned!


  3. Matthew Lickona says

    Don't I know it.

  4. Anonymous says

    Thanks. I didn't understand it very well, but my friend likes Robert Frost.

  5. Jonathan Webb says

    I'd like to meet your friend because anyone who likes Frost is a friend of mine. We'd sit around with drinks at our elbows and think, "there's nothing better than this." (ref:C.S. Lewis).

    Does your friend look like a character from "Bridget Jones Diary" or "Howard's End""? Is your friend Catholic? Do you go to bookstores together on Saturdays and then have tea?

    Do you go on motor trips? Maybe to Blackpool? How does your friend feel about Mr. Cameron?

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