I Sold a Poem, Let's Get Married

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I Sold a Poem, Let's Get Married

Tribute to Reinhard Doehl.

'They paid him $15 for THAT?' commented Elektra. 'They must have been desperate for copy.'

I had just read her Robert Frost's first published poem. The title is 'My Butterfly: An Elegy'.

It begins:

Thine emulous fond flowers are dead, too,

And the daft sun-assaulter, he

That frighted thee so oft, is fled or dead:

Save only me

(Nor is it sad to thee!)

Save only me

There is none left to mourn thee in the fields.

Read the rest (if you dare) at 'My Butterfly'.

Frost wrote this poem in 1894. The New York Independent bought it. Admittedly, $15 went a lot farther back then. W*k* claims it was equivalent to $449 today. That exact a figure must be accurate, right?

Anyway, he was so impressed with himself that he immediately proposed marriage to Elinor White. She told him no, she was planning to finish college first. So he went off on a trip to the Great Dismal Swamp, which sounds like something a budding poet might do when rejected by his lady love.

She married him once she graduated. I think a biography of Elinor White Frost would be an interesting read. She put up with a lot. Once, he moved the whole family to England as the result of a coin toss. It was that or Vancouver. They had six kids, and she never divorced him. Lord knows why.

For Europeans: Robert Frost was a very famous poet in the US. He got four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry. Everybody quotes him. The kids sing his poems set to music in choir, and everybody pretends they're edifying. I do not find him edifying, as you might guess.

Here are some people singing his most famous poem, 'The Road Not Taken'.

Note the pomposity. Drink in the portentous quality.

Frost meant it as a JOKE.

Frost and his English buddy poet Edward Thomas used to go rambling in the countryside. Thomas was one of those people - have you ever known one? I have - who could never, ever make up his mind. He'd always say, 'We should have taken the other road.' Hence the poem.

Frost, by now living in New Hampshire, wrote Thomas that he'd read the poem to a bunch of college students, and the poem had been 'taken pretty seriously...despite doing my best to make it obvious by my manner that I was fooling...mea culpa.'

Students have now got so tired of Robert Frost that they make mock.

Choirs of kids on buses have been known to belt out 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening' to the unsuitable tune of 'Hernando's Hideaway'. (I suspect Frost might have enjoyed that.)

The Muppet Show did this once. They remain the champions.

(If you really want the original poem, okay, here. Don't say I never gave you anything.)

Now I will go back to my research, which is to determine whether 'The Road Not Taken' had unintended and tragic consequences for Edward Thomas. In the meantime, consider yourselves edified.

Dmitri Gheorgheni Archive

Dmitri Gheorgheni

07.06.21 Front Page

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