Friday, August 28, 2009

Poetry: Generations of Men - Robert Frost

I continue with my weekly Genealogy-related poetry series. This week's poem is Generations of Men, by Robert Frost. Written early in his career, in 1915, the entire poem is in the public domain. However, at 225 lines, I am only going to share a few sections.

The Generations of Men

A GOVERNOR it was proclaimed this time,
When all who would come seeking in New Hampshire
Ancestral memories might come together.
And those of the name Stark gathered in Bow,
A rock-strewn town where farming has fallen off,
And sprout-lands flourish where the axe has gone.
Someone had literally run to earth
In an old cellar hole in a by-road
The origin of all the family there.
Thence they were sprung, so numerous a tribe
That now not all the houses left in town
Made shift to shelter them without the help
Of here and there a tent in grove and orchard.
They were at Bow, but that was not enough:
Nothing would do but they must fix a day
To stand together on the crater’s verge
That turned them on the world, and try to fathom
The past and get some strangeness out of it.


“One ought not to be thrown into confusion
By a plain statement of relationship,
But I own what you say makes my head spin.
You take my card—you seem so good at such things—
And see if you can reckon our cousinship.
Why not take seats here on the cellar wall
And dangle feet among the raspberry vines?”

“Under the shelter of the family tree.”


“On father’s side, it seems, we’re—let me see——”

“Don’t be too technical.—You have three cards.”

“Four cards, one yours, three mine, one for each branch
Of the Stark family I’m a member of.”

“D’you know a person so related to herself
Is supposed to be mad.”

“I may be mad.”

“You look so, sitting out here in the rain
Studying genealogy with me
You never saw before. What will we come to
With all this pride of ancestry, we Yankees?

Read the whole poem

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