For the Birds Radio Program: Robert Frost

Original Air Date: March 28, 1994

Robert Frost was a birdwatcher as well as a poet. 3:08 (This is the date on the placeholder, but the script could have been for March 25, too)

Audio missing


(Recording of an American Crow)

Saturday was Robert Frost’s birthday–he was born 120 years ago. Although Frost was born in San Francisco, he spent much of his life in rural New England, paying attention to the sounds of birds as well as to the sounds of words. Frost seemed to particularly enjoy crows, the subject of his poem “Dust of Snow.”

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

(Recording of an American Crow)

A crow does almost all the talking in another poem, “The Last Word of a Bluebird,” which Frost wrote to his little daughter:

As I went out a Crow
In a low voice said, “Oh,
I was looking for you.
How do you do?
I just came to tell you
To tell Lesley (will you?)
That her little Bluebird
Wanted me to bring word
That the north wind last night
That made the stars bright
And made ice on the trough
Almost made him cough
His tail feathers off.
He just had to fly!
But he sent her Good-by,
And said to be good,
And wear her red hood,
And look for skunk tracks
In the snow with an ax–
And do everything!
And perhaps in the spring
He would come back and sing.”

(Recording of an Eastern Bluebird)

It’ll be another few weeks before Ovenbirds start calling up here. Their loud “Teacher Teacher” song rings through the North Woods all summer.

(Recording of an Ovenbird)

Robert Frost wrote a poem to “The Oven Bird”:

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wod bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past,
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

(Recording of an Ovenbird)

Robert Frost didn’t limit his attentions to the finest singers and the most intelligent of birds. He wrote this poem to “A Minor Bird”:

I have wished a bird would fly away,
And not sing by my house all day;
Have clapped my hands at him from the door
When it seemed as if I could bear no more.
The fault must partly have been in me.
The bird was not to blame for his key.
And of course there must be something wrong
In wanting to silence any song.

(Recording of an American Crow)

That was Robert Frost, this is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”