For the Birds Radio Program: Robert Frost

Original Air Date: March 27, 1995

Laura Erickson celebrates the birth anniversary of Robert Frost with a reading of one of his poems about birds. (2:36) Date confirmed.

Audio missing
  • Robert Frost


Yesterday marked the one-hundred and twenty first birthday of Robert Frost. Frost’s poems celebrate the mysteries of nature and the mysteries of people, generous-spirited and almost musical in their lyricism. One of my favorites is one he dedicated to his little daughter, titled, “The Exposed Nest.”

You were forever finding some new play.
So when I saw you down on hands and knees
In the meadow, busy with the new-cut hay,
Trying, I thought, to set it up on end,
I went to show you how to make it stay,
If that was your idea, against the breeze,
And, if you asked me, even help pretend
To make it root again and grow afresh.
But ‘ twas no make-believe with you today,
Nor was the grass itself your real concern,
Though I found your hand full of wilted fem,
Steel-bright June-grass, and blackening heads of clover.
Twas a nest full of young birds on the ground
The cutter bar had just gone champing over
(Miraculously without tasting flesh)
And left defenseless to the heat and light.
You wanted to restore them to their right
Of something interposed between their sight
And too much world at once — could means be found.
The way the nest-full every time we stirred
Stood up to us as to a mother-bird
Whose coming home has been too long deferred,
Made me ask would the mother-bird return
And care for them in such a change of scene,
And might our meddling make her more afraid.
That was a thing we could not wait to learn.
We saw the risk we took in doing good,
But dared not spare to do the best we could
Though harm should come of it; so built the screen
You had begun, and gave them back their shade.
All this to prove we cared. Why is there then
No more to tell? We turned to other things.
I haven’t any memory—have you?—
Of ever coming to the place again
To see if the birds lived the first night through,
And so at last to learn to use their wings.

Robert Frost wrote many other poems about birds. If you feel chilled on a frosty morning, immersing yourself in Frost will warm your soul.