‘merican Mystic: Robert Frost (1874-1963)

[A simple definition of a mystic is one who seeks to experience God or the Transcendent.  Many of the greatest mystics have shared some of those experiences through poetry.  This is the first a series of posts to share a spiritual poem and several quotations that have to do with some of the great themes of mystical writers and saints.  Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost are just two of what I call ‘merican Mystics.  In this poem, Frost compares life to a journey and writes about a fundamental choice everyone has to make for him or herself.  Where possible, I have embedded a video rendition of the featured poem.  Your suggestions about other ‘merican Mystics are most welcome.]

  The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

A good book has no ending.

I am one who has been acquainted with the night.

But I have promises to keep,
and miles to go before I sleep,
and miles to go before I sleep.

Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.

I dwell with a strangely aching heart
In that vanished abode there far apart.

What we live by we die by.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.

PHOTO by  Walter Albertin.  Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c20740 courtesy of WikkimediaCommons]

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About Paul Wharton

I am a cradle Catholic, a native West Virginian, and a priest since April 24, 1982. Spiritual Direction has made a tremendous difference in my life and I encourage people to try it out. My motto is "Progress not perfection." I am grateful that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
This entry was posted in Quotations, Songs and Poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to ‘merican Mystic: Robert Frost (1874-1963)

  1. WANDA B SIMONS says:

    FACED WITH THE SAME CHOICES, I THINK I WOULD HAVE TAKEN THE TRODDEN PATH BECAUSE IT HAD BEEN CHOSEN BY SO MANY BEFORE ME, CONVINCING ME THAT IT MUST BE THE RIGHT ONE. THERE MUST BE FEWER PEOPLE WHO ARE TRAILBLAZERS AND MORE OF US WHO ARE FOLLOWERS.

  2. Elizabeth D says:

    Yes and no… there is a sense in which I agree. But we have a problem today of the word “mystic” meaning almost anything (even false mystics are called “mystics”, even by Catholics). This doesn’t necessarily have anything to do, for instance, with what Sts Teresa and John of the Cross would have meant by mystical theology. I think I lean toward wanting to be more theologically precise about the meaning of this word, to exclude any meaning of the word “mystic” that has no relationship to the theological virtues, true prayer, and sanctifying grace.

  3. Rick Evans says:

    I love the idea of thinking about Robert Frost as an American Mystic. He didn’t embrace formal religion, but his writing betrayed his inner beliefs. We make too narrow our admirations if we insist that gifted people must fit in to our own personal framework of faith. He knew that the person who’s woods they were had a house in the village.

  4. colleen bryant says:

    thank you, Fr. Paul, for showing the the deeper aspect of a poet I’ve read and memorized for 40+ years.

    go Mountaineers!

  5. Linda Higgs says:

    “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” This has always been one of my favorite poems! During the years of raising a child with significant disabilities it took on a whole new meaning for me, and then became my most favorite poem.
    Thank you for sharing it, and reminding me!

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