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The Vagabond


The Vagabond was glad he was sitting next to a window when they announced the lecture had been moved to New Lecture Hall. He didn't mind getting his feet wet in the drifts under that window. He didn't mind the jostle in the rush past Memorial Hall. He was going to hear Robert Frost, and his mind ran back to that night several winters ago when it had last heard him. Mr. Frost had packed the New Lecture Hall full then, too, even with a northeast gale howling outside--the kind of a day they wouldn't go to church on.

And then, there he was on the platform, that kindly smile, a twinkle in his eyes. The Vagabond thought of that wise saying--it's credited to Mrs. Hocking--that when Mr. Frost lectures, he thinks out loud, and his thoughts are worth listening to. He was thinking out loud now, ideas on college, "the four years of shelter from a hard world, the four years of beautiful leisure." The Vagabond remembered that it had been Mr. Frost who had told him that of all the things in college, only two were worthwhile for a person of artistic leanings, "sports and publications." He was following that line now, he was even saying he wouldn't hate college as much if he was to go through it again.

Suddenly the thinking stopped and he read. It was about a woodpile, and at the end of the lines that stood out in their clearness and simplicity of philosophy . . . .

" . . . . I thought that only

Someone who lived in turning to fresh tasks

Could so forget his handwork on which

He spent himself, the labour of his axe. . ."

This "someone" of the woodpile was a cavalier, Mr. Frost was saying. But that's what the poet was, too. He picked up his knowledge anywhere; he turned from task to task. This disturbed the Vagabond. He shouldn't know about things the way a scholar did Yet . . . . .

Here he was making fun of the scholar again. "I've got one poem," Mr. Frost was saying, "that I want to publish by itself. It's very booky. It would only take about a page, and then I would have about 25 pages of notes." The Vagabond was not the only one who thought of "The Waste Land" as the room rippled with laughter. But he liked T. S. Eliot. And Mr. Frost was making fun of him.

The room was still again. He was reading a poem called "Precaution." It was a short one, but it seemed good common sense to the Vagabond as he listened:

"I never dared be radical when young

For fear it would make me conservative when old."

The Vagabond sloshed home and he couldn't stop thinking about Mr. Frost. He was cavalier. He wasn't scholarly. He was almost home-spun. He was definitely provincial, definitely New England. Yet any man with that twinkle in his eye, with that simplicity that couldn't be dismissed must be eminently wise. The Vagabond wishes he could hear Mr. Frost more often. Every time he sees the birch trees he will think of that lecture and the next time the poet of New England comes to Harvard the Vagabond will be there, sitting in the front row.

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