Stevieslaw: JFK and Robert Frost
After a truly horrible afternoon, here at Stevieslaw, I was leafing through “The Poets Laureate Anthology” and got sidetracked by the introduction by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt. Ms. Schmidt’s introduction deals with poetry and politics, as the poet laureate is the only official government position in the arts in the United States. She starts with Plato tossing poets from his ideal republic because they distracted from rational thought. I got stuck, however, on her description of Robert Frost and JFK. Frost spoke at JFK’s inauguration in 1961. (And in 1963, JFK gave a eulogy to Frost at Amherst College. For those of you with six or seven minutes to spare, it is a remarkable speech).
From Schmidt’s introduction:
I asked Robert Frost to come and speak at the Inauguration…because I felt he had something important to say to those of us who are occupied with the business of Government, that he would remind us that we are dealing with life, the hopes and fears of millions of people…He has said it well in a poem called “Choose Something Like a Star,” in which he speaks of the fairest star in sight and says”
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
so when at times the mob is swayed
to carry praise or blame too far,
we may choose something like a star
to stay our minds on and be staid.
I doubt if either JFK or Frost anticipated our current political climate, which seems a corrosive mix of willful ignorance and self-serving outrage—fueled by big money, but perhaps Frost’s words will help us all to survive the 2016 campaign whole and sane.