An Unstamped Letter in Our Rural Letter Box

Reader’s Contribution

Sent by: Tamara-Diana Braunstein – a native New Yorker currently teaching at the West African College of the Atlantic, Dakar, The Republic of Senegal

You can read the poem here.

In this little-known poem of Frost’s, the speaker of the poem, who has spent the night in a pasture “beneath a low-slung juniper” and hence refers to himself as a “tramp,” experiences a moment of epiphany despite the dark and the hostile cold of his surroundings.

He looks up into the night sky only to see two stars coalesce before his eyes. This clearly unexpected and awe-inspiring event is the catalyst for the speaker’s own moment of revelation, a moment that is described in decidedly sexual terms for our New England poet:  “Two memories that long had lain/ Now quivered toward each other, lipped/ Together, and together slipped;/ And for a moment all was plain.”

The tramp acknowledges that people may arrive at insights in different ways: some through interaction with “universal space,” some through the work they do, etc. With its strange contradiction of a tramp who uses elevated language, and even bandies about the occasional erudite Latin phrase, the poem continues to address one of the themes preoccupying Frost, namely the insights to be gained from a rigorous formal education versus those stemming from spontaneous interaction with nature; in this sense the poem may also be compared with Whitman’s When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer.

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