150 Years of the Atlantic May 2006

Nature & Environment

This is the fourth in a series of archival excerpts in honor of the magazine's 150th anniversary. This installment is introduced by Bill McKibben, the author of The End of Nature, Wandering Home and the forthcoming Deep Economy.
The Sound of Trees
August 1915
By Robert Frost

Though Frost’s first submission to The Atlantic was rejected, he went on to become a regular contributor, ultimately publishing thirty-one of his poems in the magazine. This poem, like much of his verse, paid homage to the natural world while teasing out hidden, sometimes darker, meanings.

I wonder about the trees:
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice,
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.

Volume 116, No. 2, p. 224

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