Everyone knows Fred Rogers (aka Mister Rogers).
But after reading about his background and accomplishments, I wanted to know…how did he become the man he was?
And then I found a copy of one of his letters listing ten books that influenced him.
Here’s the list.
So I’ve been checking them out and now I’m on number #7.
You can read my first blog here.
Not everybody appreciates poetry.
To me, it feels extravagant. It’s something to be savored and reflected on. It’s not like reading a page-turner by James Patterson or Dan Brown—one with a plot that drives you to the completion of the story.
No, poetry is a fine wine that most of us don’t indulge in.
Robert Frost was the winner of four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry (the only poet to have accomplished this). He’s considered by many to be the greatest American poet of the twentieth century.
I’ve read some of his work and I imagine you have to…sometime back in high school or college. Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy evening is probably familiar. Its last four lines are amongst the most quoted lines in poetry.
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
You’ve probably also heard 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 kept 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.
What was it about this poetry that made it inspirational to Rogers?
First, I believe that when you read Frost’s poetry, it can instill a certain quietness to your soul. Rogers was a busy man and probably craved a little of the peace that these poems provided. It reminds me of a quote…
You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes unless you’re busy...
and then you should meditate for an hour.
Secondly, Robert Frost did not get ‘stuck-up’ with his poems. He used a naturally spoken language that was different from what we’re used to in published works. And his poems gave a realistic, gentle depiction of rural life.
Frost said that a poem is “never a put-up job…It begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a loneliness. It is never a thought to begin with.”
Fred Rogers said…
“When I think of Robert Frost's poems, like "The Road Not Taken", I feel the support of someone who is on my side, who understands what life's choices are like, someone who says, "I've been there, and it's okay to go on”.”
Finally, John Durham Jr wrote “…as more and more has been written about Frost, it has become increasingly evident that critics cannot agree on the major themes of Frost’s poetry..”
Just like The Little Prince, different readers have different impressions from Robert Frost’s poetry. Is The Road not Taken speaking about a literal road or is it a moral lesson to ‘follow your own path’?
Fred Rogers seemed to appreciated literature that was modest on the surface…but with more investigation…simple facts, objects and people take on more significance.
William Shakespeare is next... That should be interesting.
PS. Rogers created a show for adults called Old Friends, New Friends in which he interviewed people about their search for meaning in life. One of his guests was Lesley Frost Ballantine, the daughter of Robert Frost and a poet herself.