Poetic Justice

Stopping by woods on a possibly snowy evening last December, a large group of young people broke into the Homer Noble Farm in Ripton, Vermont, the former summer residence of the celebrated American poet Robert Frost, and trashed the place.

This was the scene as imagined by New York Times reporter Dan Barry in his January 28 column (the fact that the words “imagined” and “reporter” appear in the same sentence says a lot about Barry’s style):

They had driven or walked a half-mile up a snow-covered lane called Frost Road, then trudged past a large blue sign that explained the historic significance of the farmhouse and the cabin beyond. And now they were entering the coldness of an uninhabited place, carrying with them cases of beer, bottles of rum and a store of ignorance about things that matter here.

Over the next several hours, more than 30 teenagers and young adults toasted their post-adolescence with liquor carrying the added kick of illicitness. By early morning they were gone, leaving a wounded house watched over by winter-stripped birches and sugar maples.

“When it was over,” the AP reports in a follow-up today, “windows, antique furniture, and china had been broken, fire extinguishers discharged, and carpeting soiled. Empty beer cans and drug paraphernalia were left behind. The damage was set at $10,600.”

Whose woods they were the revelers may not have known. But they surely know by now. Twenty-eight people have been charged, most with trespassing; about twenty-five others entered pleas or were allowed to avoid court if they agreed to study up on the late poet laureate. Jay Parini, an English professor at nearby Middlebury College and author of a celebrated biography of Frost, has agreed to school the vandals on the merits and iambic meter of Frost’s work.

“I guess I was thinking that if these teens had a better understanding of who Robert Frost was, and his contribution to our society, that they would be more respectful of other people’s property in the future and would also learn something from the experience,” Addison County State’s Attorney John Quinn said.

According to the AP, Parini intends to open his first session with an appreciation of Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” But I’d recommend another Frost gem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” a good starting point for a talk about corruption and the folly of youth:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

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