Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Notes For January 20th, 2010


This Day In Writing History

On January 20th, 1961, the legendary American poet Robert Frost read a poem at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. Frost had written a poem called Dedication especially for this event. He typed up a clean copy on his typewriter, but the ink on the ribbon was fading.

With the glare of sunlight on the January snow reflected in his eyes, the 87-year-old Frost had trouble reading his faded text and started to stumble over the words. He gave up and recited another poem, one he remembered by heart. The poem was called The Gift Outright:

The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia.
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak.
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.


Frost recited the poem perfectly in a commanding voice. The JFK Library later received Frost's original handwritten manuscript of Dedication, the poem he had planned to read at the inauguration.

Robert Frost died on January 29th, 1963 - nearly two years to the day that he performed at the Kennedy inauguration - from complications following prostate surgery.


Quote Of The Day

"A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness." - Robert Frost


Vanguard Video

Today's video features footage of John F. Kennedy's Presidential inauguration day ceremonies. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Belladonna said...

I think there is something powerful about memorizing stanzas of words that have meaning for us. It is a wonderful way to take on a deeper sort of relationship to the words. It's also great for keeping the mind sharp. I used to be able to recite The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson, but it has been years since I last tried. Maybe I should brush up on it again!

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