Robert Frost

(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963 / San Francisco)

A Brook In The City


The farmhouse lingers, though averse to square
With the new city street it has to wear
A number in. But what about the brook
That held the house as in an elbow-crook?
I ask as one who knew the brook, its strength
And impulse, having dipped a finger length
And made it leap my knuckle, having tossed
A flower to try its currents where they crossed.
The meadow grass could be cemented down
From growing under pavements of a town;
The apple trees be sent to hearth-stone flame.
Is water wood to serve a brook the same?
How else dispose of an immortal force
No longer needed? Staunch it at its source
With cinder loads dumped down? The brook was thrown
Deep in a sewer dungeon under stone
In fetid darkness still to live and run --
And all for nothing it had ever done
Except forget to go in fear perhaps.
No one would know except for ancient maps
That such a brook ran water. But I wonder
If from its being kept forever under,
The thoughts may not have risen that so keep
This new-built city from both work and sleep.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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  • Ruben Rivera (4/8/2013 3:23:00 PM)

    Frost's A Brook in the City is not about the Nazi holocaust. If one has strong connections to and/or empathy to the holocaust victims of WWII, they are of course free to relate to the poem that way. However, my personal goal is to understand as much as possible what an author's original intent, and Frost could not have meant the holocaust because (as one commentator noted) this poem was written in 1924: before Hitler's rise to power and WWII and the holocaust. I really like this poem because I too love nature and lament how we moderns can so pursue progress that we fail to note its costs to the natural world as well as (perhaps) more human-connected ways of life. Only those who live through such transitions even know, for example, that there was once something like a farmhouse or brook where now are only concrete canyons and sewage systems, malls, car-choked streets and the like. Those generations that grow up after the fact cannot imagine any other world, and may not like when the older set laments where things are headed. But in fact there were worlds different from this one, and this one may not be the better one. (Report) Reply

  • * Sunprincess * (10/25/2012 9:21:00 PM)

    wow this is a sad write..the brook and apple trees
    was destroyed...two life giving sources..shame on
    whoever did this.. :) (Report) Reply

  • Hilary Lambert (1/1/2010 4:35:00 PM)

    Hi
    Wow you all got pretty riled up about Dimitri's interesting interpretation. However the poem was first published in a 1924 collection, pre-dating the camps. I think it really may be about a brook being polluted and buried by city growth. But Dimitri, your interpretation will haunt me. (Report) Reply

  • Matt Schuster (11/22/2009 10:01:00 PM)

    Hey Adolf-I wish it was your family getting killed you prick
    Jake-Yours too
    You people have no respect
    How do you hate on Jews because we're prosperous and wealthy?
    You have no one else to blame but yourselves for being bitter failures. (Report) Reply

  • Jake Simasko (6/24/2009 12:45:00 PM)

    I completely agree with you Mr. Hitler, I remember those days, all those jews that died cause they were stupid fags (Report) Reply

  • Joe Osullivan (5/25/2009 8:51:00 PM)

    I find the depth of Frost's poems in the fact that it seems to me that he is at the same time referring very observing a very natural event in New England farm life, an observation on our relationship with the wild and old ways, and alluding to our relationship with that which is wild and and natural in our own souls and psyches. How we age, what we fear, how we relate to death and other people. Each poem can be read quite well in any of these ways. (Report) Reply

  • Andrew Hoellering (2/24/2009 2:38:00 PM)

    This poem can be read alongside Hyla Brook as a fine example of Frost's empathy with nature, which we exploit at our cost. As always, Frost was way ahead of his time. (Report) Reply

  • Kentucky Refugee (7/4/2008 2:25:00 PM)

    I love this poem. Rather than speaking of the Holocaust, I believe that it speaks of the power and strength of living an authentic life not ruled by fear. The metaphor of a constant stream of true self which underlies cement walks of civilization which would keep us from our true destiny is one that I find very compelling. (Report) Reply

  • Dimitri Boukas (3/16/2008 10:20:00 PM)

    I honestly hate this poem. This poem brings me back to the time of the Holocaust. Jews were being burned alive and incarcerated while the Germans just sat back watched this disaster happen. Please remove this poem from this website. (Report) Reply

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