Thoughts on “In a Disused Graveyard” by Robert Frost

Source:Wikipedia

The living come with grassy tread
To read the gravestones on the hill;
The graveyard draws the living still,
But never any more the dead.

The verses in it say and say:
‘The ones who living come today
To read the stones and go away
Tomorrow dead will come to stay.’

So sure of death the marbles rhyme,
Yet can’t help marking all the time
How no one dead will seem to come.
What is it men are shrinking from?

It would be easy to be clever
And tell the stones: Men hate to die
And have stopped dying now forever.
I think they would believe the lie.

I find this poem fascinating on several levels. First, the imagery speaks to me. I have always found graveyards strangely provocative yet comforting. There is a sense of quiet and stillness that somehow soothes my spirit. It also reminds me that Death is the great equalizer, that we all must succumb to the Reaper regardless of status, wealth, power, etc. And it also reminds me that it is important to live each moment of life to the fullest.

The rest of what I find fascinating about this poem are the levels of meaning and the social criticism which Frost weaves in.

We see from the first stanza that the graveyard Frost is describing is no longer used. It is by itself in a rural area and does not appear to be associated with any church or town, and has become but a curiosity for tourists, day hikers looking for a destination. One gets the impression that no one has been buried there for many years.

To me, this speaks of how modern society approaches death as compared with our ancestors. We now inter the dead in manicured memorial gardens, or in hallowed grounds, as opposed to a location close to a homestead. Or even worse, we send or deceased relatives off to some facility where they are industrially incinerated, and the remains are returned in an aesthetically pleasing urn for display on the mantle.

We have denied that death is part of the natural process. In the past, when we accepted death as the natural culmination to life, we would return the dead to the earth close to the home to which there was connection. And this loss, this shift away from our acceptance of death is what Frost sees reflected in the weathered stones of an abandoned graveyard that no longer sees the return of the dead to the earth.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing in my musings. May you have a blessed day.

10 Comments

Filed under Literature

10 responses to “Thoughts on “In a Disused Graveyard” by Robert Frost

  1. Submitting to the Reaper. You’re right Jeff as the Reaper does not judge one’s success or failures. BOC summed it up best ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper”

  2. You’re right – it’s the great equalizer. I’m not sure I’d read this Robert Frost poem before. I also like the imagery. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jeff. Loved the cowbell comment!

  3. I share your connection to cemeteries, or as they were once called, graveyards. I guess we’re not grave anymore? 🙂 Reading the headstones seems important to me. I can’t help but to be reminded of the of the importance of remembrance when reading these stones. It’s disappointing too, that the stones are no longer placed upright but now lay level to the ground.

    I just recently moved into an apartment complex right next door to a cemetery! It’s a mix of very old graves along with the new.

    In my parents generation, people were born at home and frequently died there, or at least laid in wake before the burial. I think we’ve lost something by keeping the dead distant from us, as you point out how we also distance ourselves from the dying.

    Love the Frost poem. Thanks for posting it. Here’s to the dead!
    Debra

    • I’m glad you appreciate cemeteries as much as I do. I have visited some great ones: in Paris, New Orleans, Charleston. I used to live near one where O Henry was buried, as was author Thomas Wolfe and some Civil War folk. I would walk there frequently.

  4. Oh wow! You have traveled a bit! Ah, Civil War battlefields! Now that’s another of my favorite places to spend time. Likely there are plenty of battlefields throughout the world that convey a similar feeling, but going to Gettysburg, in particular, was life changing.

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