Read it a hundred times: it will forever keep its freshness as a metal keeps its fragrance.
Where “it” is the poem that has not been “worried into being,” has been wrought in the order “from delight to wisdom,” and whose freshness is forever.
Now I don’t quite remember whether I literally grabbed a rod somewhere and smelled it. Or I imagined smelling such a cool rod in my hand so viscerally it felt like the experience of live.
But when I first read that passage opening this post, I celebrated Frost for “O what a vivid imagery!”
What about you?
Perhaps you would’ve done similarly. And perhaps you’ll do so similarly now if you look at the passage again.
Go ahead, I’ll wait, look at it again.
Read it a hundred times: it will forever keep its freshness as a metal keeps its fragrance. — Robert Frost
When I first read it and gave out that loud exclamation of “O what vivid imagery,” it was in print. And it said “metal.”
For me, reading “metal,” not “petal,” made so much meaning. So much sense. Gave such fascination. Truly, until I saw the passage on the Internet I never thought of “petal.”
Or maybe I did, but…
You see, I reasoned that “yes, a metal never loses its fragrance,” whatever fragrance that might be. Only a metal can keep its fragrance fresh forever.
Then again, a petal, a petal, as long as it belongs on the flower, can it ever lose its fragrance?
Now you see that both words work. Or seem to work. Metal or petal. Metal and petal. But which one did Robert Frost really write in his essay? Metal or Petal?
“Poetry is what is lost in translation. – Robert FrostTweet this
A Posthumous Dilemma
Robert Frost is too dead to be aware what dilemma he’d set in motion…
Perhaps the question really should be, since something is now obviously lost in translation, “which word do you prefer for the imagery?” And not “which word did Frost use?”
Then let me quickly remind you that Frost once defined poetry as “what is lost in translation.” I sense a poetry going on here.
So Whose Typo Was It?
Or who should really care?
Well, I prefer “metal.” And always read it as such. Metal.
You? Petal? Are you already imagining fresh flowers, that sweet smell of, well, petals of full bloom, of lilacs? of a pine?
Don’t forget that when the flower is cut… Then it withers in your hand in minutes…
But a metal?
That seems to last forever!
Let’s discuss this essay on Twitter #FreshnessForever