Friday, March 26, 2021

Birthday Brevity

Robert Frost sitting at his house in Ripton petting Gillie the dog.Today is Robert Frost's birthday and the arguably most well-known of Dartmouth College's alumni (to the 20th century, at least) would have been 147 years old. Although Frost was only here briefly as a member of the class of 1896, his legacy at Dartmouth lives on in many ways, including the largest collection in the world of papers related to the poet and numerous busts and statues around campus. Given that it is his birthday today, and that next month is National Poetry Month, it seemed only right to celebrate his work.

However, we also learned today that April is not only National Poetry Month; it is also National Canine Fitness Month. With that in mind, we quickly settled upon a proper subject for today's blog: Robert Frost and his dog Gillie. Frost welcomed Gillie into his life in the spring of 1940, only a few years after the death of his wife Elinor. The poet had just turned 66 years of age but had already outlived three of his children. A fourth child, and his last living son, Carol died only months after Gillie had arrived. We can only imagine the grief that Frost must have experienced and the comfort that his dog must have been to him during those difficult times.

Many years after Gillie had passed, Frost published a poem titled "One More Brevity" in a book of poetry titled In The Clearing (1962). In that poem, he mentions a brief encounter with a strange dog who stays only a night in his home before leaving the house the following morning, never to return. Reflecting on the experience, Frost says, "I was to taste in little the grief / That comes of dogs' lives being so brief." We can't help but think that Gillie was on his mind and heart while penning those lines that would appear in the poet's last poetry publication before his death in early 1963.

To see our photograph of Robert Frost with Gillie, ask for MS-1178, Box 28, Folder 19.