Four in the Morning

Posted March 24th, 2011 by Albert DeCiccio Ph.D., Provost, Southern Vermont College

You will find out in the next post about why this post is entitled "Four in the Morning."  You will also see why I am sharing my response to Alex Peary with you. 

To the Teacher and Poet Alexandria Peary:  A Prologue to What the Teacher Does

March 23, 2011

Dear Alex.

Thank you so much for the time you spent with the SVC community during the past day and a half.  It was a delightful experience for us all.

As our president so aptly put it, your lecture was like a poem, filled with textures that were appealing to all members of your audience.  The fact that we all wrote a poem was a benefit that we didn’t expect.  Today’s reading of your beautiful poetry in Bryna’s class was another gift that some of us will continue to treasure.   While I was happy to show you Robert Frost’s gravesite this morning, I am looking forward to your return so that I can tell you so much more about cultural, social, artistic, and historic Bennington, including Robert Frost’s Stone House (now a museum) and the great walking trails behind it on the way to Lake Paran.  I will definitely be in touch with you to plan your return.

Until then, Alex, I want you to know that you distinguished our community yesterday and today, and I am grateful to the effort you put into every part of your visit. 

So, until you return, I want you to read this poem by Frost that I told you a little about at his gravesite.  I think the poem speaks to the issues you brought up in your talk, that is, mindfulness and solitude.  In that sense, it is resonant with the Elbow you invoked who helps novice writers or struggling writers to find something to say and a voice to use in saying it.  It is also resonant with that Elbow (and others) who realize that, at some point, transactional writing needs the other, a reader. 

One more thing about “The Tuft of Flowers”:  It speaks to me of how we work with other people whether those people are with us or not.  I will continue to commit a good deal of my energy to the kind of work you are undertaking to help students see why language is a gift and that writing is worth practicing every single day.

With respect and appreciation,   








THE TUFT OF FLOWERS (1915)                                       

Robert Frost                                                                           


I went to turn the grass once after one

Who mowed it in the dew before the sun.


The dew was gone that made his blade so keen                    

Before I came to view the leveled scene.                              


I looked for him behind an isle of trees;                                

I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.                            


But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,                       

And I must be, as he had been, –alone


“As all must be,” I said within my heart,

“Whether they work together or apart.”


But as I said it, swift there passed me by

On noiseless wing a bewildered butterfly,


Seeking with memories grown dim o’er night

Some resting flower of yesterday’s delight.


And once I marked his flight go round and round,

As where some flower lay withering on the ground.


And then he flew as far as eye could see,

And then on tremulous wing came back to me.


I thought of questions that have no reply,

And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;


But he turned first, and led my eye to look

At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook,


A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared

Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared.


I left my place to know them by their name,

Finding them butterfly-weed when I came.


The mower in the dew had loved them thus,

By leaving them to flourish, not for us,


Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him,

But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.


The butterfly and I had lit upon,

Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,


That made me hear the wakening birds around,

And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground,


And feel a spirit kindred to my own;

So that henceforth  worked no more alone;


But glad with him, I worked as with his aid,

And weary, sought at noon with him the shade;


And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech

With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach.


“Men work together,” I told him from the heart,

“Whether they work together or apart.”

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