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In this paper I wish both to draw certain connections between Herbert and Frost and at the same time to say something in a general way about the process by which such connections can be made. It is with the latter question that I begin. Once the relation between two writers would have been thought of mainly in terms of "influence." And one might indeed argue that Herbert did have significant influence on Frost's poetic practice — if not directly, for Frost was not a great reader of Herbert, then indirectly, through Emerson, who was in many ways Frost's master and who read Herbert with admiration throughout his life. But I am not now interested in advancing that line of argument, in part because the more I think about it the less clear I am about what such a claim of influence could really mean. I wish rather to look at the connections between these poets from the point of view of the reader, as an instance of the way in which one's prior experience of reading shapes one's present responses to a particular text or series of texts. For we cannot help placing what we read in contexts of our own making, defined by our educations; these contexts in turn give meaning to what we read, as certain features are highlighted or obscured by the expectations we have formed. The connections so established can be chronological, as one brings one's reading of Donne, say, to Yeats; or antichronological , as in my own reading of Frost and Herbert, for I was familiar with Frost, who was to me very much the ideal poet, long before I read Herbert with any care. In this paper, then, I shall briefly approach Herbert with the eyes, or perhaps more properly listen to him with the ears, of one whose sense of poetry was in considerable measure shaped by Frost.


Reproduced with permission of the publisher.