Our Hold on the Planet

We asked for rain. It didn’t flash and roar.

It didn’t lose its temper at our demand

And blow a gale. It didn’t misunderstand

And give us more than our spokesman bargained for;

And just because we owned to a wish for rain,

Send us a flood and bid us be damned and drown.

It gently threw us a glittering shower down.

And when we had taken that into the roots of grain,

It threw us another and then another still,

Till the spongy soil again was natal wet.

We may doubt the just proportion of good to ill.

There is much in nature against us. But we forget;

Take nature altogether since time began,

Including human nature, in peace and war,

And it must be a little more in favor of man,

Say a fraction of one percent at the very least,

Or our number living wouldn’t be steadily more,

Our hold on the planet wouldn’t have so increased.

-Robert Frost

My freshman year, in our required Introduction to the Humanities course, one of our assignments was to memorize a poem—any poem. This one was mine, and it’s been a favorite since then. It steps so cautiously around “the just proportion of good to ill.”

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One Response to Our Hold on the Planet

  1. gabe says:

    I been bouncing this puppy around lately, from Melville:

    SKIMMING lightly, wheeling still,
    The swallows fly low
    Over the fields in clouded days,
    The forest-field of Shiloh–
    Over the field where April rain
    Solaced the parched one stretched in pain
    Through the pause of night
    That followed the Sunday fight
    Around the church of Shiloh–
    The church so lone, the log-built one,
    That echoed to many a parting groan
    And natural prayer
    Of dying foemen mingled there–
    Foemen at morn, but friends at eve–
    Fame or country least their care:
    (What like a bullet can undeceive!)
    But now they lie low,
    While over them the swallows skim,
    And all is hushed at Shiloh.

    Risks being a Thomas Kinkade painting here and there, but then bitter old Melville shows up right at “what like a bullet can undeceive!” And now we’re talking about poetry on your scienceblog.

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