In 1941, four-time Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Robert Frost, wrote “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” It was from one of his more esoteric poems, “The Lesson for today”. The full poem can be found here. The proceeding line, was “I would have written of me on my stone: I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” In so many ways, it became the summation of Frost’s distinguished life. He was the voice of the American Yankee in the 20th century. Documentary film-maker, Shirley Clarke used the line to entitle her 1962 Academy award winning documentary about Frost, “A Lover’s Quarrel with the World” which only enhanced the association of the poetic line to him.
It occurs to me that another transmedia platform never really discussed is the gravestone itself. It’s unclear whether Frost truly planned for that last line of “The Lesson of Today” to be his real epitaph when he wrote it; but when Frost died at the age of 88 in 1963, his family had it inscribed on his grave in Bennington, Vermont. It was just above his wife’s epitaph, “Wing to wing, Oar to oar”. The top of the stone can be seen below:
In musing over that line, I wonder if it isn’t the summation of so many of our lives. We fall in love with the world, it becomes our sustenance, our addiction, our endless well of dreams. It disappoints us, he gives us praise, it disgraces us, and makes us victorious, and we look for it , as if a lover, for validation. I had a great love affair with the world; and I put my trust in the world over all things, including God; and then, I had a great quarrel!
I, David Kirkpatrick, was sued four years ago by a Brazilian billionaire. The billionaire went through four years of paperwork…. he buried me and others in paper. He hired and fired 3 different law firms, and poured over 4 million dollars into a suit that had a claim that was half that. He humiliated and punished me and others associated with the suit in the press, even before it ever went to trial. Through the fruit of his endeavor, he brought disgrace, divorce, bankruptcy and a nervous breakdown to us. While I admit there was some culpability in his claims, we lost the case. Part of the reason is we could not possibly match his un-ending guns and money. He put $4 million dollars worth of work on the case; we put up $80,000. In the dark night of the soul, I realized that the world as lover is cold and calculated. We are taught that the fruit of the Spirit is love, gentleness and self control; it doesn’t bring punishment, and cruelty. And only God’s amazing grace truly sustains.
When I was nine years old, I met Robert Frost for the first time at the 1961 Presidential Inaugural of John Kennedy. I was watching it on “TV”. He was the first poet ever to recite a poem at the Presidential inaugural. It has continued ever since as a tradition with Maya Angelou delivering the last one at President Obama’s Inaugural. It was a cold and sunny day in 1961 and the 87 year old Frost could not read his poem,” Dedication“, that he wrote in honor of this special day for he was blinded by the bright sun. He fumpered on the podium because he could not see it and did not know it well. Instead, he recited from memory an oft requested poem, “The Gift Outright.”
So as a kid I started to read his poetry. One of his first poem’s God’s Garden, speaks to the struggle that became prophetic in Frost’s life : his struggle between the world and God. And of course, one of his most famous poems, The Road Not Taken includes the legendary conclusion, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.“ Of course Jesus references that the only way to God is on the narrow, less traveled road.
In the poem that he wrote for the inaugural that was never delivered, he brings up the dawn of a new time in the ages where God looked upon the proceedings and saw that “It was good.” (A copy of the poem in its entirety is attached below)
In the end, we lost the trial and have been found guilty. It is a sad and painful time. I am struck but the insanity of it all: the justice can be about the show in the courtroom and money buys a very good show. We can seek the justice from men in the cities that they build in the world and we can often be disappointed. God does promise a different kingdom, and a different resolve.
I took the road less traveled but it has not kept me completely from wrestling with the world.
Like frost, I, David Kirkpatrick “ had a lover’s quarrel with the World.”