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    The Star-Splitter

    by Robert Frost
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    You know Orion always comes up sideways.
    Throwing a leg up over our fence of mountains,
    And rising on his hands, he looks in on me
    Busy outdoors by lantern-light with something
    I should have done by daylight, and indeed,
    After the ground is frozen, I should have done
    Before it froze, and a gust flings a handful
    Of waste leaves at my smoky lantern chimney
    To make fun of my way of doing things,
    Or else fun of Orion's having caught me.
    Has a man, I should like to ask, no rights
    These forces are obliged to pay respect to?"
    So Brad McLaughlin mingled reckless talk
    Of heavenly stars with hugger-mugger farming,
    Till having failed at hugger-mugger farming,
    He burned his house down for the fire insurance
    And spent the proceeds on a telescope
    To satisfy a life-long curiosity
    About our place among the infinities.

    "What do you want with one of those blame things?"
    I asked him well beforehand. "Don't you get one!"
    "Don't call it blamed; there isn't anything
    More blameless in the sense of being less
    A weapon in our human fight," he said.
    "I'll have one if I sell my farm to buy it."
    There where he moved the rocks to plow the ground
    And plowed between the rocks he couldn't move,
    Few farms changed hands; so rather than spend years
    Trying to sell his farm and then not selling,
    He burned his house down for the fire insurance
    And bought the telescope with what it came to.
    He had been heard to say by several:
    "The best thing that we're put here for's to see;
    The strongest thing that's given us to see with's
    A telescope. Someone in every town
    Seems to me owes it to the town to keep one.
    In Littleton it may as well be me."
    After such loose talk it was no surprise
    When he did what he did and burned his house down.
    Mean laughter went about the town that day
    To let him know we weren't the least imposed on,
    And he could wait--we'd see to him to-morrow.
    But the first thing next morning we reflected
    If one by one we counted people out
    For the least sin, it wouldn't take us long
    To get so we had no one left to live with.
    For to be social is to be forgiving.
    Our thief, the one who does our stealing from us,
    We don't cut off from coming to church suppers,
    But what we miss we go to him and ask for.
    He promptly gives it back, that is if still
    Uneaten, unworn out, or undisposed of.
    It wouldn't do to be too hard on Brad
    About his telescope. Beyond the age
    Of being given one's gift for Christmas,
    He had to take the best way he knew how
    To find himself in one. Well, all we said was
    He took a strange thing to be roguish over.
    Some sympathy was wasted on the house,
    A good old-timer dating back along;
    But a house isn't sentient; the house
    Didn't feel anything. And if it did,
    Why not regard it as a sacrifice,
    And an old-fashioned sacrifice by fire,
    Instead of a new-fashioned one at auction?

    Out of a house and so out of a farm
    At one stroke (of a match), Brad had to turn
    To earn a living on the Concord railroad,
    As under-ticket-agent at a station
    Where his job, when he wasn't selling tickets,
    Was setting out up track and down, not plants
    As on a farm, but planets, evening stars
    That varied in their hue from red to green.

    He got a good glass for six hundred dollars.
    His new job gave him leisure for star-gazing.
    Often he bid me come and have a look
    Up the brass barrel, velvet black inside,
    At a star quaking in the other end.
    I recollect a night of broken clouds
    And underfoot snow melted down to ice,
    And melting further in the wind to mud.
    Bradford and I had out the telescope.
    We spread our two legs as it spread its three,
    Pointed our thoughts the way we pointed it,
    And standing at our leisure till the day broke,
    Said some of the best things we ever said.
    That telescope was christened the Star-splitter,
    Because it didn't do a thing but split
    A star in two or three the way you split
    A globule of quicksilver in your hand
    With one stroke of your finger in the middle.
    It's a star-splitter if there ever was one
    And ought to do some good if splitting stars
    'Sa thing to be compared with splitting wood.

    We've looked and looked, but after all where are we?
    Do we know any better where we are,
    And how it stands between the night to-night
    And a man with a smoky lantern chimney?
    How different from the way it ever stood?
    If you're writing a The Star-Splitter essay and need some advice, post your Robert Frost essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

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