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The World Surely Weeps

‘Out, Out—’

By Robert Frost     

The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside him in her apron
To tell them ‘Supper.’ At the word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy’s hand, or seemed to leap—
He must have given the hand. However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
The boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh,
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all—
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart—
He saw all spoiled. ‘Don’t let him cut my hand off—
The doctor, when he comes. Don’t let him, sister!’
So. But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then—the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. They listened at his heart.
Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it.
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

For some reason I remembered this old Frost poem from high school days.  The buzz saw represents death and the young boy is seeming snatched from life because he gets too close.  There is no reason - really.  These things happen.  A few years ago I recall a couple of kids dying from swimming near New Boston.  My first week here saw my first attendance at a funeral in ages.  I felt compelled, a couple people from my BFE days were family.  The services were for a young 7 day-old boy.  I don't know why and it doesn't really matter.  He got too close to the buzz saw.  

I didn't get close to the tent where the minister was ministering.  What ages-old platitudes were being dished out to assuage the grieving family?  God's Will?  God's Plan?  God needed another Angel?  God's Mystery?  

The real truth is:  Life is precious, rare, and we don't all get a chance at a long one.  That is all we know and all we can know.  I cried.  I cried for the wee one who never had a chance.  I cried because I have grandchildren.  I cried because one day I will get too close to the buzz saw.  I cried because Death always lurks.  I cried because this kid's family will never be the same.  I cried because the World will be bereft of what this kid could have produced in life - a song we will never hear, a poem we will never read, a smile we will never feel.  I cried.  And as I stood out there in the openness of a chilly Illinois day surely the world was weeping, too. 


  1. Heartbreaking, simply heartbreaking. We are stalked by the grim reaper. His footsteps are getting louder and draw closer every day. Carpe diem.


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