We’re never as original as we think. In response to my notes last night about the bug in my display, Frost Fan kindly posted Robert Frost’s poem, A Considerable Speck, as a comment, but the line breaks didn’t survive the comment processor.
Here it is, formatted properly, to further humble me. My reaction to my small friend was a dim echo of the original but, happily, as spontaneous. You can hear Frost reading the poem in 1956 here, listed as Robert Frost, Part 3. That page notes that Frost once described a poem as “a momentary stay against confusion.” He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1924, ’31, ’37 and ’43.
Momentary, indeed. There’s no sign of my micro-Roomba today.
A Considerable Speck
A speck that would have been beneath my sight
On any but a paper sheet so white
Set off across what I had written there.
And I had idly poised my pen in air
To stop it with a period of ink
When something strange about it made me think,
This was no dust speck by my breathing blown,
But unmistakably a living mite
With inclinations it could call its own.
It paused as with suspicion of my pen,
And then came racing wildly on again
To where my manuscript was not yet dry;
Then paused again and either drank or smelt–
With loathing, for again it turned to fly.
Plainly with an intelligence I dealt.
It seemed too tiny to have room for feet,
Yet must have had a set of them complete
To express how much it didn’t want to die.
It ran with terror and with cunning crept.
It faltered: I could see it hesitate;
Then in the middle of the open sheet
Cower down in desperation to accept
Whatever I accorded it of fate.
I have none of the tenderer-than-thou
Collectivistic regimenting love
With which the modern world is being swept.
But this poor microscopic item now!
Since it was nothing I knew evil of
I let it lie there till I hope it slept.
I have a mind myself and recognize
Mind when I meet with it in any guise
No one can know how glad I am to find
On any sheet the least display of mind.
— Robert Frost (1874 – 1963)