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November 12, 2020

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Frost and Stevens appear to be very different kinds of poets, with Stevens more modernist and philosophically abstract. I don't think Frost would ever say "the nothing." Here's what Frost wrote to Stevens after they met in Key West, Florida in 1935: "If I’m somewhat academic (I’m more agricultural) and you are somewhat executive, so much the better: it is so we are saved from being literary and deployers of words derived from words." See https://www.kwls.org/key-wests-life-of-letters/post_11/.

If it is not built with hands, then it is built by something non human. Hands are of Man alone. The part for the whole. But it is built nonetheless. Nothing could also be No Thing. Taking out the double negative would give you with exceptions Things built by man are sacred.
God created the heavens and earth out of nothing and without the hands of man, so that too is sacred. Maybe Frost is getting to the point of existence right before the universe was created. That would be the time that only God the sacred existed. There were no things.

Thank you for these valuable comments. -- DL

But could anything be sacred in the time that only God existed? If there were no human beings, nothing could be sacred because there must be people to deem things sacred--that is, pointing man towards God. Once God began to create Nature, the final step, the creation of Adam and Eve was inevitable: through nature man could come to know God and worship Him/Her. Robert Frost saw "work with hands" as a central way to understand Nature, Wallace Stevens was more concerned with knowing that occurs within the mind.

What a beautiful piece of analysis, Millicent. Thank you.

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