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About this Poem 

“The Exposed Nest” was published in Mountain Interval (Henry Holt & Company, 1916).

The Exposed Nest

You were forever finding some new play. 
So when I saw you down on hands and knees 
In the meadow, busy with the new-cut hay, 
Trying, I thought, to set it up on end, 
I went to show you how to make it stay, 
If that was your idea, against the breeze, 
And, if you asked me, even help pretend 
To make it root again and grow afresh. 
But 'twas no make-believe with you to-day, 
Nor was the grass itself your real concern, 
Though I found your hand full of wilted fern, 
Steel-bright June-grass, and blackening heads of clover. 
'Twas a nest full of young birds on the ground 
The cutter-bar had just gone champing over 
(Miraculously without tasting flesh) 
And left defenseless to the heat and light. 
You wanted to restore them to their right 
Of something interposed between their sight 
And too much world at once—could means be found. 
The way the nest-full every time we stirred 
Stood up to us as to a mother-bird 
Whose coming home has been too long deferred, 
Made me ask would the mother-bird return 
And care for them in such a change of scene 
And might our meddling make her more afraid. 
That was a thing we could not wait to learn. 
We saw the risk we took in doing good, 
But dared not spare to do the best we could 
Though harm should come of it; so built the screen 
You had begun, and gave them back their shade. 
All this to prove we cared. Why is there then 
No more to tell? We turned to other things. 
I haven't any memory—have you?—
Of ever coming to the place again 
To see if the birds lived the first night through, 
And so at last to learn to use their wings. 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 25, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 25, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Robert Frost

Robert Frost

One of the most celebrated poets in America, Robert Frost was an author of searching and often dark meditations on universal themes and a quintessentially modern poet in his adherence to language as it is actually spoken, in the psychological complexity of his portraits, and in the degree to which his work is infused with layers of ambiguity and irony.

by this poet

The line-storm clouds fly tattered and swift,  
  The road is forlorn all day,  
Where a myriad snowy quartz stones lift,  
  And the hoof-prints vanish away.  
The roadside flowers, too wet for the bee,
  Expend their bloom in vain.  
Come over the hills and far with me,  
  And be my love in the rain.  

Here come the line-gang pioneering by.
They throw a forest down less cut than broken.
They plant dead trees for living, and the dead
They string together with a living thread.
They string an instrument against the sky
Wherein words whether beaten out or spoken
Will run as hushed as


I walked down alone Sunday after church
   To the place where John has been cutting trees
To see for myself about the birch
   He said I could have to bush my peas.

The sun in the new-cut narrow gap
   Was hot enough for the first of May,
And stifling hot with the odor of sap