Graduate Student Rediscovers Robert Frost Poem From 1918


On October 2 the Virginia Quarterly Review published a previously unknown poem by Robert Frost. “War Thoughts at Home,” a thirty-five-line poem written in 1918, was found inscribed in a copy of Frost’s book North of Boston (Henry Holt and Company, 1915) by Robert Stilling, a graduate student at the University of Virginia (UVA). Since the poem is about a woman who learns that her husband died in combat, some readers have speculated that it was written as a tribute to Frost’s friend and fellow poet Edward Thomas, who was killed in 1917 while fighting in World War I.

The copy of North of Boston came from the collection of the late Publishers Weekly editor Frederick G. Melcher, which the university’s library purchased in the spring of 2005. Melcher had written about the existence of the poem, but it was only recently discovered.

The poem was published in the Fall 2006 issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review, which also features essays by New Republic poetry editor Glyn Maxwell and Stilling. In addition, several events at UVA are planned, including lectures by Maxwell and Stilling, a symposium for Frost scholars, and an exhibit featuring the original manuscript.

The essays can be read on the magazine’s Web site. The poem, which is not available on the Web site, ends with the following lines:

 The uneven sheds stretch back
Shed behind shed in train
Like cars that have long lain
Dead on a side track.