The shame of the attack on Robert Frost's house

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Imagining that late December night of long darkness, you can almost hear these youths of Vermont tramping up to the isolated farmhouse to intrude upon the sanctuary stillness. The break of snow beneath their feet would be the least of it.

They had driven or walked a half-mile up a snow-covered lane called Frost Road, then trudged past a large blue sign that explained the historic significance of the farmhouse and the cabin beyond. And now they were entering the coldness of an uninhabited place, carrying with them cases of beer, bottles of rum and a store of ignorance about things that matter here.

Over the next several hours, more than 30 teenagers and young adults toasted their post-adolescence with liquor carrying the added kick of illicitness. By early morning they were gone, leaving a wounded house watched over by winter-stripped birches and sugar maples.

The damage left in their wake reflected some alcohol-induced mischief tinged with certain anger. Broken window, broken screen, broken dishes, broken antiques. Pieces of a broken chair used for wood in the fireplace. Gobs of phlegm spat upon hanging artwork. Vomit, urine, beer everywhere. And a blanket of yellow, pollenlike dust, discharged from fire extinguishers in parting punctuation.

Before long, distressing word spread from Ripton to Middlebury and beyond that the preserved farmhouse once owned by Robert Frost had been vandalized — desecrated, some said. If these children of the Green Mountains knew this house was once Frost’s, then shame. If they did not know, then shame still; they should have. How many had been weaned on Frost? How many had tromped through here on class trips and family outings?

It seemed once that Robert Frost would be with us forever, like some lichen-laced stone in a field. But finally he did die, in 1963 at the age of 88, leaving biographers to quarrel about his merits as a man and readers to marvel over his body of work, which, among other achievements, twinned a mastery of language with wisdom about natural things.

Here, though, Frost lingers....

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