Robert Frost? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: The prominent poet Robert Frost thought that pursuing activities with an unremitting frenetic pace was unwise; periods of relaxation and leisure were indispensable. He has been credited with a passage that begins:
There’s absolutely no reason for being rushed along with the rush. Everybody should be free to go very slow.
I have been unable to locate a solid citation. Would you please help?
Quote Investigator: In January 1954 “The Atlanta Constitution” of Atlanta, Georgia published an interview with Robert Frost who was in the local area because he was planning to give a talk at Agnes Scott College of Decatur, Georgia. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1
“There’s absolutely no reason for being rushed along with the rush,” the venerable poet said yesterday, lounging easily in the Agnes Scott library between speaking engagements. “Everybody should be free to be very slow. I never know when I’m wasting time.”
The quotation above differed slightly from the common modern rendition because it contained “free to be very slow” instead of “free to go very slow”. Frost continued by presenting some thoughts about his writing process:
“You see I don’t know when I’m thinking. It may be when I’m just sitting around and it may be when I’m working. But what difference does it make? What you want, what you’re hanging around in the world waiting for is for something to occur to you.”
Frost further stated that he composed his poetry in his head while walking and wrote it down at night while sitting in an easy chair.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
About a week after the appearance of “The Atlanta Constitution” article, “Newsweek” magazine printed a condensed version of the story in its “Newsmakers” section; however, one of the quotations was altered by switching “to be” to “to go”: 2
“There’s absolutely no reason for being rushed along with the rush,” he declared. “Everybody should be free to go very slow. I never know when I’m wasting time.”
In 1980 a columnist in the “Herald and Review” of Decatur, Illinois presented Frost’s words as a single passage with an ellipsis: 3
There’s absolutely no reason for being rushed along with the rush. Everybody should be free to go very slow.… What you want, what you’re hanging around in the world waiting for, is for something to occur to you.”
Ah, but if it were true Robert Frost.
In conclusion, Robert Frost did speak against being rushed. The text printed in “The Atlanta Constitution” in January 1954 was probably the most accurate.
Image Notes: Portrait of Robert Frost circa 1915 From the Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons. Hare and the Tortoise image from page 462 of “The Book of Knowledge”, “The Children’s Encyclopedia”, Edited by Arthur Mee and Holland Thompson, Vol II, 1912; available via Wikimedia Commons Aesop’s Fables webpage.
(Great thanks to Desiree Henderson and Wesley Raabe whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)
- 1954 January 30, The Atlanta Constitution, Relax, Poet Frost Asks Here, Quote Page 9, Column 3, Atlanta, Georgia. (ProQuest) ↩
- 1954 February 8, Newsweek, Volume 43, Section: Newsmakers, Poet Philosopher, Quote Page 42, Newsweek, Inc., New York. (Verified on microfilm) ↩
- 1980 December 23, Herald and Review, You by Gordon McKerral (Herald & Review Lifestyle Writer), Quote Page B3, Decatur, Illinois. (Newspapers_com) ↩