1916 | Franconia, NH

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Robert Frost marks a change of scenery.

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 when they were a thought.
But in no hush they string it: they go past
With shouts afar until they make it fast,
To ease away—they have it. With a laugh,
An oath of towns that set the wild at naught
They bring the telephone and telegraph.


Robert Frost

“The Line-Gang.” After dropping out of Dartmouth College and Harvard University, Frost settled with his wife in Derry, New Hampshire, where he raised poultry and taught English at the Pinkerton Academy. He sold the farm and in 1912 moved to London, where his poetry career took off. “It is not clear whether the bringing of telephone and telegraph does or does not justify the wanton slashing down of forests,” one scholar wrote of the ambiguity of this poem, “whether it is more ‘natural’ to leave forests standing or to subdue them to man’s purposes.”