Friday, March 29, 2013

Robert Frost: Scores, Scours, or Scorns?

Robert Frost

On the Milton List, one of the scholar's posted a poem by Robert Frost that seems to be in dialogue with Milton's epic poem:
Robert Frost


Mountain Interval (1920)

The Cow in Apple Time

Something inspires the only cow of late
To make no more of a wall than an open gate,
And think no more of wall-builders than fools.
Her face is flecked with pomace and she drools
A cider syrup. Having tasted fruit,
She scores a pasture withering to the root.
She runs from tree to tree where lie and sweeten
The windfalls spiked with stubble and worm-eaten.
She leaves them bitten when she has to fly.
She bellows on a knoll against the sky.
Her udder shrivels and the milk goes dry.
It's the first temptation in the Garden all over again . . . sort of, though the cow is self-tempted, self-deceived. But what interested me was the word "scores" in line six. How am I to read that? As the cow cutting trails through the pasture? Or is is a variant on "scours," with the cow perhaps rather vigorously freeing the field of its windfallen apples? Or is "scorns" meant, which seems more likely, the liberated cow turning its nose up at the old, dry grass in favor of fermented apples?

A Google search for "She scores a pasture withering to the root" turns up 660 items. For "She scours a pasture withering to the root," none (so that's out). For "She scorns a pasture withering to the root," 14,700 (looks like a winner). By the numbers and logic, "scorns" is favored, but . . .

Any Frost experts out there who can certify this?

UPDATE: Sometimes, answers arrive quickly. Michael Gillum tells me that his "1969 edition has 'scorns,'" and he cites Poetry of Robert Frost (ed. Lathem), adding: "The cow scorns the pasture because it is withered (apple time is October). She likes the rotting apples because they are sweet, calorie-rich, and literally intoxicating."

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