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Reflections 2011
Series 23
September 27
New England Thrice-3A: Middlebury & Vermont


I’ve enjoyed a lot of travel in the six New England states over the years, some of which is documented in previous-year postings on this website, notably 2006/11-12 (Boston, Maine, New Hampshire et al). But this year I had three destinations to visit/revisit, two in lower New England, primarily Massachusetts, but crossing through Connecticut and Rhode Island, and a third and final one in upper New England, primarily Middlebury and Vermont in general, described in this posting, but also the borderlands between the US and Canada (QC, VT, NH, ME, NY), described in the next one.


The only alteration to the earlier second trip was the cancellation due to construction of the Boston-Albany Amtrak train during the week I wanted it, but that escalated into the third trip to the cancellation of the Vermonter just when and where I wanted it (see below). And then there was Irene.


Tropical Storm Irene   First we had the mild Tuesday earthquake in the US Northeast, including New York City (2011/20), but I didn’t see that as anything more than an odd curiosity. Two days later, Thursday, I left, quite innocently, on the third trip to New England, a date which had long been planned. Friday in Vermont I got an email from my building manager that Battery Park City and Battery Park itself, lying so low and right on the Hudson and the Bay, might be subject to an evacuation since Irene, gradually being downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, was headed our way. By Saturday an email said evacuation of my neighborhood (and others) was now mandatory. So if I hadn’t left for Vermont, I would have had to have left for somewhere two days later. It’s quite unusual to have an earthquake (though mild) and a hurricane (though weakening) five days apart. What’s next, locusts?


There was sunny weather Saturday and Monday in Vermont and in Québec Province where I was; it was the day in between, Sunday, when the storm hit in a swath from New York/New Jersey through, quite uncharacteristically, New England and Québec, causing particular damage to Vermont, to the extent that President Obama declared the state a disaster area. When I later got back to New York, all was fine in my neighborhood, with no sign of flooding. Damage due to flooding hit shorelines (New Jersey, Long Island, Connecticut) and inland streams (New Jersey, and particularly Vermont-see below). Although local communities were isolated and without power, the rest of my stay in Vermont was only slightly affected. Cell phone and internet service was spotty, due to power outages at the servers. One B&B couldn’t put my bill through until a week after I was home. In Northern Vermont, I was driving on a major road, 105, when a sign said a bridge was out ahead, but without a detour posted, so I backtracked and found another road that got me to my destination. On the last day, though, road washouts prevented me from revisiting some sites near Middlebury (see below).


The Vermonter   There were other significant changes to this eight-night trip. In addition to visiting Middlebury and the borderlands between Canada and the US, its original purpose was to finally ride on the two remaining Amtrak services in northern New England, north of Massachusetts (other than Maine’s Downeaster - 2006/12). It was to be the Ethan Allen Express to Rutland VT northbound, limos and car rental, then the Vermonter southbound out of Saint Albans VT, with a stop in White River Junction VT to visit friends Paul and Marya over the river in New Hampshire, then to New York. This would have been a rail-trail-rail format. But construction related to my cancelling my Boston-Albany connection in July, construction this time both in Massachusetts and Vermont, where the Vermonter was replaced by bus service (!!!), caused me to first extend my time around the construction schedule, then with further bad news about construction, cancel entirely the Vermonter trip, plus the visit to friends, perhaps to try again next year, and fly (!!!) home from Burlington, turning the trip into a rail-trail-contrail format instead. I’m glad this type of restructuring of trips happens only rarely. But the highly enjoyable visit to Middlebury and the borderlands made up for any discomforts due to Irene and the Vermonter.


Schooling   To explain why this trip was to Middlebury, I should fill in background about my post-high school schooling. Four years ago I discussed my 50th Reunion of the Class of 1957 of Brooklyn Technical High School (2007/7), where the first day in Dr Walter Bernard’s German class flipped me from thoughts of an engineering career to an eventual major in German and other languages.


QUEENS COLLEGE This year, four years later, on June 2, I went to the 50th Reunion of the Class of 1961 of Queens College (of the City University of New York). Not having visited the campus in a very long time, a week before the ceremonies I visited the campus to re-orient myself as to the changes over the years. It’s still a commuter school, although now a private agency has built some on-site dormitories for those students wishing to rent them. For four years I’d arrived at QC by two buses from home in Hollis, Queens, and now I arrived from Manhattan by two subways and a bus, just to keep the pattern going.


From my beginnings at QC in 1957, I was very aware that it was not an old school, having been founded exactly two decades earlier, in 1937. I was also aware of that first group of students was not only involved in the start-up of a new institution, but graduated in 1941, right into the war years. That first group always made an impression on me.


QC was founded on a hilltop site with a view of the New York skyline, which I remember just staring at the first day of classes in 1957. QC was housed in the Spanish-style buildings of a former boys’ school, which had barrel-vaulted red tile roofs and beige stucco sides. The picture shows, from right to left, Jefferson Hall (the administration building), then two buildings across the Quadrangle (the “Quad”), and on the close side, D Building now called Delaney Hall, which looks just like this twin across the Quad. This building is significant to me since, at the time, it was the headquarters of the German Department and the location of all my German courses. It is also the place where Dr Harold Lenz, my favorite German teacher and, at the time, my advisor, when I told him I was at a disadvantage in class because I hadn’t had enough practical conversational experience, first said to me “Well, there’s this college in Vermont called Middlebury, and they have summer language schools . . .” I only recently discovered that Lenz himself had taught at Middlebury’s German School a few summers earlier, but he’s the second teacher who altered my direction and my future. He’s also the one who said, when I was discussing a minor, that lots of people do a German-French combination, so why not try German-Spanish? So QC was where I started studying Spanish, then, wanting to move more quickly, started teaching myself French.


Since the early years, QC has provided an affordable opportunity for students to get an education of high quality. Its undergraduate acceptance rate is presently 38%. While tuition was free in my years, it now comes to several thousand dollars, but considerably less than many other places. There are students enrolled from 120 different countries speaking 66 languages. More than just a liberal arts college, it’s really a comprehensive college offering over 100 undergraduate degrees, plus masters degrees, and is part of the CUNY Graduate Center, which offers doctoral programs.


On my visit the week before the ceremony, I found that the campus seemed suddenly petite compared to how I remembered it. Perhaps it was due to the new, modern buildings now named in some cases after professors whose names I’d heard of years ago. For instance, there is now the spacious Rosenthal Library, and next to it, its Chaney-Schwerner-Goodman Clocktower, named after the three civil rights workers who were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi while promoting voter registration in 1964, three years after I’d graduated. Andrew Goodman had been a QC student. But seeing the new library made me nostalgic about the former Paul Klapper Library, now Klapper Hall, since I’d had a job working at the circulation desk there. I particularly remember reading, after working hours, my introduction to Samuel Pepys (2006/1) and browsing through the language section, where I quite casually learned a lot about linguistics, and found my first book on the Hawaiian language (2008/2). I visited Klapper Hall, and where my circulation desk was is now an art museum, and where the language books were located is now a storage area, so only memories are left.


The following week after that visit, the reunion classes (50th, 60th, 70th) met for breakfast at the new student union, where I donned my first cap and gown since getting my doctorate in 1980 at Middlebury. We were also given red sashes and a commemorative medal to wear. We then marched out in groups onto the Quad (here with a rear view of Jefferson Hall) where the 2011 Commencement was to be held, with the reunion classes sitting to the side (thankfully under a canvas shade). Oddly, US Representative Anthony Weiner, who was then just in the midst of his scandal about unseemly internet pictures, was scheduled to be one of the speakers, but instead, US Senator Charles Schumer filled in, I’m sure at the last minute. A luncheon followed for the reunion classes, after which QC President James Muyskens spoke. He announced that in a recent national survey where highest-quality education was cross-referenced with expense, only the names of five colleges came up, QC being among them. Afterward I introduced myself to him, and we chatted.


There was an extra thrill I hadn’t expected. While there had been 50th and 60th reunions before, this was the very first 70th reunion ever that QC was celebrating, and it was for that very first class of 1941 that had so intrigued me years ago when I started out. There were 8-10 participating alumni from that class, who had to all be in their low 90’s. As they were having their picture taken, I spoke to a woman standing next to me who turned out to be the daughter of one of the women. She pointed out that her mother had insisted on driving them to QC that morning, but that she--with a wink and a sigh--would do the driving home. I was very pleased to finally have contact with that pioneer class.


After not having contact with QC for so many years, it was odd that there was to be another function again later in June that alumni were invited to. The Rubin Museum of Art (of the Himalayas) has ties to QC, and we were invited to a reception there, with a tour of the collection. It’s in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, at Seventh Avenue and 17th Street, in a portion of the former original Barney’s department store. Many important details were retained in the renovation of the building, most notably the spectacular iconic Art Deco steel-and-marble staircase that spirals dramatically through the seven-story gallery tower. I will have to be frank and admit that I enjoyed that beautiful staircase more than the Tibetan art.


MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE We’ll talk about Middlebury College physically and historically as part of the visit (below), but let me continue on the subject of schooling. When attending the Middlebury New York Alumni functions each December, where far more undergraduate alumni show up than graduate, I’ve always just felt as just another grad of the summer language schools, even though I’d attended the six-week sessions a number of times. But then, as part of revising my mindset after the QC reunion about personal educational history, I decided to take more careful stock of Middlebury, and I was somewhat taken aback. It suddenly struck me that I have highly credible Middlebury credentials, well beyond people who attended for a summer or two. On Dr Lenz’s suggestion, I attended in the summer of 1959, then 1960, and 1961 (where I met Beverly and re-met QC friend Rita). The three of us then spent the year at the Middlebury Program in Mainz for the academic year 1961-2 (2005/17) and got our Master of Arts degrees. After those three summers, Beverly and I then went back for six more for our doctorate studies from 1975 to 1980, where we then both got our DMLs, Middlebury’s unique Doctor of Modern Languages degree. It was all in the German School except for 1960, when I was in the Spanish School, and for a while during the doctorate years, we audited courses in the French School. Within this doctorate period fell the stories of the “Middlebury Theatricals” (2007/5), “Cabaret and the Nelsons” (2007/6) and “Hartweg’s reaction” (2004/25).


Once I took final stock, I suddenly wondered to myself how many other Middlebury graduate students (1) spent nine summers in residence, (2) attended 2 ½ schools, (3) got both an MA and a DML, and (4) did a year’s study in Germany? (Beverly’s record is almost the same, except she attended seven summers starting in 1961.) I would guess precious few, if any. As of this summer, I have a much clearer mental image of my relationship to the Middlebury community. Five years ago, I drove over from New Hampshire for a quick, two-hour visit to Middlebury, both town and college (2006/12), but it was now time for a real re-visit, to put my head on a pillow for a couple of nights in Middlebury for the first time in the 31 years since 1980.


SCHOOLING IN EUROPE & NORTH AMERICA As we were finishing our studies in Mainz, we each got very pleasant surprises in the mail. Beverly, who had already taught two years in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, was accepted, based solely on recommendations, and sight unseen, without an interview, to teach at Pelham High School in Westchester County, north of New York City. At first, she was the one going to go back to work, while I continued to study, and I was very pleased when I also got a letter in Mainz saying that I was accepted, based on recommendations from professors at QC, to do graduate study at Harvard, in the Linguistics Department. But alas, that was not to be. The scholarship they offered was not really enough (I probably hadn’t asked for enough in the first place), a Massachusetts/New York split is not the best way to start a marriage, and I also wondered if pure linguistics was the route I wanted to take. So I turned it down, and went to work as a translator for American Express on Broadway, just off Wall Street, for the year 1962-3. (The only other job I’d ever had was also on Wall Street, clerking for a half-year in 1961 between QC and Middlebury for the now defunct brokerage house DeCoppet and Doremus. I suppose these two jobs indicate I’m a downtown kind o’ guy, since I now live in walking distance from both locations.)


But I tried studying again in 1963-4, and was accepted at Columbia University in New York, again in the Linguistics Department. But after a semester, teaching seemed the way to go, and for the second semester I transferred to Columbia’s Teachers College, where I got the training for my teacher’s license, and then taught for 28 years. That first semester was the only time I wasn’t studying a specific language, just linguistic theory, but as it turns out, during the Middlebury DML studies we both got all the linguistic theory we wanted--in German.


We’d been bitten by the language-study bug, both at Middlebury and in Mainz, and for years, until 1990, we not only combined travel and language, we specifically combined travel and language STUDY. The study was most intense, almost voraciously so, in the inter-degree years, the dozen years between 1963 and 1974, where we took language coursework in various languages when traveling, usually for three weeks in the summer (Middlebury had been six weeks at that time). It started with: 1967, Universidad Iberoamericana (Ibero-American University), Mexico City, Spanish (2006/16). In 1971-2 we worked it out that we each got a year’s sabbatical at half pay, and plunged into study: 1971, French studies in Pau, France (2005/16 “A Rainy Day in Pau”); 1971, Universität Wien (University of Vienna), German (2004/11); 1972, College of White Plains NY, Italian; 1972, Russian studies offered by the Austrian government in Unterweißenbach, near Linz (2005/4), followed by our drive in our VW Beetle through Russia. (Yes, it was studying Russian through German.)


But studying continued after the sabbatical: 1973, Göteborgs Universitet (University of Gothenburg), Swedish (2006/1 “Scandinavia & Finland” ¶ 12); 1974 Saint Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota, German. That then backed up to going back to Middlebury in 1975. After the DML in 1980, we gradually slowed down: 1983, New School University, New York, Certificate in Microcomputer Systems, and then we did our swan song (although we didn’t know it at the time): 1990, Malaca Instituto, a private language school in Málaga, Spain, eight weeks of Spanish. Beverly had gotten a summer sabbatical from her school and I also got financial assistance from my school (2007/8 “1990-Málaga”). Then followed the 1990’s with retirement, selling our big house, Beverly’s illness, and only limited domestic travel. We didn’t resume international travel until 2000, but with no more formal language study en route.


Rationale   With all the above background, let’s review the rationale for the August trip to northern New England. It involved two train trips and a visit to friends that collapsed to just the northbound train trip, leaving the originally intended rail conclusion of this trip to another trip in the future. It involved going back to Middlebury, and then, after all the recent talk about Loyalists moving to Canada, a revisit to the Eastern Townships, or l’Estrie, in nearby Québec Province. But being so near the international border, it involved other border crossings of interest, plus visiting the nearby regions on both sides of the international frontier. In essence, these two visits are an expansion of the one-day visit to l’Estrie and Middlebury as a day trip out of the Mount Washington Hotel on a recent trip to New Hampshire and the Maine coast (2006/12).


The route can be traced on this map of New England (click to enlarge). I went by train up the Hudson Valley to Rutland, Vermont. Given the complete collapse of all rail infrastructure in the region, I’d arranged for a limo to bring me up to Middlebury for two nights, than another limo to bring me to Burlington airport to rent a car. I crossed into Canada, drove to the red autoroute that got me to Sherbrooke, although I stayed in the North Hatley-Magog area where the autoroutes cross at the northern end of that lake. Leaving Canada I crossed into the northernmost tip of New Hampshire past the Connecticut Lakes (visible on map), and then cut into nearby Maine to stay in Rangeley, in the Rangeley lakes region (also visible). Retracing my route, I stopped at Derby Line VT on the frontier, then in Newport at the southern end of the same lake as in Canada. From Saint Albans, I drove around the Vermont islands at the northern end of Lake Champlain, stopping a bit into NY State. While my trip was meant to end after my stop in Saint Albans to take the Vermonter, given the changes, I drove down to East Middlebury again, before backtracking to Burlington Airport to return the car and fly to JFK.



Ethan Allen Express   The above map shows the route of the Ethan Allen Express between New York and Rutland. I took the Ethan Allen Express from New York via the Empire Corridor up the Hudson Valley to Albany, after which we left the Empire Corridor and continued through Saratoga, cutting diagonally into Vermont, arriving at Rutland, 388 km (241 mi) from New York. On the way, in Poughkeepsie, I noted our passing under the Walkway Over the Hudson, high above (2011/8). The train’s operations are subsidized by the State of Vermont, and is largely for the benefit of skiers. The train is named for the Revolutionary War hero, Ethan Allen.


Vermont   Of the eight nights spent on this trip, five were in Vermont, including its borderlands, so it should be considered the primary destination, requiring a bit more background. Because of its unique history based on its location between New York and New Hampshire, between Massachusetts and Québec, Vermont is the only landlocked state of the six New England states, and indeed, the only one in the northeastern US. Having no seacoast, is the only one of the six New England states not settled from the sea. Smaller in area than VT are only five states, all in the Northeast, in this order: NH, NJ, CT, DE, RI. Neighboring NH, whose shape is almost a twin of Vermont’s, but in reverse, is not much smaller, being 97% as large as VT. Small in area, VT is also sparsely settled, since the cities of the populous Northeast Corridor line up along the coast, from which VT is set back inland. Vermont’s population in the 2010 census was about 626,000, ranking it 49th in size (only Wyoming has fewer people). NH, on the other hand, with a population of about 1,316,000, is 42nd in size. Vermont has only 47.5% of New Hampshire’s population. As a matter of fact, Vermont has the smallest population in the Northeast (Maine to Pennsylvania). RI, famously the smallest state in area, is 43rd in population, again, since it’s on the coast and in the Northeast Corridor. When visualizing smallness among the New England states, picture RI in area, but VT in population, since VT has only 59% of tiny RI’s population.


In Vermont, you have to think small, since so many localities are just villages and towns. That includes the capital, Montpelier, which had a population in the 2010 Census of just 7,855, making it the smallest capital by population in the US. Middlebury’s population was just slightly bigger at 8,496. Rutland is the second-largest city, with 16,495. Burlington’s urban area includes South Burlington and Winooski, whose joint population is over 67,000, making it the largest in VT, yet small in comparison. However, the three-county statistical metropolitan area around Burlington has a population of over 208,000, and since VT has 14 counties with, as we’ve said, 626,000 fully one-third of Vermont’s population is in that northwestern corner of the state, closest to Montréal, which explains why the state’s principal airport is in Burlington.


But it was Vermont’s location between NY and NH that caused some interesting history, since it was a territory that was in dispute between them. In the late 1760’s, Ethan Allen from CT settled in the disputed area between NY and NH in what eventually became VT. Even though in 1764, George III confirmed New York’s claim and established the boundary between NY and NH at the Connecticut River north of Massachusetts, Allen resisted the NY claim, and, with his group of Green Mountain Boys, led a campaign of intimidation and property destruction to discourage and drive away settlers in the area from New York Province. After the VT area broke away from NY during the Revolutionary War and established the Vermont Republic in 1777 (see 2009/24), he even unsuccessfully petitioned the British governor of Quebec in 1780-1783 that VT become its own British province, and continued to resist New York’s attempts to gain control over the area. The Vermont Republic lasted only fourteen years, 1777-1791, at which time it became the 14th state, the first one after the original 13. Based on his championing of separation one way or another, Ethan Allen is considered to be one of the founders of the State of Vermont.


Yet before all those later developments, Vermont had been the victim of a little horsetrading emanating from New Hampshire. This is Governor Benning Wentworth of the Province of NH during the colonial period. Do not by a used car from the likes of this man. Well, since that’s anachronistic, let’s say instead do not buy a used horse from the likes of this man. He was a wheeler-dealer in real estate, who took advantage of the vague nature of whether VT was part of NY or of his own NH. Not surprisingly, he gave NH the benefit of the doubt, and considered VT part of his fief. He enriched himself by a clever scheme of selling land in what became VT to developers, despite jurisdictional disputes. He made land grants between 1749 and 1764, the year that George III finally confirmed NY’s claim and established the boundary between NH and NY (VT) at the Connecticut River, north of Massachusetts. These land grants are referred to in VT history as the New Hampshire Grants, which totaled about 135, including 131 towns. The Grants were one source of friction that eventually led to the Vermont Republic. To curry favor with the elite, Wentworth often named the new townships after them: Rutland is named after the Duke of Rutland. The college town of Bennington in southern VT he named after himself. He also gave relatives land grants and important government positions. He was finally forced to resign in 1767 because of growing annoyance with this sort of corruption. Still, the New Hampshire Grants were what established many towns in VT, and the charters were later grandfathered in, despite the dubious jurisdictional claims. For example, Middlebury was chartered in 1781 by a New Hampshire Grant, as was Burlington in 1763, which shows that sometimes you just have to legitimize dubious old horse trades.


Vermont has always marched to a different drummer. Words to characterize Vermont are laid-back, savvy, cool, activist, petite.


Collapse of Rail Infrastructure   We just looked at the map of Amtrak rail services in the northeast. Northern New England has the Ethan Allen Express, the Vermonter (when running), and the Downeaster to Maine. South of that are the Boston-Albany service (when running) and Boston-New York. Moving one more state west, New York has the Adirondack to Montreal and the Maple Leaf to Buffalo and Toronto. That’s it. If it sounds like a lot, it makes one shudder to think about the infrastructure we once had, that has since collapsed. It’s even worse than when we first discussed this regarding New Jersey (2011/3-4-5). There’s no other passenger service anywhere in this area, nor in Québec province south of the Saint Lawrence River. I suppose we should be grateful for what remains. There is freight service on some lines that I saw were still operational, and other routes are now recreational trails, that I also saw weaving back and forth along a highway.


In the heyday of rail, I could have visited almost ALL the stops on this trip by rail exclusively. I have two maps showing what we’ve lost, one of which I’ll show now, and one later when discussing nearby Canada. This is the service provided by the Central Vermont Railroad in 1879. Click to enlarge and then read it and weep, remembering this is just one of a number of railroads that serviced this area, some of which are shown in thinner lines.


Note that the LIRR you see still exists, and much is still left in New Jersey. There is more than one choice from New York to Rutland, including a direct one, but you can see the lines that Amtrak makes use of today via Poughkeepsie, Albany and Saratoga. You can see service from Rutland to Middlebury, Burlington, Saint Albans, and even on to Montreal. Look at routes also connecting to Newport and Magog, at opposite ends of the lake, and also to Lennoxville, which is a suburb of Sherbrooke. After arriving by train in Rutland, I had to visit all these places (I didn’t go to Montréal) by limo or rented car.


The route of today’s surviving Vermonter is also traceable from Saint Albans down to White River Junction and on to New York. But look at all the other choices: from Montréal one could go, either via Rutland or White River Junction, to Boston! And finally, note the service from Vermont south to New London, which explains why the station there is called Union Station, with this route connecting to the surviving east-west ones.


Given the north-south axis of Vermont, with the Green Mountains running down the middle, there are two natural transportation corridors, east and west. Northern and eastern Vermont are serviced by road (“trail”) by the Y-shaped routes of Interstates I-89 and I-91, and by rail by the Vermonter. What is lacking is good transportation in the so-called Western Corridor, where no Interstate was ever built (or is practical) and the rail connection has been lost. Plans have existed to extend the Ethan Allen via Middlebury to Burlington since at least 2001, led by advocates including Chambers of Commerce and the Vermont Rail Action Network (VRAN). They point out that service to Burlington (1h40 north of Rutland) would generate more ridership than Rutland is capable of. VRAN points out the irony of a train named after a legendary Vermonter coming to a halt shortly after entering the state. VRAN points out that it would be cheaper to run the train to Burlington because of the increase in passenger revenue (estimated conservatively at 50%) due to the larger population. VRAN also urges another connection from Albany to Rutland via (North) Bennington (see map above), restoring Western Corridor service the full length of the state (track, and therefore speed, upgrades would be necessary along the entire route). However, VRAN recently posted the following statement:

 Vermonters were disappointed to learn that we again did not receive funds for the vital Western Corridor which connects Rutland and Burlington to New York and Montreal. Vermont had applied for $80 million dollars of high speed rail funds from the $2.4 billion award that had been rejected by Florida. Why did Vermont not get the funds? We can only speculate. Our application was solid. But the money was awarded to projects in areas with greater population on existing routes. . . . [I]t's understandable that the Western side of the state feels left out. Lacking an interstate, the transportation infrastructure on the Western Corridor is worse than it was in the 1930's.

It should be noted that intercity bus service is virtually nil, to the point that some Vermont counties have started running intra-county buses themselves. Interesting in the above statement is the reference to Vermont’s low population as the cause of not getting the funding, but particularly irksome is the recognition of the decline in overall Western Corridor transportation over the last eight decades.


Middlebury (Town)   As mentioned earlier, Middlebury was founded in 1761 as one of the New Hampshire Grants. I’d always wondered about the name, and now know that Middlebury got its name for being located halfway between Salisbury to the south and New Haven to the north. Each of these places is about a quarter-hour’s drive away on US 7, and each is today a mere fraction of Middlebury’s already rather small size.


Middlebury is set in hills and rolling countryside, and is a typical Vermont town with a central green, opposite which is a typical, prominent, white, steepled Congregational church visible from a distance. Its buildings, both residential and commercial, date from the Victorian and other eras. This picture shows Main Street, along which I’ve walked and driven many times, but was only vaguely aware of the river that flows through the town below it, since, if you don’t pay attention, you can walk right by it. Look at the two brick buildings on the right, then find the gray stone wall running between them (behind the blue shirt) that is actually the side of a bridge over Otter Creek, which flows from right (south) to left (north) under Main Street. It’s really quite unobtrusive. But go down a side street in the area known as Frog Hollow, and you’ll not only come to Otter Creek, but you’ll also see Otter Creek Falls, or Middlebury Falls. That’s the Main Street bridge from the previous picture, with the two brick buildings. The contrast between the typical townish look up top and the typical bucolic look down below, which is hard to notice from up top, has struck me, ever since I finally discovered the area down below. I understand otters are still to be found in Otter Creek. More about this area later.


Middlebury College   The College is an elite liberal arts college, and was founded in 1800, making it one of the oldest in the US. It celebrated its bicentennial about a decade ago, during the millennium year of 2000. It draws undergraduates from all 50 states and from over 70 countries. The campus is situated on a hill (it’s often called the College on the Hill) to the west of town, and short walk away. The campus is characterized by quadrangles and open spaces, views of the Green Mountains and the Adirondacks, and historic granite, marble, and limestone buildings.


In the Northeastern US there are Ivy League schools and the so-called Little Ivies. The Ivy League started as an athletic conference of eight private northeastern universities. The term now also refers to those schools in general terms as a group, and implies academic excellence, selectivity, and elitism. The schools are Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, and Dartmouth, all of which I’ve visited, as well as Columbia, that I attended for one graduate year, Cornell, and Pennsylvania.


Middlebury is included among the Little Ivies, which is a colloquialism referring to a much more informal grouping of elite liberal arts colleges, also in the northeastern US, that are old, small, exclusive, selective, and competitive. The term is meant to imply comparison with the Ivies, but it is not strictly defined. It’s assumed to include the “Little Three” of Amherst, Wesleyan, and Williams (which has a nice art museum I’ve visited), and a number of others, such as Swarthmore, Bowdoin, and Vassar.


Early in the College’s second century, which was the early 20C, two prestigious institutions were founded, the Summer Language Schools in 1915 (see below) and the Bread Loaf School of English in 1920, located on a separate mountain campus at the former Bread Loaf Inn near Bread Loaf Mountain in the Green Mountains, which accounts for the unusual name of the school. Coursework includes literature, creative writing, the teaching of writing, and theater. Bread Loaf has additional campuses in New Mexico, North Carolina, and in England, at Oxford University’s Lincoln College. Bread Loaf coursework can lead to a master’s degree.


The Bread Loaf Writers’ conference, which The New Yorker has called the oldest and most prestigious in the US, was founded in 1926. Robert Frost, who lived in nearby Ripton, taught at the Bread Loaf School of English from 1921 to 1963 and attended 29 sessions of the Conference.


The Summer Language Schools, which ran for six weeks when I attended, now run for either seven or nine weeks. All students enrolled in these schools agree to abide by the Language Pledge, which can be described succinctly in two words: NO ENGLISH! The Pledge is closely adhered to and is the basis for the schools’ success. Only after the six weeks were over did Beverly and I speak English to each other for the first time, at which point we noticed regional differences in our English.


When I first attended, there were five schools, all for European languages: German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Russian, but five more have since been added, only one of which is European: Portuguese; otherwise there are schools of Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and Hebrew. All ten offer undergraduate work, but only six, the original five plus Chinese, offer graduate work, leading to the Master of Arts (MA), or to the doctorate unique to Middlebury, the Doctor of Modern Languages (DML).


When I first attended, each of the five schools that then existed offered a year abroad program, always following a summer on campus, so when Beverly and I met at the beginning of the 1961 session, we then proceeded to spend the 1961-2 academic year in Mainz, and got married in August 1962. Today Middlebury has schools abroad in 36 sites in numerous countries. In California, the Monterey Institute of International Studies is now a graduate school of Middlebury and offers several types of master’s degree.


I have always been very pleased that the German School was founded first, and so, when we got our DMLs in Mead Chapel in 1980, we and the German School MA candidates led the academic procession down the aisle.


Freeman and Stroebe   I knew Stephen A Freeman. Lilian L Stroebe was decades before my time, but through Freeman I learned her story, which I have always enjoyed. I am pleased to present both now.


Stephen A Freeman was Director of the Language Schools from 1946 to 1970. To celebrate in 1975 the 175th anniversary of the founding of the college, coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Language Schools in 1915 (specifically, the German School), the Middlebury College Press published his history of the schools called “The Middlebury College Foreign Language Schools: The Story of a Unique Idea”. That was the year we’d returned to start our DML studies, so the following summer, in August 1976, weeks after the US Bicentennial, we met with Freeman and he signed our copy, dedicating it to us “with admiration for their years of study and romance in the German School”. How nice of him to remember us so well from fourteen years before.


[I will admit it’s unusual to have a person you know turn into a building, but on my campus visit this year, I visited the Stephen A Freeman International Center, which includes three small dining facilities known as Freeman (!!!), Hamlin, and Cook. During the regular school year, Cook is used for language students to emulate at lunchtime the dining in the summer language schools. Regular-year students pledge to speak only the language of the table, in the presence of a professor and student waiters who also speak the language. The Center also has classrooms and offices for three language departments, including German.]


I have never read all of Freeman’s book, but am quite familiar with the beginning, covering the initial founding of the summer schools, German being first.


Before the First World War, German was widely studied as the most popular modern language in the United States, the status that Spanish has today. Freeman writes:

 Professor Lilian L Stroebe of Vassar College opened the Middlebury College German Summer School on the morning of Tuesday, June 29, 1915 in Pearsons Hall. It was the first advanced, specialized and isolated summer school of a modern language in any college in the country. It marked the beginning of Middlebury’s international reputation in the teaching of modern languages, and of its specific contribution to the preparation of language teachers. . . . It was an idea whose time had come. It started a chain reaction. The Middlebury French Summer School was begun the next summer [(1916) and], the Spanish School in 1917 . . . .”

But how did what Freeman describes as “Fräulein Stroebe’s inspired initiative” come about? He quotes her from an article she wrote at Vassar that it was on a spring day in 1911 at Vassar that she and a Professor Whitney, sitting Newton-like under an apple tree, came up with the idea of a summer language school. No local college was interested, but she found a school in Connecticut in 1912 and one in Pennsylvania in 1913 where she was able to try out her methods. She then writes:

 The next step was to find a college somewhere in the mountains, a college where it would be cool and attractive during the summer months, which would open its doors to such a foreign language school. The idea of taking the school to Middlebury College . . . was born on a Rutland Railroad coach in 1914. Professor Whitney was on her way south from a Vermont Teachers’ meeting. Looking from the window of the train, she noticed two new buildings on a Vermont hilltop, obviously part of a college; a fellow passenger across the aisle informed her that they were Mead Chapel and Hepburn Hall. “There,” she exclaimed to herself, “is the ideal site for Dr Stroebe’s summer school.”

This is the spire of Mead Chapel, with Hepburn Hall beyond, to the south (Gifford Hall is in the foreground). The three are at the top of the hill, facing down the hill toward Old Stone Row (see below) and the town, from where Professor Whitney would have spotted the towers. Actually, since 1909, Middlebury had tried out having summer courses in a handful of various subjects, but not specialized in any one, so the general concept of summer study was already vaguely established. The women wrote to the college about a German School, that they were interested in starting the very next summer, 1915. The idea was eagerly accepted and the rest is language history.


Two lateral points that I’ve always enjoyed about this story is that major roles were played in the establishing of the German and other schools at Middlebury by the rail connection that exited then down Vermont’s Western Corridor through Middlebury, and by the fact that the college was visible from the rail coach because of its location on the hill.


The Arrival   Thomas Wolfe said you can’t go home again, and that’s true if you want to time travel to exactly how things were in the past. But once you make allowances for the years, it’s not that hard. My quick stop in Middlebury five years ago (2006/12), where, as part of a day trip out of NH, I drove around the town and campus for two hours, with the occasional stroll, only whetted my appetite for a real homecoming. And I got even more than I expected, from the moment I stepped off the train in Rutland, which unfortunately was scheduled to arrive at after 9:00 PM. Lacking the possibility of a further rail connection, and given the considerable difficulty of a car rental in Rutland, I’d contacted Middlebury Transit for a limo to take me on the hour’s drive to Middlebury Inn. It could have been a boring ride in the darkness after a long day, but turned out to be a highlight of the entire visit.


The limo driver who met me was a distinguished gentleman, and the more we chatted about Vermont and Middlebury, the more we found common interests. Hugh Marlow was a Middlebury resident and told me he’d worked 28 years in the college’s alumni department, to which I paralleled my 28 years in teaching. I mentioned having heard Robert Frost speak at Bread Loaf in 1961, and he countered with a story of, as a teenager, being up on a ladder washing a store window in town, and hearing Frost come by conversing with two ladies. Since it had been a long time since I’d really “come home”, I was intent on establishing my local credentials, so I explained about my Middlebury experience, including the facts I’d recently come to assimilate, such as the nine summers’ residence, 2 ½ schools, two degrees, and Mainz. I also discussed knowing Stephen Freeman, and the dedication he’d written in his book for us.


I could tell Hugh was rapidly assimilating these “credentials”, and so I added one more favorite story of mine, which ended up putting us over the top. I explained the true story that I’ve always associated the US Bicentennial in 1976 with Middlebury and with the celebration that took place that year on 4 July on Middlebury Green. I particularly remember (and I’ve told this story before on these pages) having met an elderly, tall, very aristocratic lady, who stood with both hands resting on top of a walking stick in front of her. It turned out she was 105 years old, and at age 5 had attended the US Centennial in 1876. Those were all the details I’d known, and I’ve always thought it was a great story. But Hugh absolutely exulted: “You knew Jessica Swift !!!” I could tell by his reaction that now I was bound forever in his mind to Middlebury. It turns out that she was the last of a long line of members of a local family, and was a benefactor of the town in many ways. I also found out that she eventually reached age 110 (1871-1981). But Hugh was able to fill in another charming detail to the story. College President Olin Robison, whose tenure at Middlebury had just started the year before, was there with his five-year-old son, and Jessica pointed out to the boy that, just as he was now five years old at the Bicentennial, she had been five years old a century earlier at the Centennial. What a wonderful addition to “my” story.


It was my intention to send an email to current President Ron Liebowitz in any case, but Hugh urged me to be sure to do so, and mention this wonderful encounter of ours coming up from Rutland. When Ron wrote back, he added the additional fact that Hugh was a Middlebury alumnus, Class of 1957, and also referred to Hugh as “Mr Middlebury”, so I realized I had been talking to the right person in reference to local history.


When we reached Middlebury, Hugh asked me if he could take me on an extra little drive around town. We went up to the upscale Swift House Bed & Breakfast, in Jessica’s former home, and through town to the new bridge that I’d been hearing so much about. As unobtrusive as the Main Street Bridge is, the Cross Street Bridge to the south (upstream) stands out for all to see. Particularly impressive are the lampposts along the sides of the bridge, each holding a pair of traditional-looking lamps. I was glad to see them at night, and commented that the bridge reminded me of a bridge in Paris, the Pont Alexandre III.


When Hugh dropped me off at Middlebury Inn, he said he had a book he wanted to give me and would leave it at the hotel desk in the morning. I asked him how I’d get it back to him, and he said it was for me to keep. I expected something between a brochure and a paperback. When I went to the desk in the morning, the clerk was as unbelieving as I was when she hefted up to me a large coffee-table-size, fully illustrated book, quite appropriately called “The College on the Hill”, published by the College for its own Bicentennial in 2000. Hugh’s signed and dated inscription was as nice in its own way as Freeman’s had been in his, especially given the similar historical themes of both books. Summarizing our pleasant hour together romping through Middlebury history, Hugh wrote “You were a great passenger”. Given my years of travel, that’s something no one ever said before!


I travel light and had only one small wheeled bag, so this hefty tome would have been a problem. But, knowing Middlebury (!!!) I knew that the post office was a block away from the Inn on the side of the Green, so I mailed the book home to myself. If you doubt the heft of this book Hugh gifted me, I can say that at the post office it came to almost 6 pounds (2.7 kg). It was a wonderful prelude to my walkabout that filled the rest of that day.


The Walkabout   It was a beautiful, sunny Friday--the same day I got the email about a possible evacuation of my home neighborhood--and I did one of my all-day urban walks, earning me more suntanning than I really wanted or needed. I was planning on a “town and gown” walk, in other words, revisiting the town and the campus, on either sides of the Main Street Bridge, but I ended up discovering and spending a lot of enjoyable time in a third area, the low-lying area BELOW the Main Street Bridge, that is, Frog Hollow and the (former) Mill District.


TOWN I first toured Middlebury Inn, which was founded at the major intersection at the top of Middlebury Green in 1827, although it was redone on its centennial in 1927, which is what the interior now reflects. This includes the Otis elevator from the 1920’s which is not automatic, but has to be manned. The Inn is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the Historic Hotels of America. Its location on the Green allowed me to wake in the morning to church bells. Its West Verandah, facing the Green, is lined with rocking chairs, which I enjoyed sampling for a few minutes, but which require for prolonged use a more sedentary outlook than mine. Every afternoon a complimentary tea with pastries is served in the lobby, and I made sure I was back in time to enjoy it later that afternoon. It struck me that even though I spent nine summers in Middlebury, this was the first time I not only stayed at Middlebury Inn, it was the first time I stayed in town and not on the campus.


I walked over to visit the Swift House Inn, which Jessica’s property has now become after the family lived there from 1815 to 1981. I then went over to Middlebury’s 1891 shingle-style railroad station, which thankfully has been restored, but now houses offices, and also past the Fire and Ice restaurant, named after Robert Frost’s poem. The imposing Congregational Church at the head of the Green, with is otherwise surrounded by Victorian brick commercial structures (“Merchants’ Row”) as on Main Street, contrasts with the oddly-positioned Episcopal Church, which for some reason the town permitted in 1825 to be built right in the Green, effectively cutting the Green’s size in about half. Running along the side of that church that’s away from the open Green, there is a very unobtrusive (because of lots of greenery) one-track railroad cut down below, which is how the Western Corridor rail service serviced the town in the day, running up to the station just to the north.


CAMPUS Beyond the Main Street Bridge, College Street brings you to you-know-where. The most picturesque part of the campus is the Central Quadrangle which rises up the hillside. At the base, nearest to town, is Old Stone Row, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, consisting of the three oldest buildings on campus. On the right is Painter Hall, completed in 1816, which is the oldest extant college building in Vermont. It is also of particular significance to me since it was the very first dormitory I ever lived in, in that first year, 1959, at age 19. In the center is Old Chapel (1836), which is now largely used for offices, including the President’s Office on the third floor, and finally Starr Hall (1830, rebuilt in 1964 after a fire), where I also lived one summer. Complementing the troika of Starr-Old Chapel-Painter at the bottom of the hill are, at the top of the hill, the aforementioned Hepburn Hall, where I lived when in the Spanish School in 1960, Mead Chapel, where we received our doctorates in 1980, and Gifford Hall, on the lower level of which Beverly and I met in the first couple of days of the 1961 session. All in all, memories abound.


Across College Street is the area sometimes referred to as the North Campus. It includes Pearsons Hall, which at the time was the heart of the German School, and where we lived all the other summers. We did some marvelous coursework there. Across the lawn is Le Château (1925-picture it without the snow), the heart of the French School, and looking like it has just been plucked from the Loire Valley. Its style makes the building look much larger than it is. I peeked into nearby Wright Theater, where we had performed (see above). Most impressive was the McCardell Bicentennial Hall (science), located opposite the Freeman International Center. Its Great Hall has a four-story glass wall overlooking the Adirondack Mountains in New York State to the west.


Contrasting with what is called Bi Hall, was Starr Library, where we had done a great deal of work, located opposite Starr Hall down in Old Stone row. Starr Library had been built in 1900 for the College’s Centennial. With the new Davis Family Library nearby, the former library has been artfully recycled for other academic use, but retained the name in the form of the Axinn Center at Starr Library. I also visited the nearby Mahaney Center for the Arts, another newer addition. Still, at Middlebury, change comes with no apparent change.


We had also done a lot of work at the Sunderland Language Center, at whose entrance is located a very relevant quote from the 16C English scholar Roger Ascham (AS.kam), in period spelling and grammar:

 For euen as a hauke flieth not hie with one wing: euen so a man reacheth not to excellency with one tong.

FROG HOLLOW & THE MARBLE WORKS DISTRICT I had thought I knew Middlebury, both town and campus. In the three early years I was there, I was only vaguely aware that down below the Main Street Bridge was a waterfall and some buildings. When we went back for the later years, what turned out to be the industrial buildings down by Otter Creek were being abandoned, and some shops and restaurants were advertised in Frog Hollow, but still, I only had a vague awareness. But now the area has come almost full circle, and it’s the third area of interest in Middlebury. Essentially, both sides of Otter Creek north of the bridge (downstream) were called the Mill District.


Going down from Main Street on the “town side” one enters what is now called the Marble Works District, where huge factories and warehouses are now recycled into an office park. It is ironic that this whole industrial area was attracted here in the early to mid 19C because of the water power of the falls to run machinery, and the nearby rail line to move marble in and out. From this side there’s an excellent view of the falls and Otter Creek below. I’ve been told that this side of the falls is going to be redeveloped into a park, which should be very attractive. It does bring a smile, though, to note that the present seating is on white marble slabs, paving stones are made of marble, and even the gravel is marble chips. Needless to say, statues in town tend to be of marble as well.


In recent years, a wooden footbridge, with outstanding water views, has been built across Otter Creek, connecting the Marble Works District with Frog Hollow proper on the “college side”. A plaque calls it the Marble Works Memorial Bridge, “dedicated to the merchants of Middlebury who built and operated the mills and factories, which from 1774 to 1966 drew their power from the falls”. Other markers point out that in 1802, the first marble factory in the US opened in Frog Hollow, and by 1808, this mill was sawing up to 10,000 ft (3,000 m) of local marble annually. There were also mills for milled lumber, iron products, flour, paper, guns, textiles, marble products, architectural woodwork. It was here that I learned that originally, there was a ford and a ferry upstream to connect both sides of the town. The first bridge on Main Street had been built in 1799, but floods kept damaging them. After a major fire in the town in 1891, the present stone bridge was built.


In Frog Hollow one could see the disused remnants of what had been a water wheel, and later a turbine. Turbines are the next development up after waterwheels and windmills, since all these devices are rotary engines. A turbine is essentially a water wheel turned inside out, that is, the buckets revolve on the inside. As in a water wheel (or windmill) there is a rotor assembly, which is a shaft or drum with blades (buckets) attached, but a turbine has a casing around the blades to contain the water.


A nearby sign also points out that John Deere, the inventor of “the plow that broke the plains”, learned the blacksmith trade in Frog Hollow from 1821-5. In 1836 he went to Illinois where, in 1837, he built the world’s first steel plow.


All the buildings in Frog Hollow are now put to other uses, such as a craft center, but most of interest to me is the handsome stone structure on the water’s edge referred to as the Old Stone Mill. It had been built on the site of an earlier cotton mill. In 1840 it became a woolen mill, and later, it actually generated electricity from water power, which it did until 1964. Today, however, the building houses the riverside Storm Café. I had considered the possibility of dinner here, but Hugh Marlow convinced me, and it was a fine meal on the open wooden terrace at the water’s edge. However, it was Friday, and Irene was expected by Sunday, so the waitstaff was leery about flooding. I asked about the unusual name of the restaurant and was told that the original owner couldn’t think of a name, and since it was raining, he called it the Storm Café. Given the impending arrival of Irene, the name of this pleasant place took on ominous tones.


Second Return   Of the eight nights of this trip, it was only the first two that I spent in Middlebury Inn, after which I drove north to spent five nights in what I’m calling the borderlands. Since my trip on the Vermonter from up north didn’t pan out this time, I had decided to drive back to Middlebury, East Middlebury to be precise (only an hour south of Burlington Airport), for one final night in the Waybury Inn. I’m going to treat that trip north as a side trip, discussed in the next posting, and will jump ahead beyond that to my “second return” to Middlebury at the end of the trip.


The day of my second return was my birthday, September 1. I had emailed Middlebury College President Ron Liebowitz that I’d like to stop by and say hello. We had spoken every year at the Holiday Reception of the New York Alumni, but as I wrote him, I’d just like to say hello on the “home turf”. He told me to call ahead to see if he could squeeze me in, which his secretary said was questionable, but after waiting just a few minutes, he was between meetings, and we had a short “birthday chat”. It was a fulfilling moment to my visit, and now Old Chapel, where is office is, is one of the buildings of personal significance to me. Ron is the 16th president, and has been in office since 2004. Since 1984 he had been professor of geography, and later also provost and Dean of Faculty. He is only the third MC faculty member to be named President. I’m also pleased to say that his first Middlebury experience was as a language school student in 1980 and 1981. It was Ron who shaped the agreement that brought about the affiliation of the Monterey Institute of International Studies.


After visiting with Ron, I was still concerned about the Storm Café and the other buildings in Frog Hollow, so I stopped by. As it happened the chef-owner was outside eyeing the water level as compared to the edge of his wooden terrace. Only talking with him did it strike me that they weren’t worried about flooding the day of the storm four days earlier. There was a delay until accumulated floodwaters in the mountains worked their way down. He said the crest was predicted for midnight that night, and I wished him well. When I stopped by again the next day on my way to the airport, all was indeed well, at least here in town. Still, I understand that Otter Creek reached a record 10 ft (3 m) above flood stage. Other towns were not as lucky as Middlebury. [The views in the video are of the falls from the Frog Hollow (campus) side. From 1:13 to 1:20, note the view on the other (town) side of the Marble Works. Down from the Works, the slope of the riverbank is entirely covered with white chips of scrap marble. It is my understanding that that area is to be landscaped as a park viewing area of the falls. From 1:57 to the end, there’s a more relaxed scene of the new wooden footbridge crossing from the marble chips area to Frog Hollow, with the white spire of the Congregational Church on the Green in the background.]


MIDDLEBURY GAP Particularly in central Vermont, the Green Mountains separate the east and west transportation corridors, which are joined, ladder style, by several mountain passes. In some places, a pass is referred to as a gap (Cumberland Gap, Delaware Water Gap), and Vermont is one of them. To the north of Middlebury is Lincoln Gap (740 m, 2428 ft), connecting Lincoln and Warren; to the south, is Brandon Gap (661 m, 2170 ft), connecting Brandon and Rochester (Rochester was seriously damaged by Irene), and in the center is Middlebury Gap (653 m, 2144 ft), connecting East Middlebury with Hancock (the village of East Middlebury is a part of Middlebury). Middlebury Gap is the source of one branch of the Middlebury River, which eventually flows into Otter Creek as it flows north from where it rises in southern Vermont. Thus the Middlebury River is not in the town center proper. The road over the gap was historically the Center Turnpike, but now it’s Route 125, and is one of only two designated Vermont Scenic Highways.


Driving westward (toward Middlebury) over the gap one comes on the right to the MC Bread Loaf School of English. Further downhill, where the road runs along the edge of the Middlebury River, is Ripton, the location of the Robert Frost Cabin, a National Historic Landmark now owned by MC, where the poet lived and wrote in the summer months from 1939 until his death in 1963. Finally reaching level land, one is in East Middlebury, a lengthy, linear village along Route 125 and parallel to the Middlebury River.


Located in East Middlebury is the Waybury Inn, my destination for the night. We had had an enjoyable dinner at the Waybury Inn in July, 1976, and this time I wanted to stay there overnight. It was built in 1810 and had also served as a stagecoach stop, the last stop for eastbound travelers to prepare for the difficult journey through the gap and the first resting place for westbound travelers coming down from the mountains. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places. It was also once a favorite dinner spot for Robert Frost.


The Waybury Inn has another, rather peculiar distinction. It’s façade was used for exterior shots for the Bob Newhart TV series Newhart from 1982 to 1990. Interior shots were done in a studio, and Bob Newhart never visited the inn, although some cast members did, and Newhart’s picture hangs above the front desk. In the show, it was referred to as the Stratford Inn, and was painted white for the show. After the show went off the air, it was repainted a dull green, for the Green Mountains. These are the opening credits and opening scene of the first Newhart show. The “Stratford Inn” appears at 0:41 and 5:43.


It had been my intention to drive up to the top of Middlebury Gap from the Waybury Inn to once again visit on the way Ripton and Bread Loaf, but this was the point where Irene interrupted my plans. This is a video of what is normally a babbling brook, the Middlebury River next to Route 125 in Ripton after Irene.


ROBERT FROST In any case, it’s appropriate to discuss Robert Frost a little (this picture is from 1941). Born in San Francisco and wintering later in life in South Miami, FL, he is nevertheless primarily associated with living and teaching in New England, having lived in two locations in New Hampshire as well as in Ripton. He is highly regarded for his depictions of rural New England life in the early 20C, such as in two of his most popular poems, “Mending Wall” and “The road Not Taken”. He received four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry. He was 86 when he spoke and read his poetry at Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. He died in Boston two years later, in 1963.


“Fire and Ice” He won the 1923 Pulitzer Prize for his volume of poems called New Hampshire, which included the two poems we’ll illustrate below. The first one, irregularly, doesn’t deal with rural life, but rather with the end of the world: “Fire and Ice” (which is also the name of that restaurant in Middlebury):

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great,
And would suffice.

It’s written in a single 9-line stanza, which narrows toward the end. The poem's meter is an irregular mix (see 2008/17 “Stress Patterns and Meter”). Three shorter lines are in iambic dimeter (da.DUM x 2) and the other six in iambic tetrameter (da.DUM x 4). Half of the latter have the odd ninth syllable.


The poem, in discussing the end of the world, likens fire with desire, and ice with hate. According to one of Frost's biographers, the poem was inspired by a passage in Canto 32 of Dante's Inferno, in which the worst offenders, the traitors, while in a fiery hell, are submerged up to their necks in ice. He also draws a parallel between the poem’s nine lines and Dante’s nine rings of hell, and, just as the rings of hell funnel downward, the poem narrows in the last two lines.


A prominent astronomer claims he inspired Frost to write this poem. He’d been speaking with Frost a year earlier, and Frost asked his opinion of how the world would end. The astronomer said either the sun will explode and incinerate the Earth, or otherwise the Earth would eventually slowly freeze in space. A year later, the astronomer was surprised at seeing the poem in print, and called it an example of how science can influence the creation of art.


“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” We used just the fourth (last) stanza of this poem in 2008/17 talking about stress patterns and meter, and even used the YouTube video of its recitation, but given its New England association, it’s worth reviewing all four stanzas of this “Frost-y” poem (sorry, I couldn’t resist):

 Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Frost wrote this poem about winter somewhat ironically during the summer, in June, 1922 at his house in Shaftsbury, in southwestern Vermont, so we are concluding with a definite Vermont image. Frost had been up the entire night writing, and finished at dawn. Viewing the sunrise, he suddenly got the idea for this poem in a flash and wrote it with no difficulty in just a few minutes.


We again have iambs (da.DUM), four to a line, so it’s again iambic tetrameter, and perfectly so, with no extra syllables. The rhyme scheme is notable. Each quatrain (four-line stanza) uses a so-called chain rhyme, where, in this case, each verse picks up as its principal rhyme the rhyme of the third line of the previous one. That is, the first is AABA, then the B is picked up so that the second is BBCB, and the C leads into CCDC. Then, somewhat breaking the pattern, when the D is picked up, it’s used exclusively: DDDD.


The last two lines appear to be the same, but actually, the first is to be taken literally and the second philosophically. Though we’ve heard it before (2008/17), this is an excellent reading of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”.


I’d like to quote this interpretation of the poem from Wikipedia:

 The theme of the poem is the struggle that takes place in the mind of the speaker between two possibilities: the contemplation of the beauty of nature and the return to the responsibility of daily life.

I present the above for several reasons. First, it’s obviously a very succinct interpretation of the four stanzas. But I have other motives. English Wikipedia, surprisingly, doesn’t present the text of the poem, nor this interpretation. But the article on the poem appears in two other languages (only), Arabic and Dutch, both of which do have the English text. I don’t know Arabic, but the Dutch article is where the above interpretation appeared, and the above is not really a quote, it’s my translation from Dutch to English. Thus, one of my motives is to show the importance of bilingualism or multilingualism in doing research.


Yet another motive is to demonstrate the similarity of languages. I really don’t know Dutch all that well, but, just as I can manage Italian or Portuguese because of their similarity to Spanish, which I know well, I can manage Dutch because of its similarity to German, which I know very well. My final motive is to demonstrate this by quoting the original Dutch text of the above, as well as my German translation of it, which was somewhat more direct to do than putting it into English, since the vocabulary was so much more similar. Speakers of German will note this below; others should still try to see the parallels:

 Het thema van het gedicht is de strijd die zich afspeelt in de geest van de spreker tussen twee mogelijkheden: de contemplatie van de schoonheid van de natuur en de terugkeer naar de verantwoordelijkheid van het dagelijks leven.

Das Thema des Gedichts ist der Streit, der sich abspielt im Sinn (Geist) des Sprechers zwischen zwei Möglichkeiten: die Kontemplation der Schönheit der Natur und die Rückkehr zur (nach der) Verantwortlichkeit des täglichen Lebens.

Flight Home   It was just an hour’s drive back north to Burlington Airport, but the airport was so typical of laid-back Vermont. I’d first noticed when the second limo driver had brought me to the airport to get my car in the first place that the airport was about as unobtrusive as you could imagine, fitting into its residential neighborhood so smoothly. We drove down a residential street, and made a turn behind a small airport sign between some trees up what seemed a driveway, and there we were. The airport is sleek and modern, yet low-level and unobtrusive, so typical of Vermont. On returning the car, I had to just leave it in the designated area of the parking garage--there was no one working there--and had to turn in the keys at the desk in the terminal, something I’d never experienced before. I was quite early for my flight, yet there was no one--and no flights--for a few hours at the five or six gates in the area I was in, not until people later arrived for my flight. How very Vermont.

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