Robert Frost tells of a homecoming that is marked with gratitude, tender concern, and the unspoken fear.

Curated by Gregory Pings, manager of Content Marketing for Xerox

In Robert Frost’s 1917 poem, Not to Keep, a man returns home from war — alive. Frost reminds us that it might not have been so, and that sacrifice is borne equally by his family.

Even if Frost leaves us wondering whether we should rejoice or weep, we understand that sacrifice is sacred. And so we honor the people who have borne it, and those who bear it still.

Not to Keep

Robert Frost (1917)

They sent him back to her. The letter came
Saying… And she could have him. And before
She could be sure there was no hidden ill
Under the formal writing, he was in her sight,
Living. They gave him back to her alive—
How else? They are not known to send the dead—
And not disfigured visibly. His face?
His hands? She had to look, and ask,
“What was it, dear?” And she had given all
And still she had all—they had—they the lucky!
Wasn’t she glad now? Everything seemed won,
And all the rest for them permissible ease.
She had to ask, “What was it, dear?”

Yet not enough. A bullet through and through,
High in the breast. Nothing but what good care
And medicine and rest, and you a week,
Can cure me of to go again.” The same
Grim giving to do over for them both.
She dared no more than ask him with her eyes
How was it with him for a second trial.
And with his eyes he asked her not to ask.
They had given him back to her, but not to keep.

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