DERRY — A famed poet with strong connections to a simple, rustic farm will have his words honored permanently on pavement.
The Robert Frost poem "The Road Not Taken" is now a fixture on portions of Derry's rail trail system, paying tribute to the poet that once called the town home.
Thanks to the talents of local artists, some scenic, rustic boulders and spaces along Derry's rail trail have transformed into colorful animals and other designs for the public to enjoy while distancing safely on the trails and paths.
The Frost lyrics were added most recently to the trail system.
Local artisans spent time earlier this summer painting the words on the paved trail.
The artistic flair is part of a partnership between the Derry Rail Trial Alliance and Derry Public Arts, an effort that joined together to help spread the arts throughout the community.
The public arts group got its start last year as an ad hoc gathering to gauge interest in public arts projects. The group joined with the Greater Derry Arts Council to help spread artistic support in various ways including downtown projects and programs.
One project that got off the ground last year was an effort to place donated pianos around the downtown, offering people a chance to stop and play a few tunes amid their travels on Broadway.
A downtown mural also took shape and local artists have also graced storefront windows with colorful designs and images.
In the most recent partnership with the rail trail group, some of the concrete barriers along the trail were transformed into florals and animals, with painting done with social distancing in mind.
Adding the Frost poem was another benefit to highlight the trail system, its rich history in the area and the works of the famed poet with ties to a local farm.
The Robert Frost Farm in Derry was home to Lawrence High sweethearts Frost and his wife Elinor, as well as their children from 1900 to 1911. When the poet walked the perimeter of his Derry farm along a stony wall or headed up the road to teach English at Pinkerton Academy, he was thought to be very inspired to put down on paper what he witnessed along the way or at home.
It is believed to be a spot where the poet found much inspiration for some of his most notable works including "The Mending Wall," "The Pasture," and "Home Burial."
"The Road Not Taken" was published in 1916 after Frost left Derry.
It's a work that has long been analyzed by Frost scholars and the average readers, according to Richard Holmes, a local historian and author of many books on area history.
Holmes notes that Frost wrote the poem as a joke on a friend who was also second guessing himself.
"But Frost scholars analyze it differently than the average reader who look upon it as being about making life choices," Holmes said, adding his own personal take is that the poem is about the choices we all make every hour that impact our lives.
Holmes also points out the connection between the years Frost spent in Derry and the rich history of the local railroad that traveled through downtown Derry along what is the current rail trail system now showing the poet's own words and life and where it might lead.
"So that railroad... which was on the rail trail's bed, has been our 'magic carpet' since 1859, to carry us to the big cities or to the summer idylls in the lakes or mountains," Holmes said. "It was how many thousands of French Canadians traveled here after making the decision to leave their behind their homes in Quebec to find work in Derry's shoe factories. It is the steel road which carried so many of our young men and women to war, our children who bravely made their decision to take the frightful path of defending their country, their hearth and home in wars. So many life/path changing decisions were made on Derry's branch of the Boston and Maine Rail Line."
To learn more about Robert Frost and his years spent in Derry on the local farm, visit robertfrostfarm.org.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth
From "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost