The New York Times ran the following report recently:
A forgotten Robert Frost manuscript recently turned up in the basement of a Masonic lodge in Methuen, Mass. It’s not a poem or an essay, but rather an attendance book Frost kept while teaching eighth grade at the Second Grammar School in Methuen in 1893. City officials say the book is somewhat the worse for wear, The Boston Globe reported, and they’re applying for a $3,000 grant to restore and rebind it. The entries are apparently all in Frost’s hand as he painstakingly ticked off, day by day, who showed up and who didn’t. At the time Frost himself was only 17, or just a few years older than his pupils, and a recent dropout from Dartmouth College, where he hadn’t even finished his first semester. But teachers didn’t need credentials in those days, and besides, Frost had pull: his mother also taught at Second Grammar. Teaching was the family business. Frost’s father was a teacher and a journalist, and after his death Frost’s mother, who had been a teacher, supported the family by returning to the classroom. She even opened her own private school in Salem, N.H., and, not surprisingly her son, who was already writing and publishing poetry but needed a day job, was hired there too.
But the Times report didn’t indicate any reason why this artifact of the great American poet’s early life would have been found in a Masonic lodge. (In fact, it appears from some accounts that the attendance record was found in the Masonic lodge 20 years ago and has been stored in Methuen’s City Hall since then).
Frost is not listed on any of the web databases that seek to index “famous Masons.” However, Frost’s Mending Wall poem (“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”) has connoted an affection for stonemasons and the art of wall building to some literary critics. And a number of Masonic writers have used Frost’s The Road Not Taken (“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference”) as a literary allusion to the difficult path of those on a quest for knowledge and meaning, and for the path of Freemasonry itself.
There is no indication Frost was a Mason, but we’d appreciate hearing from anyone who has a clue as to why this news-making attendance record in Frost’s hand showed up in a Masonic lodge or other thoughts on this bit of history.