The Harvest: Mark Foster's Baccalaureate Address

Middlesex School

Elected by the senior class as Baccalaureate speaker, retiring English teacher Mark Foster chose not to shower graduates with words of advice:  "Life may well be a sustained experiment to confirm or disprove conjectures and hypotheses," said Mr. Foster, "and if it is, Thoreau says, better to be your own lab rat than someone else’s.  In other words, don’t accept advice from anyone, least of all well-intentioned adults who want to share with you the 'benefits' of their experience."

Instead, Mr. Foster recited the Robert Frost poem "After Apple-Picking."  Graduation, asserted Foster, is a harvest - long anticipated, requiring sustained and dedicated effort, and exhausting.  "The next harvest, however, is a different animal entirely, because what you reap and what you sow is now much more in your hands," Foster told the assembled soon-to-be graduates and their families.  "If life is an experiment, the question when you leave here is how do you intend to grow, and what kind of harvest do you want to make of yourself?  According to Frost, it might be a good thing if one were to make one’s life’s desire a big one, a worthy one, a great harvest, something you might really sink your teeth into, something you would cherish, that would call forth the most and best you’ve got to give."

In closing, Mr. Foster recited a poem of his own, entitled "Driftwood."  

To the headland where the sound meets the sea
Wood drifts, not that it imagines where it’s bound
Any more than the sapling could foresee
It would be cut, trimmed, and set with golden nails
To be a mighty symbol to the Greeks
When great Achilles hurls it to the ground.
 
Innumerable bleached branches, sea-mossed boards,
And trunks scrim-shawed by sea-worms all get tossed
High up the shore in tangled rafts in autumn gales
And there’s an end, though next summer, by night,
We’ll gather armfuls of wood, set it alight
And watch the dazzling sparks soar up the dark.
 
In the meantime, blown by wind and tugged by tide
To the headland where the sound meets the sea,
Drift, wood.

 

 

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