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Robert Frost: Great American Poet

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve leaned about life—It goes on” - Robert Frost. “Though his work is principally associated with the life and landscape of New England, and though he was a poet of traditional verse forms and metrics, who remained steadfastly aloof from the poetic movements and fashions of his time, Frost is anything but a merely regional or minor poet.” (“Robert Frost,” poets.org) Frost expressed his pain, sorrow, joy, and hardship through poetry. Despite the countless tragic losses in his life, Robert Frost continued to persevere and wrote many famous poems throughout his lifetime. His poetry motivates many Americans today. Frost’s epitaph so truthfully read: “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”

Robert Lee Frost’s inspiring life began on March 26, 1874. Interestingly, his parents named him after the famous General Robert E. Lee. His father, William Prescott Frost Jr., worked as a journalist. William Frost also taught at a school and later became an editor for the San Francisco Evening Bulletin. Unfortunately, Robert’s father took up drinking and gambling and in 1885, when Robert was only eleven, his father died after contracting tuberculosis. He left his wife only eight dollars. Despite their terrible financial state, the family honored his last wishes to bury him in Lawrence Massachusetts, and so the Frosts took the long train ride from San Francisco to New England. There they settled for a time and Mrs. Frost took up a teaching position to support the family.

Since both of Robert’s had been teachers, he had an early exposure to the world of books and reading. He avidly devoured the works of William Shakespeare, Robert Burns, and William Wadsworth. This helped to form his life-long love of poetry and writing. Robert enrolled in Lawrence High School and soon started writing poetry. The school newspaper even published one of his poems. Robert excelled in history, botany, Latin, Greek, and he even played football. He graduated at the head of his class. “In 1892, Robert entered Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, but he only stayed in college for two months. Robert didn’t feel like he quite fit in with campus life.” (“Robert Frost,” Online Literature) He wanted to write.

Consequently, Frost returned home after his short college attendance and worked at various jobs. At one of his jobs, he helped his Mother teach a class of unruly and rambunctious kids. Frost also delivered newspapers and worked at a factory changing light bulb filaments. “He did not particularly enjoy these jobs and felt called to poetry.” (“Robert Frost,” Wikipedia) So in 1894, he sold his first poem, My Butterfly: An Elegy for fifteen dollars. This started Frost’s career in poetry. He then proposed to Elinor Miriam White, his sweet heart and co-valedictorian. Elinor could not accept, but she agreed to get married after she finished college. After Elinor graduated, Frost married her. He then attended Harvard University for two years, but dropped out because of an illness he caught and the need to support his growing family.

Shortly before his death, Grandfather Frost had bought the newlywed couple a small farm in Derry New Hampshire. So Robert and Elinor, along with their children, moved there in 1900. They worked the farm for nine years. Here, Frost wrote many poems that became renowned later on. Many of his poems portrayed nature and rural country life. He wrote in the early morning and worked during the day. Frost also took up teaching English. However, in that same year they moved to the farm, Frost’s daughter, Elinor Bettina died one day after birth and Frost’s Mother lost the battle to breast cancer. These came as devastating blows to the family.

Nevertheless, the years at the farm were peaceful and secluded. Frost enjoyed tending to orchards and chickens, but, in 1907, another tragedy hit the family. Their son Elliot died of Cholera. The family grieved yet another dreadful death. The Frosts decided to sell their beloved farm in 1911. Their farm in Derry eventually became a state historical landmark. The Frosts wanted to move to England, so they set sail in 1912. First the family lived in Glasgow, then they moved to a cottage in Beaconsfield outside of London. There, Frost published his first poetry book called A Boy’s Will in 1913. Henry Holt published it in the U.S. in 1915. Frost made some distinguished acquaintances in England such as Edward Thomas, T.E. Hulme, and Ezra Pound. They helped to mentor him and greatly influenced his poetry for the better. As a result, Frost wrote some of his best works in England. Although they lived happily in England, the Frost’s felt it safer to move back to New Hampshire when World War I started, settling in their newly bought farm in Franconia.

“By the nineteen-twenties, Frost had become the most celebrated poet in America.” (“Robert Frost,” Poets.org) Frost taught English at Amherst College and during this time, supporters of Frost’s work grew rapidly. In 1920, the Frost family bought a house in South Shaftsbury, Vermont (now a museum). Frost wrote many poems during this time in South Shaftsbury and here he published his fourth collection, New Hampshire in 1923, which included the famous poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1938, Elinor later died of heart failure. The lonely poet now had hardly any family left. “Frost decided to buy a five-acre plot in Pencil Pines, South Miami, Florida where he spent his winters for the rest of his life.” (“Robert Frost,” Wikipedia)

During his life, Robert Frost won four Pulitzer prizes for Poetry, received over forty-five honorary degrees, and became the only person to ever receive two honorary degrees from Dartmouth College. At the age of eighty-six, Robert Frost read his poetry at John F. Kennedy’s presidential inauguration on January 20, 1961. Content with the world, Robert Lee Frost died two years later on January 29, 1963, having led a successful career as a poet. He was buried at the old Bennington Cemetery in Vermont. “The death of Robert Frost leaves a vacancy in the American spirit.... His death impoverishes us all; but he has bequeathed his Nation a body of imperishable verse from which Americans will forever gain joy and understanding.”--(John F. Kennedy)



Bibliography:

Merriman, C.D. “Robert Frost.” The literature network. 3 February 2010.2006. <http://www.online-literature.com/frost/>


“Robert Frost.” Poets.org. 3 February 2010.
<http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/192>


“Robert Frost.” Wikipedia. 3 February 2010.
29 January 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Frost>


“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Poetry Foundation. 3 February 2010
<http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=171621>



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.

~Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”





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