Robert Frost

R obert Frost is one of the most popular American poets of all time. His highly accessible work made him famous in his lifetime and has since solidified his place in American literary history. Among his best-known poems are The Road Not Taken‘ and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening‘. 

Robert Frost

 


Life Facts

  • Frost was born in San Francisco, California in March of 1874.
  • He taught English at Amherst College in Massachusetts.
  • His first book was published in Great Britain in 1912.
  • He was awarded over forty honorary degrees although he never graduated from a university. 
  • Robert Frost died in 1963.

Interesting Facts

  • His father died when he was 11 years old.
  • He was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal.
  • He won four Pulitzer Prizes.
  • The Frost home is known as The Frost Place.
  • Frost accompanied the Interior Secretary to the Soviet Union where he helped lobby for peace between the two countries.


Famous Poems by Robert Frost

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is one of Frost’s best-known poems. It was, by Frost’s own account, inspired by real events. The poet described how he was faced with a difficult choice, just as is described in the text. The woods provided an easy escape from the hardships of his life, but he had more to do before he could even consider resting.

 

To Earthward is a clever poem that contains numerous poignant images. In the text, the speaker describes his youth and how it has continued to influence him throughout his life. He is seeking to feel something real, to turn “earthward” and know the full range of his emotions. 

 

Desert Places discusses themes of isolation and loneliness within the context of a natural scene. In this case, the setting is a snowy landscape in which all animals are hidden, and no other travelers wander. The land is described as “empty spaces,” a fact which evokes fear in the speaker and makes him think of his own mental “desert places.”

 

The Road Not Taken is by far Frost’s most popular. There are two paths that are set out before the speaker, and it is up to him to choose which one to travel down. The decision he makes at this moment is spoken of as if it was life-changing. At the time he thought he might go back and try the tooth path, but he realizes that this is never going to happen.

 

Mending Wall discusses humankind’s desire to mark off territory. This includes solidifying the outline of one’s own land, such as around a house, or something larger like the border of a country. The speaker does not look kindly on this way of being. He sees it as simplistic and indicative of a more basic urge which humanity should’ve grown out of. 

 


Early Life

Robert Frost was born in San Francisco, California in March of 1874. His father, William Prescott was a journalist and a descendent of an English immigrant who came to America in 1634. His mother, Isabelle Moodie, was from Scotland. In addition to journalism, Frost’s father worked as a teacher, and later, as an editor of the San Francisco Evening Bulletin. He died of tuberculosis when Frost was only eleven years old and soon after the family, in a very poor financial state, moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts. 


Literary Career

Frost’s grandfather, who had supported the family after William Prescott’s death, purchased a farm for Frost and his new wife in Derry, New Hampshire. He worked the farm for almost a decade, writing when he could. His mother died of cancer during this interval, and his sister was committed to a mental hospital where she was to die only a few years later. 

 

On top of all of this,  he proved to be an unsuccessful farmer and was forced to return to education. He taught at the New Hampshire Pinkerton Academy from 1906 until 1911 and then later at the New Hampshire Normal School in Plymouth. The years on the farm were some of Frost most productive, although they were not published at the time, he wrote a number of poems that were later to become famous. 

 

Ready for a change, Frost and his family moved to Great Britain in 1912. It was here that his first book of poetry was published, A Boy’s Will. He became known to the poetic group, Dymock Poets, as well as Ezra Pound. His second volume, North of Boston, was published two years later. Following these publications, Frost returned to America in the midst of World War I. America had only just received its copies of A Boy’s Will and Frost was able to set up a good life for himself and his family in Franconia, New Hampshire. The publication’s popularity solidified his reputation in America. 

 

The home that the family resided in during this period is now known as The Frost Place and is maintained as a historic site. Throughout the 1920s he taught English at Amherst College in Massachusetts, accepted a fellowship at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and was appointed a Fellow of Letters. In 1924, he won his first Pulitzer Prize for his volume, New Hampshire: A Poem with Notes and Grace Notes. He continued to teach, mostly on a rotating basis, at the Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont. 


Writing Career and Relationships

During the 1930s he started spending more time in the southern United States, particularly Florida. It was there that he bought a plot of land on which he would spend every winter for the rest of his life. The property was named, Pencil Pines. As the decades progressed his reputation only grew and the prestige with which he was considered, increased. He won his second Pulitzer in 1931 for Collected Poems, his third in 1937 for Further Range, and finally, his fourth, in 1943 for A Witness Tree. 

 

He was awarded over forty honorary degrees although he never graduated from a university. In 1960 he was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his enriching poetry. A year later, at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, he was called upon to read a poem. He wrote, “Dedication” for this particular occasion, but due to the glaring sunlight, was unable to read it. He recited instead, “The Gift Outright.” The following year, 1962, saw Frost accompany the Interior Secretary to the Soviet Union where he helped lobby for peace between the two countries.

 

Robert Frost died in 1963 due to complications from prostate surgery and was buried in Old Bennington Cemetery in Vermont. 


Influence from other Poets

Robert Frost was notably influenced by writers such as Rupert Brooke, Robert Graves, and Ezra Pound.


Poems by Robert Frost

Explore poetry by Robert Frost below, analyzed by the team at Poem Analysis.

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