Exaine the differences between the original poem "Dedication" by Robert Frost that was not read out at the inauguration of JFK and "The Gift Outright."

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One particular difference between "Dedication" and "The Gift Outright" is its scope of historical embrace. "Dedication" takes the construction of the nation into more detail and farther back than "The Gift Outright." When Frost reads his 16 lined poem aloud at the Inauguration, he begins with the notion of American identity in Colonial times. Yet, the text of "Dedication" traces back to the "The new world Christopher Columbus found/ The French, the Spanish, and the Dutch were downed."  This helps to establish a broader and more expansive historical narrative than "The Gift Outright."

Accordingly, Frost is able to exact more specificity in the American Historical Narrative in "Dedication" than what was read aloud in "The Gift Outright."  For example, Frost read aloud the idea of "Massachusetts and Virginia" as well as briefly passing through "the wars."  Yet, in "Dedication," this bond is forged even deeper with more specific historical references such as "the great four, Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, and Madison," how "by the example of our Declaration/ Make everybody want to be a nation" and " how seriously the races swarm/ In their attempts at sovereignty and form."  It is evident that "Dedication" makes a more intense effort to recall the brutal beauty that is intrinsic to American History, bringing out a complexity that "The Gift Outright" alludes to, but cannot quite capture in such historical detail.  

Finally, I would suggest that the ending to "Dedication" clearly alludes to a future illuminated in more optimism than "The Gift Outright."  The ending to Frost's poem that was read aloud is optimistic.  Yet, I think that what Frost constructs in "Dedication" is far more exceptionalist and more of an impassioned plea towards the luminous condition of the American future:

It makes the prophet in us all presage/The glory of a next Augustan age/
Of a power leading from its strength and pride,/ Of young amibition eager to be tried,
Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,/ In any game the nations want to play.
A golden age of poetry and power /Of which this noonday's the beginning hour.

The ending given in "Dedication" is one in which images such as "Augustan Age"  and "Golden Age of poetry and power" dominate.  These pictures construct a reality in which the reader sees America on the threshold of something new and vibrant.  While "The Gift Outright" also lays claim to this, it lacks the intensity that "Dedication" possesses.

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