At a Glance
Robert Frost probably has the most name recognition of any American poet ever. His best-known works include “The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” both of which have become synonymous with the genre of nature poetry. Frost, though, was much more than just a nature poet. “Home Burial,” for example, deals with overwhelming grief after the death of a child. “Fire and Ice,” while somewhat tongue-in-cheek, considers the apocalyptic end of the world. And some of his poems, such as “The Oven Bird,” are a complex treatment of a difficult rhyme scheme, proving that Frost could match anyone in form. Furthermore, Frost helped form the conception of Americans as tough, self-sufficient individuals. This New England native, often called the “Icon of Yankee Values,” remains the quintessential American poet.
Facts and Trivia
- Robert Frost won the Pulitzer Prize four times, more than any other poet in history.
- The often-quoted line “good fences make good neighbors” comes from Frost’s poem “Mending Wall.”
- Frost resented being seen as a “nature” poet, often remarking to people that he only wrote two poems in his entire life that were totally nature-based.
- At the age of 87, a frail Robert Frost delivered a poem to honor John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. Although he had written a poem specifically for the occasion, bitter cold and his health caused him to stumble. He ended up reciting flawlessly from memory “The Gift Outright.”
- Robert Frost died in 1963 at the age of 89, and he had a sense of humor right to the end. His tombstone reads: “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”
Article abstract: Frost helped renew popular interest in American poetry by refusing to write in the academic modernist style that was popular at the time. Instead, he wrote about nature and rural life in a traditional yet complex style that appealed to a wide audience.
Robert Frost was born in 1874 in San Francisco, California, not the New England with which he was later so closely associated. His father, William Prescott Frost, Jr., was a native of Lawrence, Massachusetts, and a graduate of Harvard College. However, he was something of an adventurer and wandered to the West Coast in search of a more lively environment and a career in journalism or law. Frost spent most of his early days in San Francisco and returned for good to New England and Lawrence only when his father died in 1886.
Frost’s mother taught school in Salem, New Hampshire, in order to support her family. She was not a very good teacher, and Frost was embarrassed that his mother taught in a nearby school. He did well at school and became attracted to a young girl in his class named Elinor White. She was very bright and came from a wealthier family than Frost’s. They graduated from Lawrence High School as covaledictorians. Their relationship in both the early and the later years was troubled. When Elinor went to college and Frost stayed in Lawrence, he thought she had fallen in love with another young man. He demanded she leave college, but she refused. Frost was in deep despair and went to the Great Dismal Swamp to kill himself but fortunately failed in his attempt. Elinor finally agreed to quit college, and they were married after some opposition from her family.
Frost did not have many prospects. He attended Harvard for a short time but did not get a degree. He also taught school, although his teaching primarily consisted of keeping discipline. He published a few poems in the local newspaper but could not support himself and his growing family with his poetry. His grandfather was wealthy and helped Frost and his family, but he was wary of Frost’s inability to find a vocation. He established Frost and his family on a farm, where Frost raised poultry and sold eggs, but this was a failure. When the grandfather died, he left Frost a legacy and a farm. However, the legacy was held in trust: He received five hundred...
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