Robert Frost (1874-1963). Photo by Fred Palumbo, New York World-Telegram, 1941. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Robert Frost
Born Robert Lee Frost
March 26, 1874
San Francisco]], California, United States
Died January 29, 1963 (aged 88)
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Occupation poet, playwright

Signature File:Robert Frost Signature.svg

Robert Lee Frost (March 26, 1874 - January 29, 1963) was an American poet. A popular and often-quoted poet, Frost was honored with 4 Pulitzer Prizes for poetry.[1]

Life[edit | edit source]

Youth[edit | edit source]

Frost was born in San Francisco, California, to Isabelle (Moodie) and journalist William Prescott Frost, Jr.[1] His mother was of Scottish descent, and his father descended from Nicholas Frost of Tiverton, Devon, England, who had sailed to New Hampshire in 1634 on the Wolfrana.(Citation needed)

Frost's father was a teacher and later an editor of the San Francisco Evening Bulletin (which later merged with the San Francisco Examiner), and an unsuccessful candidate for city tax collector. After his death on May 5, 1885, the family moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts, under the patronage of (Robert's grandfather) William Frost, Sr., who was an overseer at a New England mill. Frost graduated from Lawrence High School in 1892.[2]

Although known for his later association with rural life, Frost grew up in the city. He published his 1st poem in his high school's magazine. He attended Dartmouth College for two months, long enough to be accepted into the Theta Delta Chi fraternity.

Career[edit | edit source]

Frost, circa 1910. Courtesy Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116102) & Wikimedia Commons.

In 1894 Frost sold his 1st poem, "My Butterfly: An elegy" (published in the November 8, 1894, edition of the New York Independent) for $15. Proud of his accomplishment, he proposed marriage to Elinor Miriam White, but she demurred, wanting to finish college (at St. Lawrence University) before they married. Frost then went on an excursion to the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia, and asked Elinor again upon his return. Having graduated, she agreed, and they were married at Harvard University,(Citation needed) where he attended liberal arts studies for 2 years. He did well at Harvard, but left to support his growing family.[3][4][5]

Shortly before dying, Frost's grandfather purchased a farm for Robert and Elinor in Derry, New Hampshire. Robert worked the farm for 9 years, writing early in the mornings and producing many of the poems that would later become famous. Ultimately his farming proved unsuccessful and he returned to the field of education as an English teacher at New Hampshire's Pinkerton Academy from 1906 to 1911, then at the New Hampshire Normal School (now Plymouth State University) in Plymouth, New Hampshire.

In 1912 Frost sailed with his family to Great Britain, living first in Glasgow before settling in Beaconsfield outside London. His first book of poetry, A Boy's Will, was published the next year. In England he made some important acquaintances, including Edward Thomas (a member of the group known as the Dymock poets), T.E. Hulme, and Ezra Pound. Frost wrote some of his best work while in England.

Robert Frost Farm, Derry, New Hampshire. Photo by Craig Michaud. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Frost returned to America in 1915, launching a career of writing, teaching, and lecturing. During the years 1916-1920, 1923-1924, and 1927-1938, he taught English at Amherst College, in Massachusetts, notably encouraging his students to account for the sounds of the human voice in their writing.

For 42 years - from 1921 to 1963 - Frost spent almost every summer and fall teaching at the Bread Loaf School of English of Middlebury College, at its mountain campus at Ripton, Vermont. He is credited as a major influence upon the development of the school and its writing programs; the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference gained renown during Frost's time there.(Citation needed) The college now owns and maintains his former Ripton farmstead as a national historic site near the Bread Loaf campus. In 1921 Frost accepted a fellowship teaching post at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he resided until 1927; while there he was awarded a lifetime appointment at the University as a Fellow in Letters.[6] The Robert Frost Ann Arbor home is now situated at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Frost returned to Amherst in 1927. In 1940 he bought a 5-acre (2.0 ha) plot in South Miami, Florida, naming it Pencil Pines; he spent his winters there for the rest of his life.[7]

Frost was 86 when he spoke and performed a reading of his poetry at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy on January 20, 1961.

Private life[edit | edit source]

Frost's private life was plagued with grief and loss. In 1885 when Frost was 11, his father died of tuberculosis, leaving the family with just 8 dollars. Frost's mother died of cancer in 1900. In 1920, Frost had to commit his younger sister Jeanie to a mental hospital, where she died nine years later. Mental illness apparently ran in Frost's family, as both he and his mother suffered from depression, and his daughter Irma was committed to a mental hospital in 1947. Frost's wife, Elinor, also experienced bouts of depression.[6]

Frost family grave, Bennington, Vermont. Photo by Nheyob, 2011.Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Elinor and Robert Frost had 6 children: son Elliot (1896-1904, died of cholera); daughter Lesley Frost Ballantine (1899-1983); son Carol (1902-1940, committed suicide); daughter Irma (1903-1967); daughter Marjorie (1905-1934, died as a result of puerperal fever after childbirth); and daughter Elinor Bettina (died just 3 days after her birth in 1907). Only Lesley and Irma outlived their father. Frost's wife, who had heart problems throughout her life, developed breast cancer in 1937, and died of heart failure in 1938.[6]

Frost died in Boston on January 29, 1963,[1] of complications from prostate surgery.

He was buried at the Old Bennington Cemetery in Bennington, Vermont. His epitaph quotes a line from one of his poems: "I had a lover's quarrel with the world."[8]

Writing[edit | edit source]

Frost is highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech.[1] His work frequently employed settings from rural life in New England in the early 20th century, using them to examine complex social and philosophical themes.

In the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, editors Richard Ellmann and Robert O'Clair compared and contrasted Frost's unique style to the work of Edwin Arlington Robinson, since they both frequently used New England settings for their poems. However, they state that Frost's poetry was "less [consciously] literary" and that this was possibly due to the influence of English and Irish writers like Thomas Hardy and W.B. Yeats. They note that Frost's poems "show a successful striving for utter colloquialism" and always try to remain down to earth, while at the same time using traditional forms despite the trend of American poetry towards free verse which Frost famously said was "'like playing tennis without a net.'"[9][10]

In providing an overview of Frost's style, the Poetry Foundation makes the same point, placing Frost's work "at the crossroads of nineteenth-century American poetry [with regard to his use of traditional forms] and modernism [with his use of idiomatic language and ordinary, every day subject matter]." They also note that Frost believed that "the self-imposed restrictions of meter in form" wer more helpful than harmful because he could focus on the content of his poems instead of concerning himself with creating "innovative" new verse forms.[11]

An earlier 1963 study by poet James Radcliffe Squires spoke to the distinction of Frost as a poet whose verse soars more for the difficulty and skill by which he attains his final visions, than for the philosophical purity of the visions themselves. "'He has written at a time when the choice for the poet seemed to lie among the forms of despair: Science, solipsism, or the religion of the past century…Frost has refused all of these and in the refusal has long seemed less dramatically committed than others…But no, he must be seen as dramatically uncommitted to the single solution…Insofar as Frost allows to both fact and intuition a bright kingdom, he speaks for many of us. Insofar as he speaks through an amalgam of senses and sure experience so that his poetry seems a nostalgic memory with overtones touching some conceivable future, he speaks better than most of us. That is to say, as a poet must."'[12]

Classicist Helen Bacon has proposed that Frost's deep knowledge of Greek and Roman classics influenced much of his work. Frost’s education at Lawrence High School, Dartmouth, and Harvard "was based mainly on the classics." As examples, she links imagery and action in Frost’s early poems Birches" (1915) and "Wild Grapes" (1920) with Euripedes' "Bacchae". She cites the certain motifs, including that of the tree bent down to earth, as evidence of his "very attentive reading of 'Bacchae', almost certainly in Greek." In a later poem, "One More Brevity" (1953), Bacon compares the poetic techniques used by Frost to those of Virgil in the "Aeneid". She notes that "this sampling of the ways Frost drew on the literature and concepts of the Greek and Roman world at every stage of his life indicates how imbued with it he was."[13]

Themes[edit | edit source]

In Contemporary Literary Criticism, the editors state that "Frost's best work explores fundamental questions of existence, depicting with chilling starkness the loneliness of the individual in an indifferent universe."[14] Critic T.K. Whipple focused on this bleakness in Frost's work, stating that "in much of his work, particularly in North of Boston, his harshest book, he emphasizes the dark background of life in rural New England, with its degeneration often sinking into total madness." [14]

In sharp contrast, the founding publisher and editor of Poetry, Harriet Monroe, emphasized the folksy New England persona and characters in Frost's work, writing that "perhaps no other poet in our history has put the best of the Yankee spirit into a book so completely." [14] She notes his frequent use of rural settings and farm life, and she likes that in these poems, Frost is most interested in "showing the human reaction to nature's processes." She also notes that while Frost's narrative, character-based poems are often satirical, Frost always has a "sympathetic humor" towards his subjects.[14]

Influenced by[edit | edit source]

Influenced[edit | edit source]

Critical reputation[edit | edit source]

Critical response[edit | edit source]

Poet-critic Randall Jarrell, who often praised Frost's poetry, wrote: "Robert Frost, along with Stevens and Eliot, seems to me the greatest of the American poets of this century. Frost's virtues are extraordinary. No other living poet has written so well about the actions of ordinary men; his wonderful dramatic monologues or dramatic scenes come out of a knowledge of people that few poets have had, and they are written in a verse that uses, sometimes with absolute mastery, the rhythms of actual speech." He also praised "Frost's seriousness and honesty," stating that Frost was particularly skilled at representing a wide range of human experience in his poems.[17]

Jarrell's notable and influential essays on Frost include the essays "Robert Frost's 'Home Burial'" (1962), which consisted of an extended close reading of that particular poem, and "To The Laodiceans" (1952) in which Jarrell defended Frost against critics who had accused Frost of being too "traditional" and out of touch with Modern or Modernist poetry. In Frost's defense, Jarrell wrote "the regular ways of looking at Frost's poetry are grotesque simplifications, distortions, falsifications—coming to know his poetry well ought to be enough, in itself, to dispel any of them, and to make plain the necessity of finding some other way of talking about his work." And Jarrell's close readings of poems like "Neither Out Too Far Nor In Too Deep" led readers and critics to perceive more of the complexities in Frost's poetry.[18][19]

In an introduction to Jarrell's book of essays, Brad Leithauser notes that, "the 'other' Frost that Jarrell discerned behind the genial, homespun New England rustic — the 'dark' Frost who was desperate, frightened, and brave — has become the Frost we've all learned to recognize, and the little-known poems Jarrell singled out as central to the Frost canon are now to be found in most anthologies." [20][21]

Jarrell lists a selection of the Frost poems he considers the most masterful, including "The Witch of Coös," "Home Burial," "A Servant to Servants," "Directive," "Neither Out Too Far Nor In Too Deep," "Provide, Provide," "Acquainted with the Night," "After Apple Picking," "Mending Wall," "The Most of It," "An Old Man's Winter Night," "To Earthward," "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," "Spring Pools," "The Lovely Shall Be Choosers," "Design," [and] "Desert Places."[22]

From "Birches"[23]

I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Robert Frost

In 2003, critic Charles McGrath noted that critical views on Frost's poetry have changed over the years (as has his public image). In an article called "The Vicissitudes of Literary Reputation," McGrath wrote, "Robert Frost ... at the time of his death in 1963 was generally considered to be a New England folkie ... In 1977, the third volume of Lawrance Thompson's biography suggested that Frost was a much nastier piece of work than anyone had imagined; a few years later, thanks to the reappraisal of critics like William H. Pritchard and Harold Bloom and of younger poets like Joseph Brodsky, he bounced back again, this time as a bleak and unforgiving modernist."[24]

Recognition[edit | edit source]


U.S stamp, 1974

Harvard's 1965 alumni directory indicates Frost received an honorary degree there. Although he never graduated from college, Frost received over 40 honorary degrees, including ones from Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge universities; and was the only person to receive 2 honorary degrees from Dartmouth College.

During his lifetime, the Robert Frost Middle School in Fairfax, Virginia, the Robert L. Frost School in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and the main library of Amherst College were named after him.

In 1960, Frost was awarded a United States Congressional Gold Medal, "In recognition of his poetry, which has enriched the culture of the United States and the philosophy of the world,"[25] which was finally bestowed by President Kennedy in March 1962.[26] Also in 1962, he was awarded the Edward MacDowell Medal for outstanding contribution to the arts by the MacDowell Colony.[27]

Pulitzer Prizes[edit | edit source]

The Frost Place in 2008. Photo by M.F. Wills. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Frost won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry 4 times:

  • 1924 for New Hampshire
  • 1931 for Collected Poems
  • 1937 for A Further Range
  • 1943 for A Witness Tree

Frost Place[edit | edit source]

Main article: The Frost Place

When Frost returned to the United States from England in 1915, he bought a farm in Franconia, New Hampshire,  which served as the Frosts' family home until 1920 and summer home until 1938. This homestead is maintained today as The Frost Place, a museum and poetry conference site.

Publications[edit | edit source]

Main article: Robert Frost bibliography

Poetry[edit | edit source]

  • Twilight. Lawrence, MA:, 1894; reprinted, University of Virginia, 1966.
  • A Boy's Will. D. Nutt, 1913; New York: Holt, 1915.
  • North of Boston. D. Nutt, 1914; New York: Holt, 1915; New York: Dodd, 1977.
  • Mountain Interval. New York: Holt, 1916.
  • New Hampshire. New York: Holt, 1923; New Dresden Press, 1955.
  • Selected Poems. New York: Holt, 1923.
  • Several Short Poems. New York: Holt, 1924.
  • West-Running Brook. New York: Holt, 1928.
  • The Lovely Shall Be Choosers. New York: Random House, 1929.
  • The Lone Striker. New York: Knopf, 1933.
  • Two Tramps in Mud-Time. New York: Holt, 1934.
  • The Gold Hesperidee. Bibliophile Press, 1935.
  • Three Poems. Baker Library Press, 1935.
  • A Further Range. New York: Holt, 1936.
  • From Snow to Snow. New York: Holt, 1936.
  • A Witness Tree. New York: Holt, 1942.
  • Steeple Bush. New York: Holt, 1947.
  • Greece. Black Rose Press, 1948.
  • Hard Not to Be King. House of Books, 1951.
  • Aforesaid. New York: Holt, 1954.
  • And All We Call American. 1958.
  • The Gift Outright. New York: Holt, 1961.
  • In the Clearing. New York: Holt, 1962.
  • Poetry (edited by Edward Conner Latham). New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, 1969.[28]

Plays[edit | edit source]

  • A Masque of Reason (verse drama). New York: Holt, 1942.
  • A Masque of Mercy (verse drama). New York: Holt, 1947.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[11]


Robert Frost reads Birches


Robert Frost reads The Road Not Taken-0


Stopping by woods on a snowy evening-0

Audio / video[edit | edit source]

  • Robert Frost Reading (LP). New York: Caedmon, 1957;
    • also released as Robert Frost Reads His Poetry (cassette). New York: Caedmon, 1988.
  • Robert Frost Reads the Poems of Robert Frost (LP). New York: Decca, 1957; New York: MCA, 1977.
  • Robert Frost Reads (cassette). New York: HarperCollins, 1976.
  • Robert Frost (cassette). Washington, DC: National Public Radio, 1981.
  • The Voice of the Poet: Robert Frost (CD). New York: Random House Audio, 2003.

Except where noted, discographical information courtesy WorldCat.[29]

Poems by Robert Frost[edit | edit source]

  1. Fire and Ice
  2. Mending Wall
  3. Nothing Gold Can Stay
  4. Out, Out—
  5. The Road Not Taken
  6. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

See also[edit | edit source]


"Fire and Ice" read by Robert Frost


5 Poems by Robert Frost

References[edit | edit source]

  • William H. Pritchard, "Frost's Life and Career," Modern American Poetry, 2000. Web, March 18, 2001.
  • Taylor, Welford Dunaway (1996). Robert Frost and J.J. Lankes: Riders on Pegasus. Hanover, New Hampshire: Dartmouth College Library. ASIN B0006FAO4Q. 
  • Burlington Free Press, January 8, 2008 Article: Vandalized Frost house drew a crowd
  • Collected Poems, Prose, & Plays. 10/1995 Library of America. Robert Frost. Edited by Richard Poirier and Mark Richardson. Trade ISBN 1-883011-06-X. [1]

Fonds[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Philip L. Gerber, Robert Frost, Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. Web, Dec. 21, 2008.
  2. Ehrlich, Eugene; Carruth, Gorton (1982). The Oxford Illustrated Literary Guide to the United States. vol. 50. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195031865. 
  3. Nancy Lewis Tuten; John Zubizarreta (2001). The Robert Frost encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 145. ISBN 9780313294648. Retrieved 17 July 2010. "Halfway through the spring semester of his second year, Dean Briggs released him from Harvard without prejudice, lamenting the loss of so good a student." 
  4. Jay Parini (2000). Robert Frost: A Life. Macmillan. pp. 64-65. ISBN 9780805063417. Retrieved 17 July 2010. 
  5. Jeffrey Meyers (10 April 1996). Robert Frost: a biography. Houghton Mifflin. Retrieved 17 July 2010. "Frost remained at Harvard until March of his sophomore year, when he decamped in the middle of a term...." 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Frost, Robert; Poirier, Richard (ed.); Richardson, Mark (ed.) (1995). Collected Poems, Prose, & Plays. The Library of America. vol. 81. New York: Library of America. ISBN 188301106X. 
  7. Muir, Helen (1995). Frost in Florida. Valiant Press. pp. 41. ISBN 0963346164. 
  8. "Robert Frost ," Find a Grave. Web, June 30, 2011.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Ellman, Richard and Robert O'Clair. The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, 2nd Edition. New York: Norton, 1988.
  10. Faggen, Robert (2001). Editor (First ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Robert Frost 1874-1963," Poetry Foundation, Web, June 30, 2011.
  12. Squires, Radcliffe. The Major Themes of Robert Frost, The University of Michigan Press, 1963. pp. 106-107.
  13. Bacon, Helen. "Frost and the Ancient Muses." The Cambridge Companion to Robert Frost. Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 75-99
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jean C. Stine, Bridget Broderick, and Daniel G. Marowski. Vol. 26. Detroit: Gale Research, 1983. p 110–129.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Voices and Visions. "Robert Frost." NY: PBS, 1988
  16. Poetry Foundation – Edward Thomas Bio
  17. Jarrell, Randall. "Fifty Years of American Poetry." No Other Book: Selected Essays. New York: HarperCollins, 1999.
  18. Jarrell, Randall. "To The Laodiceans." No Other Book: Selected Essays. New York: HarperCollins, 1999.
  19. Jarrell, Randall. "Robert Frost's 'Home Burial.'" No Other Book: Selected Essays. New York: HarperCollins, 1999.
  20. Leithauser, Brad. "Introduction." No Other Book: Selected Essays. New York: HarperCollins, 1999.
  21. Nelson, Cary (2000). Anthology of Modern American Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 84. ISBN 0-19-512270-4. 
  22. Jarrell, Randall. "Fifty Years of American Poetry." No Other Book: Selected Essays. HarperCollins, 1999.
  23. "Birches by Robert Frost". Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  24. McGrath, Charles. "The Vicissitudes of Literary Reputation." The New York Times Magazine. 15 June 2003.
  25. Office of the Clerk – U.S. House of Representatives, Congressional Gold Medal Recipients
  26. Parini, Jay (1999). Robert Frost: A Life. New York: Henry Holt and Company. pp. 408, 424–425. ISBN 9780805063417. 
  27. "The MacDowell Colony – Medal Day". Retrieved 2015-07-02. 
  28. Robert Frost, The Poetry of Robert Frost (edited by Edward Conner Latham). New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, 1969.. Print.
  29. Search results = au:Robert Frost + audiobook, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Oct. 4, 2015.

External links[edit | edit source]

Audio / video
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. (view article). (view authors).
This page uses content from Wikinfo . The original article was at Wikinfo:Robert Frost.
The list of authors can be seen in the (view authors). page history. The text of this Wikinfo article is available under the GNU Free Documentation License and the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.