English Literature » Robert Frost

Robert Frost


Robert Frost was born on March 26, 1874, in San Francisco, where his father, William Prescott Frost Jr., and his mother, Isabelle Moodie, had moved from Pennsylvania shortly after marrying. After the death of his father from tuberculosis when Frost was eleven years old, he moved with his mother and sister, Jeanie, who was two years younger, to Lawrence, Massachusetts. He became interested in reading and writing poetry during his high school years in Lawrence, enrolled at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, in 1892, and later at Harvard University in Boston, though he never earned a formal college degree.

Frost drifted through a string of occupations after leaving school, working as a teacher, cobbler, and editor of the Lawrence Sentinel. His first published poem, “My Butterfly,” appeared on November 8, 1894, in the New York newspaper The Independent.

In 1895, Frost married Elinor Miriam White, whom he’d shared valedictorian honors with in high school and who was a major inspiration for his poetry until her death in 1938. The couple moved to England in 1912, after they tried and failed at farming in New Hampshire. It was abroad that Frost met and was influenced by such contemporary British poets as Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, and Robert Graves. While in England, Frost also established a friendship with the poet Ezra Pound, who helped to promote and publish his work.

By the time Frost returned to the United States in 1915, he had published two full-length collections, A Boy’s Will (Henry Holt and Company, 1913) and North of Boston (Henry Holt and Company, 1914), and his reputation was established. By the 1920s, he was the most celebrated poet in America, and with each new book—including New Hampshire (Henry Holt and Company, 1923), A Further Range (Henry Holt and Company, 1936), Steeple Bush (Henry Holt and Company, 1947), and In the Clearing (Holt Rinehart & Winston, 1962)—his fame and honors (including four Pulitzer Prizes) increased. Frost served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 1958 to 1959.

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 merely a regional poet. The author of searching and often dark meditations on universal themes, he is a quintessentially modern poet in his adherence to language as it is actually spoken, in the psychological complexity of his portraits, and in the degree to which his work is infused with layers of ambiguity and irony.

In a 1970 review of The Poetry of Robert Frost, the poet Daniel Hoffman describes Frost’s early work as “the Puritan ethic turned astonishingly lyrical and enabled to say out loud the sources of its own delight in the world,” and comments on Frost’s career as the “American Bard”: “He became a national celebrity, our nearly official poet laureate, and a great performer in the tradition of that earlier master of the literary vernacular, Mark Twain.”

About Frost, President John F. Kennedy, at whose inauguration the poet delivered a poem, said, “He has bequeathed his nation a body of imperishable verse from which Americans will forever gain joy and understanding.”

Robert Frost lived and taught for many years in Massachusetts and Vermont, and died in Boston on January 29, 1963.

Poems by Robert Frost

  1. A Line-storm Song
  2. Acquainted with the Night
  3. After Apple-Picking
  4. An Old Man’s Winter Night
  5. Birches
  6. Blueberries
  7. Christmas Trees
  8. Dust of Snow
  9. Fire and Ice
  10. Fireflies in the Garden
  11. For Once, Then, Something
  12. Ghost House
  13. Going for Water
  14. Good-bye, and Keep Cold
  15. Home Burial
  16. Love and a Question
  17. Meeting and Passing
  18. Mending Wall
  19. Mowing
  20. Nothing Gold Can Stay
  21. October
  22. On A Tree Fallen Across The Road
  23. On Looking Up by Chance at the Constellations
  24. Once by the Pacific
  25. One Step Backward Taken
  26. Out, Out-
  27. Putting in the Seed
  28. Range-finding
  29. Reluctance
  30. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
  31. The Death of the Hired Man
  32. The Exposed Nest
  33. The Gift Outright
  34. The Line-Gang
  35. The Need of Being Versed in Country Things
  36. The Oven Bird
  37. The Pasture
  38. The Road Not Taken
  39. The Silken Tent
  40. The Sound of Trees
  41. The Star-splitter
  42. The Telephone
  43. The Tuft of Flowers
  44. The Vantage Point
  45. The Wood-Pile
  46. To E. T.
  47. To Earthward
  48. To the Thawing Wind
  49. Tree at my Window
  50. Two Look at Two
  51. Two Tramps in Mud Time