Robert Frost, an Americian poet of the late 19th century, used nature in many of his writings. This paper will discuss the thought process of Frost during his writings, the many tools which he used, and provide two examples of his works.
Robert Frost was born in San Franciso on March 26, 1874, but later moved to Lawrence, Massachuschusetts (after his father died) where he did most of his writing. He was a simple man who taught, worked in a mill, was a reporter, was a New England farmer, and wrote. Throughout his life he had always been interested in literature. He attended Dartmouth College, but remained less than one semester. In 1894 he sold his first work “My Butterfly: An Elegy” to a New York journal. A year later he married Elinor White. From 1897 to 1899 he attended Harvard College as a special student but left before he acquired his degree. For the next ten years he wrote poems, operated a farm in Derry, New Hampshire, and taught at Derry’s Pinkerton Academy.
In 1912 he sold his farm and moved to England where he could work on his writings full time. He was an instant success! “A Boy’s Will” was accepted by a London Publisher and a year later so was “North of Boston”. He also began to get recognized in America.
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The Frosts sailed for America in 1915 and landed in New York two days after the Americian release of “North of Boston”. The book was a good success and he used the profits to buy a farm in Fanconia, New Hampshire. During this time Frost began to write his most successful poems.
Frost was once asked his thought process during writing; he responded:
“I sometimes speak from the last thing that happened to me. I got asked today if I think up poems. Do I think them up? How do I get the right one? Well, it is the hardest thing in the world to tell. But I don’t think up poems. I pick up a lot of things I thought of to make a poem; that is a lot of scattered thoughts through the days that are handy for the poem-that’s about all. That’s where the thinking comes in.”
That is truly an amazing feat; he would just walk around looking at things and a poem would come into his head. He would write these entire inspirational poems in his head and didn’t even think that it was unusual. The best poet of the 20th century did not write rough drafts!
In 1915 he moved to New England and began to write. He used the New England country side as inspiration for many of his poems, but for the purpose of this essay two poems will be analyzed “The Road Not Taken” and “Birches”. “The Road Not Taken” was originally published in 1916 and it was Frost most popular poem to date. Still today it is considered one of his best and most popular works.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Has worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In the leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first foe another day!
Yet knowing how way leads onto way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The reader can just picture Robert Frost walking in a wooded area of the New Hampshire forest when suddenly he comes upon a trail that divides and he wrote “The Road Not Taken”. A poem that has been used in countless high school graduation speeches and as a metaphor for any situation in which a person must make an important decision. The simple themes have always appealed to Frost’s readers and seems to speak to people more than a Shakespeare or Poe.
Frost uses many effects that allow the poem’s theme to be more easily understood. For example, he writes many of his poems in the first person which makes the reader feel closer to the actual experience. In “Birches” he uses this technique which creates the setting of an older man who is looking back at earlier times when he played among these same trees. Another technique he uses is the informal manner in which he writes his poems. He also wrote many of his poems in continuous form rather than dividing it into traditional stanzas which allows the poem to be presented in a less formal form. The following is an excerpt from the poem “Birches.”
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.
This poem again uses the format in which Frost uses a common object such as a boy swinging from a birch tree to symbolize a much more significant theme. In the first four sections of the poem Frost seems to be largely concerned with cruelness of earth and the endless possibilities of a creative imagination. In the last few lines he reasons that earth, in a way, needs its imperfections and that what makes our imaginations so different and amazing. If we were to live in a “perfect” world we wouldn’t have anything to dream about and, therefore would not need an imagination.
Frost was a simple man who lead a simple life yet he is regarded as the best Americian poet of the 20th century and perhaps ever. Although his simple form is not liked by some critics; I don’t think they are who he was writing for. He wanted to appeal to the common man and I believe he did. His awards include three-dozen honorary degrees, four Pulitzer Prizes, the Bollingen Prize for Poetry, and he spoke at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. He once stated that his major goal in life was to write “a few poems that would be hard to get rid of.” Well, congratulations Mr. Frost.
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