About this poet

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.

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.



Selected Bibliography

Poetry

In the Clearing (Holt Rinehart & Winston, 1962) Hard Not to Be King (House of Books, 1951)
Steeple Bush (Henry Holt and Company, 1947)
Masque of Reason (Henry Holt and Company, 1945)
Come In, and Other Poems (Henry Holt and Company, 1943)
A Witness Tree (Henry Holt and Company, 1942)
A Further Range (Henry Holt and Company, 1936)
From Snow to Snow (Henry Holt and Company, 1936)
The Lone Striker (Knopf, 1933)
The Lovely Shall Be Choosers (Random House, 1929)
West-Running Brook (Henry Holt and Company, 1928)
New Hampshire (Henry Holt and Company, 1923)
Mountain Interval (Henry Holt and Company, 1916)
North of Boston (Henry Holt and Company, 1914)
A Boy's Will (Henry Holt and Company, 1913)

 

Blueberries

Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963
"You ought to have seen what I saw on my way  
To the village, through Mortenson's pasture to-day:  
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,  
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum  
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!          
And all ripe together, not some of them green  
And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!"  
  
"I don't know what part of the pasture you mean."  
  
"You know where they cut off the woods—let me see—  
It was two years ago—or no!—can it be          
No longer than that?—and the following fall  
The fire ran and burned it all up but the wall."  
  
"Why, there hasn't been time for the bushes to grow.  
That's always the way with the blueberries, though:  
There may not have been the ghost of a sign          
Of them anywhere under the shade of the pine,  
But get the pine out of the way, you may burn  
The pasture all over until not a fern  
Or grass-blade is left, not to mention a stick,  
And presto, they're up all around you as thick          
And hard to explain as a conjuror's trick."  
  
"It must be on charcoal they fatten their fruit.  
I taste in them sometimes the flavour of soot.  
And after all really they're ebony skinned:  
The blue's but a mist from the breath of the wind,          
A tarnish that goes at a touch of the hand,  
And less than the tan with which pickers are tanned."  
  
"Does Mortenson know what he has, do you think?"  
  
"He may and not care and so leave the chewink  
To gather them for him—you know what he is.          
He won't make the fact that they're rightfully his  
An excuse for keeping us other folk out."  
  
"I wonder you didn't see Loren about."  
  
"The best of it was that I did. Do you know,  
I was just getting through what the field had to show          
And over the wall and into the road,  
When who should come by, with a democrat-load  
Of all the young chattering Lorens alive,  
But Loren, the fatherly, out for a drive."  
  
"He saw you, then? What did he do? Did he frown?"          
  
"He just kept nodding his head up and down.  
You know how politely he always goes by.  
But he thought a big thought—I could tell by his eye—  
Which being expressed, might be this in effect:  
'I have left those there berries, I shrewdly suspect,          
To ripen too long. I am greatly to blame.'"  
  
"He's a thriftier person than some I could name."  
  
"He seems to be thrifty; and hasn't he need,  
With the mouths of all those young Lorens to feed?  
He has brought them all up on wild berries, they say,          
Like birds. They store a great many away.  
They eat them the year round, and those they don't eat  
They sell in the store and buy shoes for their feet."  
  
"Who cares what they say? It's a nice way to live,  
Just taking what Nature is willing to give,          
Not forcing her hand with harrow and plow."  
  
"I wish you had seen his perpetual bow—  
And the air of the youngsters! Not one of them turned,  
And they looked so solemn-absurdly concerned."  
  
"I wish I knew half what the flock of them know          
Of where all the berries and other things grow,  
Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top  
Of the boulder-strewn mountain, and when they will crop.  
I met them one day and each had a flower  
Stuck into his berries as fresh as a shower;          
Some strange kind—they told me it hadn't a name."  
  
"I've told you how once not long after we came,  
I almost provoked poor Loren to mirth  
By going to him of all people on earth  
To ask if he knew any fruit to be had          
For the picking. The rascal, he said he'd be glad  
To tell if he knew. But the year had been bad.  
There had been some berries—but those were all gone.  
He didn't say where they had been. He went on:  
'I'm sure—I'm sure'—as polite as could be.          
He spoke to his wife in the door, 'Let me see,  
Mame, we don't know any good berrying place?'  
It was all he could do to keep a straight face.  
  
"If he thinks all the fruit that grows wild is for him,  
He'll find he's mistaken. See here, for a whim,          
We'll pick in the Mortensons' pasture this year.  
We'll go in the morning, that is, if it's clear,  
And the sun shines out warm: the vines must be wet.  
It's so long since I picked I almost forget  
How we used to pick berries: we took one look round,          
Then sank out of sight like trolls underground,  
And saw nothing more of each other, or heard,  
Unless when you said I was keeping a bird  
Away from its nest, and I said it was you.  
'Well, one of us is.' For complaining it flew          
Around and around us. And then for a while  
We picked, till I feared you had wandered a mile,  
And I thought I had lost you. I lifted a shout  
Too loud for the distance you were, it turned out,  
For when you made answer, your voice was as low          
As talking—you stood up beside me, you know."  
  
"We sha'n't have the place to ourselves to enjoy—  
Not likely, when all the young Lorens deploy.  
They'll be there to-morrow, or even to-night.  
They won't be too friendly—they may be polite—          
To people they look on as having no right  
To pick where they're picking. But we won't complain.  
You ought to have seen how it looked in the rain,  
The fruit mixed with water in layers of leaves,  
Like two kinds of jewels, a vision for thieves."

1915

1915

Robert Frost

Robert Frost

One of the most celebrated poets in America, Robert Frost was an author of searching and often dark meditations on universal themes and 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.

by this poet

poem
I wonder about the trees.  
Why do we wish to bear  
Forever the noise of these  
More than another noise  
So close to our dwelling place? 
We suffer them by the day  
Till we lose all measure of pace,  
And fixity in our joys,  
And acquire a listening air.  
They are that that talks of going       
But never
poem

The line-storm clouds fly tattered and swift,  
  The road is forlorn all day,  
Where a myriad snowy quartz stones lift,  
  And the hoof-prints vanish away.  
The roadside flowers, too wet for the bee,
  Expend their bloom in vain.  
Come over the hills and far with me,
poem
He saw her from the bottom of the stairs
Before she saw him.  She was starting down,
Looking back over her shoulder at some fear.
She took a doubtful step and then undid it
To raise herself and look again.  He spoke
Advancing toward her:  'What is it you see
From up there always--for I want to know.'
She turned