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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 consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress 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.



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)

 

The Wood-pile

Out walking in the frozen swamp one grey day 
I paused and said, "I will turn back from here. 
No, I will go on farther—and we shall see." 
The hard snow held me, save where now and then 
One foot went down. The view was all in lines 
Straight up and down of tall slim trees 
Too much alike to mark or name a place by 
So as to say for certain I was here 
Or somewhere else: I was just far from home. 
A small bird flew before me. He was careful 
To put a tree between us when he lighted, 
And say no word to tell me who he was 
Who was so foolish as to think what he thought. 
He thought that I was after him for a feather—
The white one in his tail; like one who takes 
Everything said as personal to himself. 
One flight out sideways would have undeceived him. 
And then there was a pile of wood for which 
I forgot him and let his little fear 
Carry him off the way I might have gone, 
Without so much as wishing him good-night. 
He went behind it to make his last stand. 
It was a cord of maple, cut and split 
And piled—and measured, four by four by eight. 
And not another like it could I see. 
No runner tracks in this year's snow looped near it. 
And it was older sure than this year's cutting, 
Or even last year's or the year's before. 
The wood was grey and the bark warping off it 
And the pile somewhat sunken. Clematis 
Had wound strings round and round it like a bundle. 
What held it though on one side was a tree 
Still growing, and on one a stake and prop, 
These latter about to fall. I thought that only 
Someone who lived in turning to fresh tasks 
Could so forget his handiwork on which 
He spent himself, the labour of his axe, 
And leave it there far from a useful fireplace 
To warm the frozen swamp as best it could 
With the slow smokeless burning of decay.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

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
Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-
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,  
  And be my love in the rain.  
  
The
poem

As I went down the hill along the wall
There was a gate I had leaned at for the view
And had just turned from when I first saw you
As you came up the hill. We met. But all
We did that day was mingle great and small
Footprints in summer dust as if we drew
The figure of our being less