Introduction of Robert Frost
Robert Frost was one of the most celebrated American poets of the 20th century. How did he leave an indelible mark on the world of literature with his rooted, thought-provoking work?
With this biography of Robert Frost, Qrius delves into the great American bard’s life, work, and enduring legacy.
Robert Frost Biography: Early Life
The biography of the poet Robert Frost would be incomplete without learning about the young Robert Lee Frost and his early life, which defined his work and legacy.
Robert Lee Frost, named after the Confederate general, was born on March 26, 1874, in San Francisco, California, just nine years after the end of the Civil War.
Frost lost his father to tuberculosis when he was just 11 years old. This early tragedy would later influence his poetry to a great extent.
Robert Frost’s father was an unsuccessful politician, prone to violence and suffered bouts of depression.
Robert Frost’s early childhood was marked by domestic disharmony, moving around and an incomplete education.
This chaos is represented in much of his work. For example, in ‘The Hill Wife,’ Frost tells a tale of disharmony in the home and the psychological strain of rural isolation on a couple.
Set in the North of Boston, Frost’s episodic lines spoke about much drama, shifting viewpoints, loneliness and themes of alienation.
Characters privy to disturbing dreams, finalities, a wife’s deteriorating sensibility, hinting at paranoia and also genuine threat; alternating darkness and daylight, dream and matter of fact: these episodes stand out for their tumultuous oscillations.
Robert Frost Biography: Education
Frost 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, from 1897-99.
He left Harvard voluntarily due to illness and never earned a formal degree.
Robert Frost Biography: Family
Frost’s father, William Prescott Frost, Jr., and his mother, Isabelle Moodie, moved from Pennsylvania to San Francisco after marrying. Frost moved with his mother and sister, Jeanie, who was two years younger, to Lawrence, Massachusetts, after his father died.
In 1895, Frost married Elinor Miriam White, his high school sweetheart and later muse. The couple moved to England in 1912 after they tried and failed at farming in New Hampshire.
Robert Frost lost his mother to cancer in 1900. In 1920, he had to commit his younger sister Jeanie to a mental hospital, where she died nine years later.
Mental illness seemed to run in Frost’s family, as apart from his father and sister, both he and his mother suffered from depression. Elinor also experienced bouts of depression, as did the couple’s daughter Irma, who was committed to a mental hospital in 1947.
Robert Frost Biography: Children
Frost continued to face several personal tragedies, including the death of several of his children. These experiences found their way into his poetry and influenced much of his style.
Elinor and Robert Frost had six children: son Elliott (1896–1900, died of cholera); daughter Lesley Frost Ballantine (1899–1983); son Carol (1902–1940); daughter Irma (1903–1967); daughter Marjorie (1905–1934, died as a result of puerperal fever after childbirth); and daughter Elinor Bettina (died just one day after her birth in 1907).
Robert Frost Biography: Career
After college, Frost returned home to teach and to work at different jobs including delivering newspapers, teaching unruly boys, and more. Frost drifted through a string of occupations after leaving school, working as a teacher, cobbler, and editor of the Lawrence Sentinel.
Frost’s first poem ‘My Butterfly: An Elegy’ was published in 1894 and was sold for $15. He started teaching as an English teacher a Pinkerton Academy, New Hampshire from 1906 to 1911, and then at Plymouth State University. Frost also taught at the University of Michigan. Amherst College for a while during this period.
Frost met and was influenced by such contemporary British poets as Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, and Robert Graves while in England. A friendship with the famous poet Ezra Pound, helped Frost to promote and publish his early work.
During World War I in 1915, Robert Frost came back to America, bought a farm in Franconia, and launched a career of teaching, writing, and lecturing. By the time Frost returned, 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), thereby establishing his reputation as one of the great American poets.
Robert Frost Biography: Famous Poetry
If you ever search google for a “short bio of Robert Frost”, it will only tell you that Robert Frost was mostly associated with the life and landscape of New England, native to him. Traditional verse forms and metrics are part of his work, but Frost was anything but a conventional or regional poet, shying away from writing styles of the time. But Frost was quintessentially modern for his times in his adherence to language as it is actually spoken.
You can see glimpses of this in poems with speakers engaged in conversation like ‘The Death of the Hired Man’ and ‘A Hundred Collars’ from North of Boston.
|Title of the Poem
|Description of themes
|The Road Not Taken
|Themes about life choices and their consequences.
|Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
|Reflections on the allure of the woods and the road less travelled
|Fire and Ice
|Desire and hatred as world-ending agents.
|Childhood, imagination, and the passage of time.
|Boundaries and neighborly relationships.
Robert Frost Biography: Awards and Achievement
Frost’s fame and honors, include four Pulitzer Prizes.
In 1924, Frost won his first Pulitzer Prize for ‘New Hampshire.’ Later he would win Pulitzers for ‘Collected Poems’ in 1931, ‘A Further Range’ in 1937, and ‘A Winter Trees’ in 1943. Frost received over 40 honorary degrees including from Princeton, Cambridge, and Oxford universities.
Frost served as a consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress from 1958–59. In 1962, he was presented the Congressional Gold Medal.
Robert Frost Biography: Death
Robert Frost lived and taught for many years in Massachusetts and Vermont, and died in Boston on January 29, 1963.
Robert Frost Biography: Home Burial
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 and sank upon her skirts at that,
And her face changed from terrified to dull.
He said to gain time: ‘What is it you see,’
Mounting until she cowered under him.
‘I will find out now—you must tell me, dear.’
She, in her place, refused him any help
With the least stiffening of her neck and silence.
She let him look, sure that he wouldn’t see,Blind creature; and awhile he didn’t see.But at last he murmured, ‘Oh,’ and again, ‘Oh.’
‘What is it—what?’ she said.
‘Just that I see.’
‘You don’t,’ she challenged. ‘Tell me what it is.’
‘The wonder is I didn’t see at once.I never noticed it from here before.I must be wonted to it—that’s the reason.
The little graveyard where my people are!
So small the window frames the whole of it.
Not so much larger than a bedroom, is it?
There are three stones of slate and one of marble,’
Broad-shouldered little slabs there in the sunlight
On the sidehill. We haven’t to mind those.But I understand: it is not the stones,But the child’s mound—’
‘Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t,’ she cried.
She withdrew shrinking from beneath his arm
That rested on the banister, and slid downstairs;
And turned on him with such a daunting look,He said twice over before he knew himself:‘Can’t a man speak of his own child he’s lost?’
‘Not you! Oh, where’s my hat? Oh, I don’t need it!
I must get out of here. I must get air.
I don’t know rightly whether any man can.’
‘Amy! Don’t go to someone else this time.
Listen to me. I won’t come down the stairs.
’He sat and fixed his chin between his fists.
‘There’s something I should like to ask you, dear.’
‘You don’t know how to ask it.’
‘Help me, then.’
Her fingers moved the latch for all reply.
‘My words are nearly always an offense.
I don’t know how to speak of anything
So as to please you. But I might be taught
I should suppose. I can’t say I see how.
A man must partly give up being a man
With women-folk. We could have some arrangement
By which I’d bind myself to keep hands off
Anything special you’re a-mind to name.
Though I don’t like such things ’twixt those that love.
Two that don’t love can’t live together without them.
But two that do can’t live together with them.
’She moved the latch a little. ‘Don’t—don’t go.
Don’t carry it to someone else this time.
Tell me about it if it’s something human.
Let me into your grief.
I’m not so much
Unlike other folks as your standing there
Apart would make me out. Give me my chance.
I do think, though, you overdo it a little.
What was it brought you up to think it the thing
To take your mother-loss of a first child
So inconsolably—in the face of love.You’d think his memory might be satisfied—’
‘There you go sneering now!’
‘I’m not, I’m not!
You make me angry. I’ll come down to you.
God, what a woman! And it’s come to this,
A man can’t speak of his own child that’s dead.’
‘You can’t because you don’t know how to speak.
If you had any feelings, you that dug
With your own hand—how could you?—his little grave;I saw you from that very window there,
Making the gravel leap and leap in air,
Leap up, like that, like that, and land so lightly
And roll back down the mound beside the hole.
I thought, Who is that man? I didn’t know you.’
And I crept down the stairs and up the stairs
To look again, and still your spade kept lifting.
Then you came in. I heard your rumbling voice
Out in the kitchen, and I don’t know why,
But I went near to see with my own eyes.
You could sit there with the stains on your shoes
Of the fresh earth from your own baby’s grave
And talk about your everyday concerns.You had stood the spade up against the wall
Outside there in the entry, for I saw it.’
‘I shall laugh the worst laugh I ever laughed.
I’m cursed. God, if I don’t believe I’m cursed.’
‘I can repeat the very words you were saying:
“Three foggy mornings and one rainy day
Will rot the best birch fence a man can build.
”Think of it, talk like that at such a time!
What had how long it takes a birch to rot
To do with what was in the darkened parlor?
You couldn’t care! The nearest friends can go
With anyone to death, comes so far short
They might as well not try to go at all.
No, from the time when one is sick to death,
One is alone, and he dies more alone.
Friends make pretense of following to the grave,
But before one is in it, their minds are turned
And making the best of their way back to life
And living people, and things they understand.
But the world’s evil. I won’t have grief so
If I can change it. Oh, I won’t, I won’t!’
‘There, you have said it all and you feel better.
You won’t go now. You’re crying. Close the door.
The heart’s gone out of it: why keep it up.Amy!
There’s someone coming down the road!’
‘You—oh, you think the talk is all. I must go—Somewhere out of this house. How can I make you—’
‘If—you—do!’ She was opening the door wider.
‘Where do you mean to go? First tell me that.
I’ll follow and bring you back by force. I will!—’
The poem is essentially a dialogue between a rural husband and wife who have lost a child and the strain in their relationship as they deal with grief.
This is a dramatic lyric, with a continuous scene and employs dialogue rather than narrative.
Form fits content well in this poem Rhythmically, Frost approaches pure speech, which would become his signature.
At the time of the publication of ‘Home Burial,’ it changed the structure of poetry with its natural speech rhythms of a region’s people.
‘Home Burial’ dealt with two tragedies here: the deaths of a child and a marriage. It explored grief and different ways and views of grieving, and the collapse in communication.
The husband and the wife represent two very different ways of grieving. The wife’s grief does not wane with time and engulfs her. She sees it as ‘the world’s evil.’
The husband accepts his child’s death as ‘That’s the way of the world.’ His grief includes an organic view of life and death, being a farmer, much like the cycles of harvest. He does not leave the task of burial to someone else, instead, he physically buries his child’s body in the soil, as a way of coping.
The purpose of the poem isn’t really to determine the right way to grieve. It intends to portray the limits of communication between two people brought about by a life-changing event.
Much of the literature of the twentieth century stems from an acknowledgement of these limits. A great deal of Frost’s poetry deals with an essential loneliness, an inability to express grief while grappling with the limitations of empathy, which is what he must have felt through his many tragedies.
Frost knew firsthand the experience of losing children and it greatly informed this piece of work.
Robert Frost Biography: Images
Robert Frost Biography: Conclusion
Robert Frost’s impact on American literature is immeasurable and he stands a tall giant in the American ouevre. His poems continue to resonate with readers of all ages, defying the ages and times with his universal insights into the human condition.
President John F. Kennedy, at whose inauguration Frost delivered a poem, said of Robert Frost, ‘He has bequeathed his nation a body of imperishable verse from which Americans will forever gain joy and understanding.’
Robert Frost Biography: FAQs
When was Robert Frost born?
Robert Frost was born on March 26, 1874.
When did Robert Frost die?
Robert Frost died in Boston on January 29, 1963.
What was Robert Frost known for?
Robert Frost was known for his depictions of rural New England life and his poetry about ordinary people in everyday situations.
Which is Robert Frost’s most famous quote?
Perhaps the most famous quote of Robert Frost is ‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference’ from ‘The Road Not Taken.’
Which are Robert Frost’s most famous poems?
Robert Frost’s most famous poems included “The Gift Outright,” “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” “Birches,” “Mending Wall,” “The Road Not Taken,” and “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”
Who was Robert Frost’s Wife?
Elinor White (married 1895). Robert Frost’s wife had heart problems throughout her life, developed breast cancer in 1937 and died of heart failure in 1938.
Which other books give a Full Biography of Poet Robert Frost?
There are many biographies written about Robert Frost’s Life and his work but ‘Robert Frost: A Biography by Lawrence Thompson’ is considered the most definitive one to learn more about the complete portrait of the great poet’s life.
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