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Robert Frost’s Life as a Poet

Robert Lee Frost was born in San Francisco, California on March 26 of 1974 and died in Boston, Massachusetts on January 29 of 1963. Though he did not truly start publishing poems until age thirty-nine, Frost obtained four Pulitzer prizes in his writing career and was deemed one of the greatest twentieth century poets. His pastoral writing and skilled use of meter and rhythm has captured the attention of reader’s and critics for decades (Academic American, 345). Frost was very fond of nature and the beauty of things around him and illustrated this in many of his poems.

A reviewer stated that Frost was “always occupied with the complicated task of simply being sincere” (Faggen, I). This statement describes the writer well in the sense that Frost’s works are very full of emotion. His use of the English language and the fact that he often seemed to be holding a little something back in his writing has made him one of the most celebrated American writers ever. Frost’s early years in life were very adverse. Frost’s father, who named the boy after his idle Robert E. Lee, met his wife in Pennsylvania while they were both teaching at Bucknell Academy.

William Prescott Frost Jr. and his wife Isabelle Moodie married and moved to San Francisco where Robert was born. William Frost was a Harvard graduate and was the city editor for the San Francisco Daily Evening Post. Frost’s family moved a good amount and his father, who had serious drinking problems, died of tuberculosis in 1885 and left his mother and younger sister with very little money after burial expenses. The Frost’s returned east to live with the paternal grandparents, but soon moved to Amherst, New Hampshire to stay with his great-aunt.

Shortly after this the family returned to Lawrence, Mass. ere Robert was placed in school as a third grader. Frost graduated here as co-valedictorian with Elinor White. Though he was moved often and had troubles with his father in his young life, Frost still maintained good grades and two years before he graduated Frost had “La Noche Triste” printed in the high school bulletin. This was his first printed poem. Two years later Frost graduated and read a speech titled “A Monument to After-Thought Unveiled” (Faggen, xi). This marked the end of Frost’s childhood and the beginning of his adulthood and the many decisions that came with it.

After high school Frost went through a transition period in his life where he experienced many different things in many places in a short amount of time. Frost continued to move around a lot as his family had done. In 1892 Frost was engaged to Elinor White (his co-valedictorian) and begins college at Dartmouth. He chose this school instead of Harvard for financial reasons and his grandparents blamed much of Frost’s father’s problems on Harvard. He did not last long there however and left the school a few months later.

He returned to Lawrence to work in a woolen mill for a year after which he departed to teach primary school in Salem. Frost became acquainted with Susan Hayes Ward when his poem “My Butterfly: An Elegy” was published in the paper that she edited. In 1895 Frost finally received his wish and married Elinor White, and gained a job as a reporter for a local paper. A year later his son, Elliot, was born and Frost began teaching again; this time at his mothers new school. Frost went to Harvard one year later, but left two years later because his wife and mother’s health was not good.

Frosts daughter was born in 1899 and Frost takes up poultry farming with some financial help from his grandfather (Faggen, xii). Over the next ten years Frost wrote poems, but had few published and he maintained his farm while expanding his family. In 1911 he sold the farm and moved to England a year later. It is interesting to note that he chose England with the flip of the coin because he and his wife were not sure whether to go to British Columbia or England. “The coin chose England” Frost later mentioned (Pritchard, 5). It was pure chance that Frost and his family found themselves in England.

Here Frost focused totally on his writings and he began publishing works. The first one, “A Boy’s Will,” was published in 1913. At this point in Frost’s life he finally settled down and started writing full time. His popularity grew as he received good reviews for his first publishing’s. Though Frost started writing in high school and continued the habit, he was not considered a serious writer until this point in his life. Frost started his writings at a relatively young age in high school and continued to write for the remainder of his life.

He expressed a statement that his poetry was supposed to “trip the reader into the boundless. ” (Jost, 399). This statement, referring to his younger days of writing, illustrates the simplistic style that Frost often wrote with at the time and he continued to write this way even after high school. His writing continued throughout Frost’s post high school years, but they were rarely seen by the public until his farming days at his grandfather’s poultry farm. Here, contrary to popular belief, Frost had three poems published in 1912 in the “Youth’s Companion” which was a prominent journal at the time.

After this Frost went to England which at the time seemed rather foolish since he had just started to establish himself in America, but in the end the decision brought his writing career into full swing (Pritchard, 5). Once in England, Frost published “A Boy’s Will” which received good reviews in the country. This and another of his best considered works, “North of Boston,” were published in the U. S. in 1913 and also received good reviews here. One critic, F. S. Flint, stated about a poem from “A Boy’s Will” that “each poem is a complete expression of one mood, one emotion, one idea” (Wagner, 3).

This statement embodies Frost’s typical writing style as he always tried to totally embrace the experience he was describing in his writing. People saw the writer’s background through his poems. Ezra Pound, one of Frost’s friends and a critic, stated that Frost had the good sense to “speak naturally and to paint the thing, the thing as he sees it” ( Wagner, 1). This spoke of Frost’s now well known sincerity that is seen in many of his works. In 1918 Frost received an honorary MA degree from Amherst College and became an English professor there. In accordance with the rest of his life’s tradition he did not stay here long.

Two years later Frost accepted a year long fellowship at the University of Michigan. In 1923 he published “Selected Poems” and returned to Amherst College again only to go back to Michigan a year later in order to accept a life time position as Fellow in Letters. Frost now started a long journey of writing, teaching, and lecturing that lasted more than 25 years. He published numerous collections in this time including his well received “A Witness Tree” and he received many awards for his poetry. One of the more significant awards received by Frost was a gold medal awarded by the United States Congress in recognition of his life’s work.

Frost died three years after this in 1963 from pulmonary embolism and had many services held for a great man and his great contribution to the world. Frost’s life and writings gained a lot of critical attention in his day and after he passed on. There have been numerous biographical studies on Frost’s life and his works and he has had many critics both for and against his poetry. Along with this acclaim Frost often talked of his poems and his use of meter and rhythm to produce a “sentence sound” as well as other literary elements that he was interested in.

In one interview with a journalist Frost stated “We don\\\\\\\’t get tones enough into our poetry” which refers to his belief that American writers were taught to be to too stiff and follow the old ways of writing (Wilmore, 3). In the interview he compares the British schools, which did not concentrate on rigid form and unity, with the American education that is strict. He believed that England had a lot more poets because they were not so concerned with the stiffness that America was. This is not to say that Frost was an enthusiast of total free verse. He believed in moderation.

Frost felt that too much emotion in poem ruined the work just as very rigid poems were not very good. Only the right mix of emotion and intellect in a poem would make it great and he employed this idea in his writings (Wilmore, 3-4). Frost’s life as illustrated was always in a state of flux and had many ups and downs. Frost went through numerous hardships, mostly in his mid to late years, which had effects on his writings. His biggest obstacle was the death of his family members, specifically his wife Elinor. Frost adored his wife and they spent many years together in a happy relationship that Frost relied on.

When Elinor Frost died of heart failure in 1938 her husband went through a phase where he described himself as being “wild at heart sometimes” (Sergeant, 363). Frost missed his wife very much he would look at the world differently after her death. Frost also lost one daughter before his wife’s death and another daughter after Elinor died. The latter committed suicide and this weighed heavily on Frost because he was full of guilt. Frost had lost two of his children at young ages earlier in his life and all of these deaths could have been enough to bring a man to his worst.

Frost, though visibly shaken, did not crumble under his burdens. He went on to win his fourth Pulitzer Prize two years after his daughter, Carol, committed suicide and followed up with more published collections and awards in future years (Faggen, xiv, xv) Frost had true strength in his life and let nothing stop him from writing. One of Frost’s poems that has received a lot of criticism is “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. ” The poem was reviewed by numerous critics, biographers and fellow writers and the work has been interpreted in many different ways.

The work was taken very well by the public and few criticized the work well most praised it. One critic wrote “Frost, writing in the tradition of English verse, makes them [three lines] original and new, and integrates them perfectly into his own poem” (On “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, 1). Here one of Frost’s many biographers, Jeffery Meyers, praises the poet for his ability to make borrowed lines appear as though they were never written before. Not all critics have praised “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and many found the poem too simple or over appreciated.

One such critic, Karen L. Kilcup, writes that the poem “provides a doorway into an understanding of the poet\\\\\\\’s great popularity with \\\\\\\”ordinary\\\\\\\” readers” (On “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, 4-5). Here we see the popular criticism that Frost was too simple or left too much out of his poems to be considered a real poetic genius. These critics were the “intellectualists” that Frost referred to in his interview with a Boston Post reporter and do not hold the majority opinion about this poem (Wilmore, 3-4).

Frost felt people who looked at his poems in this way did not allow as much emotion to come out of the work as he had intended. This again illustrates his belief that there must a little emotion and a little intellectualism in a poem for it to be considered a good work. Frost had many more reviews done of this poem that represent the opinions of numerous scholars and journalists and there may still be more in depth explanations to come as people never tire of reading this poet’s exquisite works.

Frost’s poem “Stopping by a Woods One Snowy Evening” is a poem that can be better understood after understanding Frost’s life. The poem speaks volumes about his experience with life in just four stanzas. His choice between the “lovely, dark and deep” woods and the undetermined “promises” works on two levels (Arp and Johnson, lines 13,14). His use of imagery to appeal to the sense of sight and touch here helps illustrate the experience of the speaker. One can see that the speaker must make a decision between the lulling woods and the life of the real world, symbolized by the promises that Frost ends his poem with.

Frost probably dealt with this decision often in his life. Whether it was the decision to continue his writings in spite of his many losses or the decision to continue living; the poem presents an experience of returning to something that may be more difficult then not returning. The poem leaves the speaker with no actual resolution, but knowing Frost’s life allows one to see that in his case he did go miles before sleeping or, rather, continued to live and write successfully for many years after his losses occurred.

By analyzing Frost’s poem in view of his achievements in life “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” becomes a strong statement on Frost’s part while at the same time leaving something hanging for the reader of the poem. In conclusion Frost lived an extraordinary life full of great loss and great triumphs. His poems with their rural depictions and deep meanings have been a favorite of poetic intellects and every day readers for decades. His triumphs and defeats are immortalized in his writings and his great accomplishment will be seen in them for as long as his poems endure.

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