Robert Frost (Robert Lee Frost) was an American Poet. Before his works were published in America, they were published in England. Frost is known for his accurate description of country life and his grasp on the colloquial speech of America. Frost wrote about the rural life of New England in the early 20th century. He used the settings of New England to analyze the philosophical and complex social themes.
Frost was admired and honored for his poetry. He is the only poet who received four Pulitzer Prizes in Poetry. He turned out to be one of the rare literary figures of America who was almost an artistic institution. In 1960, he was honored with the Congressional Gold Medal for his poetry. He was named as poet laureate of Vermont on 22nd July 1961.
A Short Biography of Robert Frost
Robert Frost was born on 26th August 1874 to William Prescott, Jr. and Isabelle Moodie Frost. His father, William, was a journalist and was ambitious to make his career in California. He has only one sister Jeanie Frost. In 1885, his father died, and his mother shifted to Lawrence, Massachusetts, with her two children. The children were taken by the paternal grandparents of Robert and grew up in Lawrence, whereas his mother started teaching at different schools in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. In 1892, Robert graduated from high school. He was a top student in the class and shared his valediction honors with his beloved Elinor White.
Both Elinor and Robert shared interest in poetry; however, they were separated as Robert continued his education at Dartmouth College, and Elinor went to St. Lawrence University. The poetic career Robert had started in high school was continued by him. He published his first poem, My Butterfly: An Elegy” in 1894 in a weekly journal, The Independent. Frost left Dartmouth College before the completion of his first year because of the tiring academic routine.
In 1985, he married Elinor. However, life was difficult, and Robert started teaching and farming to support his family. His fields of career did not meet any notable success. In the following twelve years, they had six children. Two of the children died at an early age. In 1897, Robert resumed his education at Harvard University and left the university after two years. From1900 to 1909, the family started poultry on a farm in New Hampshire; Frost also started teaching at the Pinkerton Academy in Derry. Frost turned into an ambitious botanist and attained his poetic identity of a rural sage of New England during these years. He was writing poetry during the time, but the publishing opening shows that he did not have much interest in it.
Frost was struggling against the discouragement by 1911. For him, poetry was regarded as a game of a young person. Whereas Frost, who was almost 40 years old, could not publish a book and only had published a few handfuls of poems in magazines. In 1911, Frost got ownership of the Derry farm. He made a sudden decision to sell the farm and started a new life in London. To him, the publishers in London were more approachable to new talent than in America. In 1912, Frost, along with his family, moved to England. Frost also took his poems with him that he had written in America but did not publish it. Indeed the publishers of England proved receptive to an innovative verse of Robert Frost. Frost n with his own efforts and help of Ezra pound published his book A Boy’s Will in 1913. His poems “The Tuft of Flowers,” “Mowing,” and “Storm Fear” from the first book were the standard pieces.
In 1914, he published his second collection North of Boston. The collection contained the major and most popular poems of Robert Frost. These poems include “The Death of the Hired Man,” “After Apple-Picking,” “Mending Wall,” and “Home Burial.” In 1914, Anne Lowell, the Boston poet, traveled to England and encountered Frost’s work in the bookstore. She took the books with her to America and launched a campaign to publish it in America. In the meantime, she also started writing a complimentary review of North of Boston.
Frost had achieved great fame without his knowledge. In 1915, Frost returned to America because of World War I. Till that time, the review of Amy Lowell was already published, and everyone was aware of the unusual qualities of Robert Frost. His book North of Boston had been published by Henry Holt Publishers in 1914. It was the best-seller, and when Frost was moving to America, it had already started publishing the American edition of A Boy’s Will. Frost was instantly approached by various magazines to publish his poems.
In 1915, at Franconia, New Hampshire, Frost bought a little farm. However, he was unable to support his family with the income of poetry and farm. Thus, he started lecturing part-time at Amherst College. From 1916 to 1938, he taught at the University of Michigan. In 1916, he published a new collection of poems, Mountain Interval. The collection continued to be as successful and the previous one. In 1923, he published New Hampshire. This collection received a Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
His further collection was published in the succeeding years. He published Collected Poem in 1930, Further Range in 1936, and A Witness Tree in 1942. He also published volumes of poetry that includes West-Running Brook in 1928, In Clearing in 1962, and Steeple Blush in 1947. From 1939 to 1943, he served as the Poet-in-residence at Harvard; from 1943 to 1949 at Dartmouth; and from 1949 to 63 at Amherst College. He gathered awards and honors from every year in his last years. He also served as the poetry consultant to the Library of Congress from 1958 to 1959.
In 1962, on a goodwill tour, Frost visited the Soviet Union. However, he, by mistake, altered the statement by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev after the meeting. The good intended by the visit was unwittingly undone.
On 29th January 1963, frost faced complications from his prostate surgery and died. He left two daughters, Irma and Lesley. His remains are buried in Bennington, Vermont, in a family plot.
Robert Frost’s Literary Style
A Regional Poet
Robert Frost was living in the region of New England, almost in New Hampshire. He considered it to be one of the two best states in the United States of America; the other was Vermont. He was a poet in his region. He did not include the region of all of America in his poetic scope. However, he also did not attempt to bring regional unity to his characters and also create a Utopian world for them. According to John Lynen, “Frost is the best known to the public as the poet of New England. Like Faulkner, he stands forth as both the interpreter and the representative of his regional culture.”
The setting of New England offered him stories, characters, attitudes that he needed. He loved the tradition of New England and sought strength from it. His works fall in the pastoral literary tradition. His characters, subjects, and events belong to rural New England. He focuses on the ordinary setting and events of rural areas.
Symbolism in Robert Frost’s Poetry
Symbolism is an indirect and veiled mode of communication. Along with the surface meaning, a literary piece also has a deeper meaning, which can only be understood when one reads the poem/literary work through close examination. The poems of Robert Frost have symbolic meaning.
For example, the poem “Mending Wall” apparently suggests that good neighbors are made by good friends. However, the poem symbolically deals with one of the significant problems. It put forwards the question of whether to make the natural boundaries strong to protect ourselves or to remove them as they limit our interaction with other people.
Similarly, the poem “Stopping by Woods” symbolically suggests the struggle of every individual between their social duties towards others with the stresses of our practical life and the moving longing to escape into nature and relax. Moreover, darks woods in the poem that is covered with the snow, and the speaker is greatly attracted to it, symbolizes death. However, the speaker turns down the call of nature (wood) and decides on fulfilling his social obligations. The speaker says:
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
The poem “Stopping by Woods on a snowy evening” has a new sort of symbolism, unlike the outdated traditional pastoral symbolism. The subtly and indirect nature of Frost’s symbolism in the poem is due to its fondness for inference than obvious statements. It is due to this subtle quality that readers admire Frost’s poetry. Another unique quality in the reading of the poems of Frost is that our surface understanding of the poem does not coincide with deeper meaning.
Though the poems or subject matters, Frost’s poetry is complicated. However, clarity in verse veiled the complications and made the poem comprehensible. Even if the poems had nothing but surface meaning, Frost would be admired for his clarity of verse.
Seriousness and Spontaneity in Frost’s Poetry
The whole life of Robert Frost was dedicated to his poetry, which shows his seriousness for his art. But in the initial life, he did not pay much attention to his poetic talent or analyze the source of his poetic gift. This turned the poetry of Frost having unforced, simple, and lyric charm. It appears to be written effortlessly and naturally, just as breathing.
The verse of Robert Frost d stately, formed, and easily anticipated. The technique he employed is simple. He carefully handles the language and rhythm that his most sophisticated poems have spontaneity. Therefore, his ideas seem to be suddenly discovered, not conceived earlier.
Isolation and Loneliness in Robert Frost’s Poetry
One of the important themes of the poetry of Robert Brown is the isolation of man in the universe and his feeling of alienation from nature. The Majority of his poems deal with the feeling of loneliness and sense of isolation. These themes are also influenced by Frost’s personal experiences. Frost’s sister Jeanie has been mentally ill for a long period due to which she became completely alienated from the world. Jeanie was not able to cope with the stiffness and cruelty of existence. For her, the reality of love, birth, and death was conflicting. The ideal world of Jeanie never reconciled with her real world.
In the poem “Home Burial,” the plight of the husband is similar to the plight of Frost in being powerless to deter her sister from the view of the world. The woman in the poem is unable to accept the reality of the situation, just like Jeanie. The woman is unable to reconcile herself to the death of her child and becomes totally alienated from the world.
Similarly, in the poem “An Old Man’s Winter Night” is about an old man roaming alone in the empty house on a winter night and then goes to the store and sleep beside it. The poem efficiently portrays the loneliness of old age and shows deep hostility of life counter to death.
“One Aged Man—-One Man—Can’t Keep A House,
A Farm, A Countryside, Or If He Can,
It’s Thus He Does It Of A Winter Night.”
The Portrayal of Characters and Psychoanalysis
Frost’s poems also depict the characters with a psychoanalytical approach. The psychoanalytical approach shows the features of modernism in Frost’s poetry. In these poems, Frost explores the unconscious mind of his characters, although Frost does not seem to be directly influenced by Sigmund Freud. His poetry also focuses on abnormal psychology, dealing with morbid and unconventional behavior of humans. In these poems, the characters are lonely and neurotic. For example, in the poem Home Burial, there is an over-wrought mother who is outrageous in the grief of the death of her child.
Similarly, in “The Death of Hired Man,” the decaying Silas is adhering through carelessness and failure to his need for self-respect. The characters of Robert Frost are full of blood and flesh; he enters into their mind with intense awareness and brings into reality their movements, actions, and speeches with psychoanalytical power.
Narrative and Dramatic Quality of Frost’s poetry
Robert Frost’s poetry is essentially dramatic, no matter what the theme is. He dramatizes his poetry for his readers by creating full scenes of situations and a realistic atmosphere. The dramatic quality is at the peak in the poem at denouement when the fact of the world in the poem attains its metaphysical significance.
For example, in the poem “Home Burial” and “The Death of Hired Man” characters, scenes, and dialogues are shown with full narrative skills like a stage drama.
Fancy and Fact in Frost’s Poetry
The poetry of Robert Frost is beautifully blended of fancy and fact. He inculcates everything in his observation. In the poem “Stopping by Woods,” Frost blends the fancy and facts through the feeling of enjoying the scene of beautiful wood and trying to escape from reality. The speaker is captivated in a lovely scene, but at the same time, he realizes his social obligations of the real and practical life.
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
Conversational and colloquial Style of Robert Frost
Robert Frost mastered the colloquial and conversational style. He uses sober, quire, and bewitching sort of words. His dialogues are homely, such as in Poem “Home Burial” and “Death of The Hired Man.” His poetry has actual speech rhythm and employed it with mastery. One of his distinguishing features includes the movement of blank verse. The diction he uses is also simple and colloquial. Just like Wordsworth, he employed the language really used by the common man.
Poet of Nature
One of the dominant subjects of Frost’s poetry is Nature; however, he is not nature-poet like that of Thomas Hardy and Wordsworth. His poetry focuses on a man in nature, whereas the poetry of Wordsworth deals with the prospect of the natural world. He perceives no infusing essence in the natural objective and hardhearted. For Frost, nature provides comfort as well as a threat.
Philosophy, Moral Didacticism, and Aphorism
The wisdom that develops by tolerance, understanding, and observation is preferred by Frost. He is a philosophical poet, and his philosophical value lies in the incentive of intelligence which assists human actions in everyday life. The main characteristics of Frost’s poetry are: it is philosophical, didactic, and aphoristic. The aphoristic verses in the poem provide philosophical and didactic quality. The Following are the examples of his aphoristic lines from different poems.
“A Home is a place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in” from the poem “Death of Hired Man.”
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” From the poem “Mending Wall.”
“Earth’s right place for love
I do not know where it’s likely to go better” From the poem “Birches.”
“But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep” from the poem “Stopping by Wood.”
Though the poems of Frost have a moral purpose, however, the moral lesson is given through either an argument moving the lyric or in a dramatic situation. The moral lesson is not explicit and obvious. Similarly, he deals with the notions of life, birth, truth, and death to make his poem philosophical.
In his poetry, Frost employs the oldest way to make a new and distinctive lyrical form of poetry. Musicality is an essential feature of a lyrical poem, and musicality in the verses is achieved by rhyme, meter, and traditional patterns of stanzas. Frost’s main reputation is based on the lyrical quality of his poetry. For example, in the poem “Stopping by Wood” and “The Road Not Taken” is full of lyricism. In his poetry, Frost not only renews the subject of lyricism in poetry but also brought originality and astonishing sophistication to it. Frost focuses much on the tune and sound of his poem.
Fusion or Integration in Frost’s Poetry
In Frost’s poetry, heterogeneous ideas and elements are fused together in a single independent unit. The main problem is to achieve fusion and integration. Once the integration is achieved, wonder, mystery, and magic are observed in the poetry. According to Frost, a variety of poetry lies not in its uniqueness of form but in the uniqueness of its subject matter. The two ideas fused together in a poem may be difficult to separate from each other. In Frost, poetry, two different subjects are happily united, not forcefully.
Metaphysical Elements in Frost’s Poetry
Just Emerson and Emily Dickenson, Frost is also a metaphysical poet. His metaphysical quality permits him to see beyond the ordinary. Throughout the poems of Frost, like other great metaphysical poems, there is an increased tension created between the simple feet and the mystery revolving around it. The conflict is resolved at the end of the poem with a moral lesson.
The Irony in Robert Frost’s Poetry
In “Two Ways of Looking at Robert Frost, Randel Jarrell writes: “At its best, Frost’s irony is the sharpest of poetic weapons; at its worst, it is the forgivable pun of a wise old duffer.”
There are two personalities of Robert Frost. The one that everyone knows and the one nobody really knows it or talks about it. The personality of Frost that everyone knows is the one who writes poetry with good puns, and these puns are easily understood by the common readers. For academic writers, the easy side is very attractive, and it is this side that the other personality of the poet is neglected. Similarly, the poetry of Frost has two sides: simple and ironic. The irony is hardly understood by anyone.