Robert Frost: America’s Beloved Farmer Poet
Robert Frost was America’s most beloved poet because he wrote about us the ordinary people, in ordinary English language, performing the ordinary tasks of life in poems such as neighbors “Mending Walls,” sleeping “After Apple Picking,” and the everyday choices people make in “The Road Not Taken”. In essence, Frost was truly America’s best folk poet,
Surprising though, although Frost was America’s favorite farmer-poet, he was born in the big city of San Francisco, California in 1874. His father, William Prescott Frost was an aspiring journalist hoping to make it big in California but died a of tuberculosis before he could succeed, so his wife moved Frost and his sister to the rural setting of Lawrence, Massachusetts to live with their paternal grandparents. Here he excelled in high school where he wrote his early poems, and it was then that his first poem was to be published which was entitled “My Butterfly: An Elegy.” He went on to graduate at the top of his class, along with Elinor White, the woman who would become his future wife and partner in poetry. After high school Frost went on to attend college but did not last very long because he was right bored with the everyday routines of college life. He first went to Dartmouth and lasted less than one year, and then he tried Harvard but dropped out after only two years.
Frost then tried teaching school and then he and his wife bought a farm in New England to support his growing family, but Frost was rather unsuccessful at both farming and getting his poetry accepted by American publishing houses. So being discouraged by their lack of success, the Frost family boarded a ship and set sail for London where Frost believed there was more acceptance of unknown poets like himself. And his hunch proved to be correct, for it was in London that his first book, entitled A Boy’s Will was accepted and where the famous American ex-patriot poet Ezra Pound mentored him, and his book was first “discovered” a famous American poetess who wrote the good review that got his poetry accepted by American publishing houses, and his career began to sizzle. So upon the outbreak pf WWI he moved his family back to the United States where he won four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry and was one of only five poets who was tapped to recite his poetry at a presidential inauguration.
While being an adept writer of all things related to nature, his poems also penetrate the psyche a little more deeply philosophically as illustrated in “Mending Walls” in which Frost questions the real necessity of the walls that people build to separate each other when he wrote:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am all apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat to eat the cones under his trees, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’
He also wrote about the regrets one has on his deathbed, not so much about things one’s done but has left undone in “After Apple Picking.”
My two pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree,
Toward heaven still’
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bow.
But I am done apple picking now,
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off…
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe is coming
Or is it some human sleep.
Finally in “The Road Not Taken” we have Frost’s important poetic thesis about the inevitable changes in a person’s life and the eternal ramifications of the choices we make, although the differences in our choices may seem minor to us like the two seeming similar paths described in the poem.
The Road Not Taken
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BY ROBERT FROST
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost was not only one of the most beloved American poets, but was probably one of our most wholesome poets and he died in Boston, Massachusetts at the ripe old age of 89 years old in the year of 1963.