Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963) is America’s one of the most famous poets. There was something in his use of everyday speech, farm life, and plain folk wisdom that drenches his poetry in the nostalgia of a snow-swept New England at the turn of the twentieth century.
On the surface, Frost appears to be a simple farm rhymer, but, on closer inspection, is a dark and complex poet writing about the individual’s inner world, inescapably a part of a vast, indifferent outer world.
For today’s article, I have enlisted 10 of the most famous poems by the poet.
10. Robert Frost’s The Gift Outright
|Poetry Collection:||A Witness Tree|
‘The Gift Outright’ was a recitation by Frost during the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy on January 20, 1961. Initially composed in 1936, this poem is technically a sonnet written in iambic pentameter and free verse.
This poem is a patriotic poem that recalls the history of the English colonial establishment over the Native Americans.
The poem claims that this ‘gift’ is the ‘deed of war’ and the heroic, most selfless death of millions of martyrs during the war, which regained the Americans’ land.
The poem is a gist of the great American Revolutionary War and the gradual genesis of politics and the structure of the country.
9. Robert Frost’s Acquainted With The Night
|Poetry Collection:||West-Running Brook|
Another poem in iambic pentameter has only 14 lines in total, called ‘Terza rima,’ first introduced and penned by Dante. Albeit its short length, this poem is capable of catapulting the reader into an eerie detachment.
Frost had experienced inexplicable sadness in his life: he had to lose both his children to different circumstances and often suffered from sporadic depression. Here, ‘the night’ could pertain to depression or perhaps the solitude he had been familiar with.
Much of the popularity it garnered was because of the fact that the poem dealt with this aforementioned issue. It was like one person telling the other about oscillating between dark moments and moments of normalcy.
He has given this feeling of acute sadness some volume via his words, which people were able to read, grasp and even identify. Replete with metaphors, this poignant poem is one of his greatest works.
8. Robert Frost’s Home Burial
|Poetry Collection:||North of Boston|
‘Home Burial’ is a dramatic, conversational yet intense poem written by Frost that cascades into continuous scenes and is embellished by dialogues rather than descriptive or narrative.
By reading the poem, the reader gets transported back onto the seat of a staged drama where the characters are portraying fiery performances.
It revolves around the active lives of a confident husband and wife in the rural area, their lamentation, and despair.
The poem accommodates two tragedies: the death of their child and, consequently, the dissolution of their marriage. It also deals with the dichotomy of lamenting by the husband and wife.
She gets disabled after the death of her beloved child and plunges into bottomless grief with a bleak chance of recovering from the trauma. She is not yet ready to accept the death of her child and far from being emotionally stable.
On the other hand, the husband has entirely pacified with his emotions and tries to appease his wife.
He has waned with time and believes that it is the ‘way of the world’ and poses a stoic disposition.
This unfortunate turn of events has torn their marriagern past the point of reconciliation where eaccannotto cope with the other.
Perhaps, this poem could also be shedding a mother’s sensitivity towards her child with whom she has an umbilical cord attached and the practicality that the father possesses.
Regardless, this is a melancholic poem that stirs a tense feeling into the hitherto calm mind of the reader.
7. Robert Frost’s Out, Out
|Poetry Collection:||Mountain Interval|
This 34 lines long poem has its title from William Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ (Act 5, Scene 5, Lines 17-28), where Macbeth delivers herself the dialogue that life is a ‘brief candle’ that extinguishes quickly(“Out, out, brief candle, life’s but a walking shadow” -Macbeth).
This reference is just to fit the theme of which is the helplessness of humans during the inevitable consumption by death.
We learn that a young lad cuts wood with a spinning saw through the poem. He has his hands between the saw and gets it mutilated.
He dies due to severe bleeding, and the onlookers glance at it and resume doing their chores.
This poem depicts the futility of life where a farmer boy has been doing his daily task of chopping woods when unfortunately he has to have it amputated, and to make matters worse; he succumbs to death.
Similarly, another lesson is that the onlookers are merely onlookers who possess no power whatsoever and will continue with their affairs regardless of the boys’ death or anybody’s death.
The poem conveys that our life is short and often humorous if seen in that light and the fact that the world stops for none. It keeps moving perennially. Such a profound message only Frost can deliver with deft that makes this poem unsettling yet beautiful.
6. Robert Frost’s Fire and Ice
|Poetry Collection:||New Hampshire|
‘Fire and Ice’ is a short 9-lined poet hath that holds a grave meaning and leaves the reader contemplating despite its length. Speculation has it that it is a gist of what Dante wrote in his ‘Inferno’ or at least has been inspired by it.
The verse elaborates in simple, comprehensive language and even mentions household objects, yet it contains a deep and human meaning.
The narrator starts by questioning whether the world will end with another ice age movement, another holocaust or nuclear war, or something like that consuming the earth.
Then he takes a subtle swerve in the meaning when compares fire with human passion and human desire that can get too hot and even go onto becoming destructive.
Eventually, he goes on to say in the latter part that it could be ice or hate or indifference of men that are equally or even of greater destructibility.
It could merely imply that there is more than enough of man’s insatiable greed or extreme hate looming significant in this world which is detrimental to the human race.
Whatever may be the inference, at the core, we know that human passion and energy will bring an end to this world.
5. Robert Frost’s Birches
|Poetry Collection:||New Hampshire|
Since Frost grew up in the countryside, nature and its whims are close to his heart. The poem is of 59 lines in iambic pentameter form, but each stanza has a thematic resemblance to different phases such as the past, present and the future tethered on the branches of the birch tree itself.
The theme of the poem seems to be akin to ‘swinging’ as the poet has depicted the branches swinging and making a fashionable touch down on the earth.
It could imply that there’s the infinite sky above the tree-tops and the vast stretched-out land below and juggling between these two is our life, us humans who have sustained.
The whole climbing the branches refers to a momentary respite from the mundane life, transcending into the unknown, often regarded as death.
But the poet hasn’t promised about the after-life He diverts slightly into coming back to the earth (Earth’s the right place for love) as this is where life thrives.
Although the responsibilities of everyday life weigh us down, the poet reiterates that the upward thrust must be followed by a downward motion to balance life.
To convey this theme, the poet has chosen a birch tree because the tree is rooted to the earth well and, as a sapling, intends to bend and retreat.
This scaling of the tree and following the trajectory backward is what he describes as ‘good both going and coming back.
4. Robert Frost’s Nothing Gold Can Stay
|Poetry Collection:||New Hampshire|
Although this poem is only an eight liner, it unearths profound meaning when excavated. Poetry has been revered worldwide for the literary devices maneuvered by the poet.
The reader understands that nothing gold can stay forever. In other words, nothing good lasts forever.
The poet has made this simple fact time evident by stating that ‘the first green of spring is her hardest hue to hold,’ ‘so Eden sank to grief,’ and lastly, ‘dawn goes down to day.’
The pleasant days of spring gradually morph into hues of brown and duns. The perfect world of Adam and Eve is interrupted by a host of the human race and the bright early mornings followed by nights.
The poem reflects the nature of mother nature in terms of carefully stringed words. Through this poem, Frost taps on the cyclic life and how we are born but certainly perish into the same soil we sprung.
Another message the poem imparts is that everything is temporary, and only if we are to fathom their ethereal existence, we can appreciate them even more.
3. Robert Frost’s Mending Wall
‘Mending Wall’ is a blank verse poem that commences with natural lines and then escalates into ambiguous remarks.
It is about two neighbours separated by a wall that is often toppled by varying forces. One of them favors the wall, whereas the other cannot reason why it is necessary. And in between these two opposing views lies the poem’s central theme.
In the poem’s first four lines, the poet refers to as ‘love’ or companionship, and in the next four of the stanza, it is symbolic to ‘hate’ or ‘forceful’.
The bulk of the poem is a contrast between the narrator and the neighbor. However, the irony lies in the collaboration of the narrator to mend the wall each time it is damaged.
We can also catch the residue of ‘Myth of Sisyphus’ as it bears semblance to the tedious task of unnecessarily carrying the boulder to the hill.
Perhaps it means that there are two types of people in this world: those who are adamant on wall-building and those who want to knock it down. There are also other inferences drawn from this poem. Nonetheless, it is loved by all.
2. Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
This poem is probably the most read poem by Frost and most loved yet most misinterpreted. The poem written in quatrain rhymed iambic tetrameter begins with a wilful entry of the narrator and his exit at the end of the poem.
The theme laid out in this poem is one that frost frequently: departure and freedom. When he enters the scenic snowy woods, he is in awe of the splendid vista the place has to offer even on a dark evening.
He wants to stay there longer and adore what he sees. He soon realizes he has unkept promises to fulfill and ‘miles to go before I sleep,’ echoing the departure or rather a new pursuit.
The poem fits into many shapes and perspectives, some murky, some pleasant, yet it doesn’t alter the fact that this poem resonates with everybody and duly deserves the position it holds.
1. Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken
|Poetry Collection:||Mountain Interval|
Touted as the most famous poem by Frost, ‘The Road Not Taken’ describes our life’s journey and how we face choices in every step of the way.
Every day we have to make decisions, after all, life is about choices and their consequences, and we are only these fragments of our options soldered together. It is why Frost’s poem strikes a chord with all the readers.
Here, the speaker is standing in front of diverging roads and is perplexed about choosing the right path. Eventually, he takes the unbeaten path to a worn-out one. He is amused by what discoveries and experiences the trail lead him to make him who he is.
There is an essential lesson about venturing into the unknown and rolling with the punches to shape ourselves better. The theme of the poem makes it an inspiring read.
Frost’s poems reflect the folksy tone and the snowy atmosphere he grew up in New Hampshire.
His lyrics are embellished with dark themes that he had gone through, and amidst the darkness, the reader finds his poems infiltrated by rays of hope and promises of transcendentals, making them appropriate to all ages.