Robert Lee Frost (March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963) was one of the most iconic and influential American poets of the 20th century. Americans probably know him best for "The Road Not Taken" or "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening", both of which are commonly taught to students beginning in elementary school.
Frost was born in San Francisco but lived in New England for most of his life. His work focuses primarily on the joys of rural and rustic living, and uses colloquial language frequently. He's one of the most honored poets in American history, having received four Pulitzer Prizes in his lifetime. He was also Poet Laureate of the U.S. from 1958 to 1959, and famously recited his poem "The Gift Outright" at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in 1961.
We would list his books of poetry, but you wouldn't know them. Instead, we'll list his poems that you might recognize:
- "Acquainted with the Night"
- "Fire and Ice"
- "The Gift Outright"
- "Mending Wall"
- "'Out, Out—'"
- "The Pasture"
- "The Road Not Taken"
- "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"
An Oscar-winning documentary, Robert Frost: A Lover's Quarrel with the World, followed Frost around for a couple of lectures he gave not long before he died.
Frost's work provides examples of:
- At the Crossroads: "The Road Not Taken" is all about this. Or at least, it's commonly read to be all about this. Frost apparently meant it to be a satire of indecision, and was irritated in later years when he realized that people were taking it more seriously than he'd intended."Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..."
- Beam Me Up, Scotty!: "The Road Not Taken" is often given the title "The Road Less Traveled" instead, stemming from the line "I took the one less traveled by".
- Farm Boy: A common character and narrator in Frost's poetry.
- Rake Take: He wrote a little comic poem about this, "The Objection to Being Stepped On."At the end of the row
I stepped on the toe
Of an unemployed hoe.
It rose in offense
And struck me a blow
In the seat of my sense....
- Sugar Bowl: At first glance, a lot of his poems seem to take place here.
- Throwing Out the Script: Frost himself did this at the Kennedy inauguration. He'd written a new poem but kept getting his notes mixed up, the winter sun was in his eyes and he couldn't see to read them anyway; finally he gave up and recited "The Gift Outright" from memory.
- Miles to Go Before I Sleep: Trope Namer