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" and "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 often employs colloquial language. He's one of the most honored American poets of all time, 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.
Selected works by Robert Frost:
- A Boy's Will (1913 poetry collection)
- North of Boston (1914 poetry collection)
- Mountain Interval (1916 poetry collection)
- New Hampshire (1923 poetry collection)
- West-Running Brook (1928 poetry collection)
- Collected Poems (1930 poetry collection containing all of the above; winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry)
- A Further Range (1936 poetry collection; winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry)
- A Witness Tree (1942 poetry collection; winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry)
- Steeple Bush (1947 poetry collection)
- In the Clearing (1962 poetry collection)
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".
- Death of a Child: "Home Burial" depicts the breakdown of a couple's marriage as they have a fight after their first child has died. It is generally regarded as his most depressing work.
- Documentary: The Academy Award-winning Robert Frost: A Lover's Quarrel with the World (1963) followed him around for a couple of lectures he gave not long before he died.
- Farm Boy: A common character and narrator in Frost's poetry.
- Fire/Water Juxtaposition: The short poem "Fire and Ice", where he muses on the destruction by both forces. He associates fire with desire and ice with hatred."Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice."
- Hollywood New England: Robert Frost was a major Trope Codifier. His poems are almost all set in New England and almost all of them are about nature, farming, woods, snow, grassy fields, leaves changing in the fall—all portraying New England as a rural Arcadia.
- Lack of Empathy: The reaction of the people watching the boy die after he accidentally cut off his own hand in "Out, Out—" is to just leave and go about their business.
- Miles to Go Before I Sleep: Trope Namer
- 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. One of his friends later said that this was for the best, as the Kennedy poem was "the worst thing he had ever written."
- World-Wrecking Wave: In "Once by the Pacific," the threatening seascape brings on the vision of an apocalyptic deluge.