Study Guide

Robert Frost Introduction

Robert Frost Introduction

"Three years ago, a young New Hampshire schoolmaster went over to England, lived in retirement for a while, and published a volume of poems which won him many friends in a quiet way," wrote the Boston Herald in 1915. "Some time ago, another volume of verse went to the same publisher and one morning Robert Frost found himself famous."blank">A Road Not Taken" emblazoned on coffee mugs and journals. That's kid stuff. Now get ready to learn the real Robert Frost.

Robert Frost Trivia

Frost and his future wife Elinor Miriam White were co-valedictorians at Lawrence High School in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

In December 2007, a gang of drunken teenagers vandalized Robert Frost's former home in Ripton, Vermont. The miscreants smashed windows, furniture, and antiques, and left behind a disgusting mess of bodily fluids. At their sentencing, the teenagers were ordered to do community service and to attend two classes with Frost expert and biographer Jay Parini.

Frost's mother Isabelle was a Swedenborgian, a religion based on the teachings of Swedish theologian Emanuel Swedenborg. Followers believe that God revealed the meaning of the Scriptures directly to Swedenborg. Frost was baptized as a Swedenborgian in 1881 at his mother's insistence but he left the church as an adult.

Frost was paid $15 for his first published poem, "My Butterfly," which appeared in the New York Independent in 1894.

What a difference some fame makes: in 1912, as an unknown poet, Frost sent his poem "Reluctance" to Ellery Sedgwick, editor of The Atlantic Monthly, and was rejected. In 1915, after Frost's first two collections had earned critical praise, Sedgwick contacted him and asked to publish his poems.

President John F. Kennedy quite the fan of Frost, but his first response to learning that Frost would speak at his inauguration was downright diva-esque. "He's a master of words and I'm going to be sure he doesn't upstage me," Kennedy told U.S. Representative Stewart Udall. "Let's not have him give any kind of a speech, or they'll remember what he said and not what I said. Maybe we can have him recite a poem."

Robert Frost Resources

Books

Robert Frost, North of Boston (1914)
Frost's second collection of poetry is the one that made him famous and that established him as a major new voice. The book was first published in England, where Frost had moved to immerse himself in writing (rather successfully, we'd say!). It contains the poems "Mending Wall," "Death of the Hired Man," and "After Apple Picking."

Robert Frost, Mountain Interval (1916)
This poetry collection was written in the early years of Frost's fame. It includes "The Road Not Taken," arguably Frost's most famous work. Though it has been appropriated as an anthem of individualism, the poem is actually about how insignificant such choices can be. As Frost said, "You have to be careful of that one; it's a tricky poem—very tricky."_CITATION39_

Robert Frost, New Hampshire: A Poem With Notes and Grace Notes (1922)
This poetry collection earned Frost his first of four Pulitzer Prizes. It contains the poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," one of his best-known works (and Frost's personal favorite of his poems). Frost's award was one of the first Pulitzers ever given for poetry—the first was awarded in 1920.

Robert Frost, "The Gift Outright" (1961)
This is the poem Frost famously recited off the cuff at Kennedy's inauguration, when weather made it impossible to read the one he composed for the occasion. "The Gift Outright" is a poetic history of America, beginning: "The land was ours before we were the land's." Frost called the sixteen-line poem "a history of the United States in a dozen lines of blank verse."_CITATION40_

Jay Parini, Robert Frost: A Life (2000)
Biographer Parini spent two decades interviewing Frost's family and friends and combing through his papers. This book is the result. It is an excellent look at the impressive career and painful personal life of one of America's most influential poets.

Brian Hall, Fall of Frost (2008)
Fall of Frost is a biographical novel that imagines the parts of the poet's life that biographers have left in the dark. For one, Hall invents origins for Frost's poems. Interestingly, though Frost's poetry is at the center of the plot, the Frost estate refused to allow Hall to quote from copyrighted poems.

Music

Elliott Carter
Elliott Carter is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer. Among his greatest works are the musical arrangements for three of Robert Frost's poems: "Dust of Snow," "The Rose Family," and "The Line Gang."

Paul Sperry
Tenor Paul Sperry sings Elliott Carter's musical arrangements of Frost's poems. We aren't sure what Sperry sounds like, but we love his bow tie.

Stevie Wonder—"Stay Gold"
Musical genius Stevie Wonder wrote this song for the soundtrack to the film The Outsiders, based on Ponyboy's rendition of Frost's poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay." Stevie!

Randall Thompson
Frost's poems have inspired many musicians. American composer Randall Thompson set several of Frost's poems to music, including his famous "The Road Not Taken."

The Lied and Art Song Text Page
This website (see their FAQ for an explanation of the name) has a database of all Frost poems that have been set to music. It's pretty impressive.

David Rubenstein
Composer David Rubenstein has created voice and piano arrangements for two Frost poems, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" and "The Rabbit Hunter." You can listen to audio clips of the songs on his website.

Images

Young Frost
A picture of the poet, circa 1890.

Older Frost
A photograph of the poet, taken in his later years.

Thoughtful Frost
A 1956 portrait of the poet.

Frost at the White House
President John F. Kennedy was a great fan of Frost's. Here he is with President and Mrs. Kennedy at a White House formal.

Inauguration
Frost reading at Kennedy's 1961 inauguration.

"Dedication"
The copy of the poem Frost brought to the inauguration, with his notes.

Grave
The Frost family grave in Old Bennington Cemetery, in Bennington, Vermont.

Movies & TV

A Tribute to John F. Kennedy from the Arts (1963)
Immediately following Kennedy's 1963 assassination, American artists staged a tribute pageant to the slain president. It featured a reading of works by Frost, one of Kennedy's favorite poets. Frost died in January 1963, just ten months before the assassination.

Robert Frost: A Lover's Quarrel With the World (1963)
This educational documentary about Frost's life was completed only months before his death. The footage of Frost lecturing to students illustrates the warm, engaging style that made him so popular in the classroom.

The Outsiders (1983)
Oh, the power of poetry! In this classic adaptation of S.E. Hinton's book, Ponyboy delivers a powerful rendition of Frost's short poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay." Then he admits that he doesn't know what the poem actually means. Oh well.

Afterglow: A Tribute to Robert Frost (1989)
Burgess Meredith stars as the poet in this biography. This short (35-minute) film recreates scenes from Frost's life.

Symphony for the Spire (1992)
In 1992, to raise money for the rebuilding of the Salisbury Cathedral, Prince Charles of Wales commissioned a benefit concert. The impressive lineup features noted actors and musicians, including Charlton Heston who performed some of Frost's poems.

Fireflies in the Garden (2008)
The title of this drama about a dysfunctional family comes from a Frost poem of the same name. In a key plot point, a character falsely claims to have written Frost's poem himself.

Websites

The American Academy of Poets
Poets.org is a great archive of information on America's poets. Frost's entry has his biography, links to his poems, and critical essays about him.

Robert Frost at Bread Loaf
Frost taught at the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College on and off for 42 years, between 1921 and 1963. The school has a great online archive about the poet, including a wide selection of primary documents.

Poetry Foundation
The people who produce the journal Poetry have a great page about Robert Frost, with an insightful critical biography and links to his work. Their suggested bibliography is especially worth a look.

Robert Frost Stone House Museum
Stone House, the home in Shaftsbury, Vermont, where Frost lived from 1920 to 1929, is now a museum. Its website is a useful trove of Frost information, with pictures of all of Frost's homes and a free library of Frost-related articles. It also offers a special tutorial section for students.

A Frost Bouquet
This site accompanied a 1996 exhibit on Frost at the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. The online offerings aren't extensive, but they contain some rare and interesting pieces of Frost memorabilia, such as images of several of his family's Christmas cards.

Library of Congress
The Library of Congress has a mini-site focusing on Frost's famous performance at John F. Kennedy's inauguration. Frost's instant substitution of another poem when he was unable to read the one he brought is one of the greatest saves in literary history—not bad for an 86-year-old man.

Video & Audio

Frost at Bread Loaf
Audio recordings and texts of Frost's lectures at Bread Loaf School.

"The Road Not Taken"
An animation of Frost reading his poem.

"The Road Not Taken"
An audio recording of Frost reading the poem, without the animation this time.

"After Apple Picking"
Another poem animation. If you're into this, YouTube has even more.

Robert Frost: A Lover's Quarrel With the World
A preview of a documentary about Frost.

Primary Sources

A Boy's Will
Frost's first poetry collection.

North of Boston
Frost's second poetry collection, which first made him famous.

Mountain Interval
Frost's 1916 poetry collection.

"The Road Not Taken"
Frost's poem from Mountain Interval.

"Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening"
Frost's poem from the Pulitzer-winning collection New Hampshire.

"The Death of the Hired Man"
A 1915 poem from North of Boston.

Lectures
Transcripts of Frost's lectures at Bread Loaf School of English, Middlebury College.

Letters and Manuscripts
An assortment of Frost's papers, from the Middlebury archives.

The Bouquet
A magazine written by Frost's children and family friends in 1914.

Obituary
Frost's 1963 obituary in The New York Times.

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