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America has a national bird (the bald eagle), a national flower (the rose), and a national anthem (come on, you know this one). If the United States ever adopted a national poet, chances are it would be Robert Frost. By the time Frost died in 1963 at the age of 88, an admiring public had all but carved his face on Mount Rushmore. His poetry was beloved. Frost earned the Pulitzer Prize a record four times. Though he never graduated from college, more than forty universities and colleges have awarded him honorary degrees. Not only was Frost tapped to speak at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, but the handsome young President-elect was actually worried that the crowd would be more interested in the august poet than in him.
Frost stood right at the crossroads of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He does not fit neatly into any one era. He was one of the first poets to advocate for individualism in language, before the idea was fashionable—in 1920, just as Frost was becoming famous, his British contemporary T.S. Eliot published an essay called "Tradition and the Individual Talent" that decried individualism in poetry. While experimentalist twentieth century poets were falling over themselves to find new modes of expression, Frost reawakened readers to the power of the pastoral, the classic symbols of nature and countryside. He insisted that his poems be written in meter and verse ("I would as soon play tennis without a net,"