+ All Robert Frost Essays:
- Islam and Diane Frost
- The Language of Protest in Shakespeare, Blake, Whitman, Dickinson, Frost, and Rich: Exterior vs. Interior Life
- Sir Robert Peel
- The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
- Analysis of Robert Frost´s Poem Out, Out
- Robert Frost's Design
- The Committee of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative
- Philip Levine and Robert Hayden: What Work is? Those Winter Sundays
- Robert Mondavi Corporation
- The Success of Sir Robert Peel’s Irish Policy
- Robert Browning and the Dramatic Monologue
- Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden
- Abandonment and Singularity in Robert Frost's Poetry.
- The Theme of Isolation in Robert Frost's The Mending Wall
- Analysis of Robert Frost's Desert Places
- William Stafford “Traveling Through the Dark” & Robert Frost “the Road Not Taken”
- Out, Out by Robert Frost and Death on a Live Wire by Michael Baldwin
- The Other Road in Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken
- Good and Evil in Robert Frost's Poetry
- Analysis of The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost
- Comparing Gwendolyn Brooks' 'We Real Cool' and Robert Frost's 'Nothing'
- An Annotation of The Gift Outright by Robert Frost
- Theodore Roethke’s My Papa’s Waltz and Robert Hayden’s Those Winter Sundays
- Comparing the Speeches of Mark Antony and Robert F. Kennedy
- Takng a Look at Robert E. Lee
- Robert Altmans "Nashville"
- Robert Frost's Use of Nature and Love
- Robert Browning
- Robert Nozick's The Experience Machine
- Hyde in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
- An Analysis of Robert Frost's Once by the Pacific
- The Psychology of Robert Frost’s Nature Poetry
- Comparing Robert Frost's Out Out and Seamus Heany's Mid Term Break
- Robert Johnson's He
- Robert Frost’s Poem, The Road Not Taken
- Comparing the Forgotten God of Love in Robert Bridges’ Poem EPÙÓ and Anne Stevenson’s Poem Eros
- Class Struggle in Robert Frost's Poem Out, Out
- Robert Frost's Life and Accomplishments
- The Great American Victory Described in Robert Remini's The Battle of New Orleans
- Early Roots of Policing: Sir Robert Peel's Twelve Principals of Policing
- The Use of Symbolism in Robert Frost's Wind and Window Flower
- Symbolism of Death Used in Because I Could Not Stop for Death by Emily Dickinson and “Home Burial by Robert Frost
- Desolation and Loneliness in Robert Frost's The Wood Pile
- Memories, Nature, Hardship in Robert Frost's Poem, Birches
- Analysis of Oh, my love is like a red, red rose, by Robert Burns
- Poem Analysis- Robert Fross; Robert Browning; Anne Bradstreet
- Impact of Death on a Relationship Explored in Home Burial by Robert Frost
- Close Critical Analysis of Coleridge's 'Frost at Midnight'
- Choices in Robert Forst´s The Road Not Taken and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
- Thirteen Days by Robert Kennedy
- A study of Porphyria's Lover and My Last Duchess by Robert
- Analysis of Mending Wall by Robert Frost
- Comparison of "Recalling War" by Robert Graves and "Mental Case" by Wilfred Owen.
- Robert Frost's "After Apple-Picking"
- The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
- My Last Duches by Robert Browning
- Robert McNamara's Eleven Lessons in "The Fog of War" and the Ongoing Conflict in Libya
- Poem Analysis of Meeting at Night, by Robert Browning
- A Brief Look at Robert Browning
- Robert Frost Home Burial - The Three Tragedies of Home Burial
- Robert Frost Mending Wall
- Sir Robert Peel
- Robert Fuller and Peter Berger's Views on Moral Beliefs
- Robert Frost?s ?The Road Not Taken
- Robert Nozick´s Happiness and the Experience Machine
- 9999999 FROST WILL S MARI N Clt
- Analysis of Robert Frost's Fire and Ice
- Robert Stevenson
- Robert Rauschenberg's Almanac
- Touchdown Jesus by Robert Laurence Moore
- Childhood in Robert Frost's Birchess and William Blake's The Chimney Sweeper
- A Comparison of the Dramatic Monologues of Porphyria's Lover and My Last Duchess by Robert Browning
- Porphyrias Lover and My Last Duchess by Robert Browning
- Analysis of The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost
- Sailing Home from Rapallo by Robert Lowell
- Remains of Egyptian Kings and Myth by by Robert Morkot
- Duality in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Steveson
- Frosts Tuft Of Flowers And Men
- The Fire-Stealer: A Study of Robert Walton in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
- The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
- To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick
- Analysis of Home Burial by Robert Frost
Fifty years ago today, the poet Robert Lee Frost died, at the age of eighty-eight. Though Frost is thought of as a contemplative New England poet, he was born in San Francisco, and named for the Confederate general Robert E. Lee. As Raymond Holden explained in his 1931 New YorkerProfile of Frost, Frost’s father, William, was “an ardent Democrat and States’ Rights man.” Father Frost had tried to enlist in the Civil War on the Southern side, but was rejected because he was too young. “By the time Robert was born,” Holden writes, “the elder Frost was booming around San Francisco in a top hat, whooping up everything that was Democratic and belittling everything that wasn’t.” The young Robert Lee Frost grew up in politics; William Frost wrote for the San Francisco Bulletin, where a political enemy once took a shot at him through the window. “Around election time, the boy’s father used to dress him up in fancy costume and make him ride on floats in political parades or pound along in some torchlight procession getting sparks in his hair. Once when Father Frost was running for the office of something like tax-collector, Robert tagged around after him into all the saloons, helping to tack up election placards.”
It’s hard to imagine the author of “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”—the watcher of trees and grass, of frozen lakes and forested darkness—pinning up political posters in a crowded San Francisco bar. But, while the personality that comes through in Frost’s poems was a genuine one, it was also edited. Frost the poet seems like a quiet person, a loner. But, Holden reports, Frost the man would often “sit up late and talk, eating apples, gossiping about everyone and everything, a little maliciously sometimes but always brilliantly and soundly.” Frost liked long walks in the mountains, but he also liked “sea chanteys, sports, the theatre.” He liked “to talk and read about scientific achievements and exploration.” (In “A Visit to Camelot,” her wildly entertaining memoir of a White House dinner she attended in 1962, for that year’s Nobel laureates, Diana Trilling writes, “Out of the corner of my eye I had spotted Colonel John Glenn. He was talking to, of all people, Robert Frost, and there must have been six people huddled around them, trying to hear what they were saying.”)
There was, Holden writes, a “strength and vividness” to Frost in person, which you would be unaware of if you only knew his poems, as they lacked “the very quality which makes him most noticeable as a personality. It is as if that quality were kept out—frequently, but certainly not always—by some strangely generated sense of reserve.” In his poetry, Frost emphasized the part of himself that remained aloof and on the outside. He was like “a very keen-witted boy,” Holden says, “who would rather know how to sharpen an axehead than sharpen it, who would rather know where spruce gum comes from than go and gather it.” Active with one part of himself—playing baseball, clearing brush, trudging through the woods looking for wildflowers—he was also always watching and weighing. He was talking with you but he was also attending to the patterns of your speech, listening for a poetic rhythm.
While Holden seems to have thought of Frost as an essentially cheerful person who from time to time stepped away from that cheerfulness for the purposes of composing poetry, Joseph Brodsky came to the opposite conclusion. That reserve, he argued, actually represented the real Frost. The rest was just window dressing.
Frost, Brodsky writes, in “On Grief and Reason,” his 1994 essay for The New Yorker, “is generally regarded as the poet of the countryside, of rural settings—as a folksy, crusty, wisecracking old gentleman farmer, generally of positive disposition.” He “greatly enhanced this notion by projecting precisely this image of himself in numerous public appearance and interviews”—like Holden’s, one imagines. In reality, Brodsky writes, Frost was a dark, “terrifying” poet, as Lionel Trilling had called him. He was a poet animated by “anticipation,” by a knowledge of “what he is capable of,” by a sense “of his own negative potential.” Frost’s life contained much besides contemplative strolls through the New England countryside, but Brodsky argued that in that countryside, Frost had seen the most profound part of himself. In nature, Frost had painted his “terrifying self-portrait.”
Look again, Brodsky suggests, at “Come In”—the title poem to a collection that was printed in a special Armed Services Edition for U.S. soldiers. In the poem, a man approaches the edge of the woods. He can hear, somewhere in the trees, the singing of a thrush, but the woods are shadowed, the bird is hidden:
Too dark in the woods for a bird
By sleight of wing
To better its perch for the night,
Though it could still sing.
“Far in the pillared dark,” the poem continues, “Thrush music went— / Almost like a call to come in / To the dark and lament.” But the poet, who is “out for stars,” refuses. “I would not come in,” he says,
I meant not even if asked,
and I hadn’t been.
It sounds like an affirming, resolute poem: walking in the woods, he feels a shiver, then walks on. But don’t believe those final lines, Brodsky tells us, with their “jocular vehemence.” Don’t be deceived by the idea that the poet is “out for stars,” and that he can turn so easily away from those woods. That’s Frost’s usual poetic sleight of hand—his usual front of “positive sensibility.” “If he was indeed ‘out for stars,’ ” Brodsky asks, “why didn’t he mention that before?” Almost certainly, he’s standing at the edge of the woods in the first place because part of him wants to be there—to “make a meal” of his own “dreadful apprehension.” The poet has invited himself, in short, to the edge of the woods, and, once there, he is trying to quell his own impulses; he is “shielding himself from his own insights.” “The twenty lines of the poem,” Brodsky concludes, “constitute the title’s translation. And in this translation, I am afraid, the expression ‘come in’ means ‘die.’”
Personally, I love Brodsky’s reading of Frost. Frost, he thought, wanted to explore the tension, or the connection, between “grief and reason”—the grief of the thrush in the woods, and the reason of the poet stepping back from them. Grief and reason, he writes, are
language’s most efficient fuel—or, if you will, poetry’s indelible ink. Frost’s reliance on them… almost gives you the sense that his dipping into this inkpot had to do with the hope of reducing the level of its contents; you detect a sort of vested interest on his part. Yet the more one dips into it, the more it brims with this black essence of existence, and the more one’s mind, like one’s fingers, gets soiled by this liquid. For the more there is of grief, the more there is of reason.
This captures perfectly what so many of us love about Frost: his delicious indecision; his reluctant normalcy; his dark energy. His most famous lines may well be “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. / But I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep, / And miles to go before I sleep.” Some of death’s terrifying force, his poetry suggests, might be borrowed, and used, for the purposes of life.
Photograph: Library of Congress.