Robert Frost (1874-1963) is considered America's greatest poet. He spent most of his life in rural New England and married his high school sweetheart Elinor Miriam White; both had a major influence on his writings. His poetry combined traditional rhyme with deep philosophical insight, securing his place as a world-class poet.
He began his third book (of eleven), Mountain Interval, published in 1916, with the poem The Road Not Taken. His fourth book of poetry, New Hamphire (1923) included Stopping by Woods On A Snowy Evening. Both are representative of his style.
He was invited to the inauguration of fellow New Englander President John F. Kennedy on January 20, 1961. He had written a poem "Dedication" in honor of the President, recognizing the President for his dedication to the arts. However, blinded by the sun's glare on the snow-covered Capitol grounds, Frost found himself unable to read the poem he had prepared. Instead, he left us with an unforgettable moment by reciting his poem The Gift Outright from memory!
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
from The Mountain Interval, 1916
Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it's queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
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
from New Hampshire, 1923
The Gift Outright
The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.
from The Witness Tree, 1942