Robert Frost: American Poet

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

To many Americans, this oft-repeated verse inspires memories of English classes, which is only fitting since its author, Robert Frost, is the most well-known American poet. Though his poetry can be quite familiar, we often don’t think about the man who created it and how he became the poet that we all know and love.

Robert Frost was born in San Francisco, California on March 26, 1874. After his father died when he was eleven years old, Frost moved to Massachusetts with his mother and sister to live with his grandparents. He started dabbling in poetry during high school, though he didn’t publish his first poem, “My Butterfly,” until 1894 at the age of twenty.

In 1892, Frost graduated as co-valedictorian with his future wife, Elinor White. He left for Dartmouth College after high school but dropped out after a few months and worked a string of unfulfilling jobs. He proposed to Elinor shortly after his authorship victory with “My Butterfly,” but she turned him down because she wanted to complete her education. He proposed again later, after she finished school, and they were married in 1895.

In 1897, Frost attended Harvard University for two years before he left due to his health. He and Elinor tried farming, and failed. They had a total of six children in the first twelve years of their marriage, though only two survived into middle adulthood. Their son Carol committed suicide at thirty-eight years old, and their daughter Irma developed mental illness.

In 1912, Frost and Elinor moved to England with their three surviving children in an attempt to find a publisher for Frost’s work. In just a little over a year, they were successful. The first two of Frost’s books of poetry, A Boy’s Will and North of Boston, were both printed.

Frost and his family were forced to return to America at the start of World War I in 1914, but all was not as before. News of the rising American poet in England traveled across the Atlantic Ocean had rapidly spread, and he was welcomed back with open arms by the literary world. Henry Holt, his new publisher, stayed with Frost for the rest of his days, and journals that rejected his work before his stay in England were now clamoring for a story. In an act of rebellion, Frost sent the Atlantic Monthly the same poems they had previously rejected.

Frost went on to receive forty honorary degrees and four Pulitzer Prizes for New Hampshire, Collected Poems, A Further Range, and A Witness Tree. He also taught at several colleges, including Dartmouth, the University of Michigan, and Amherst College, resigning after his wife died of cancer and heart-related issues in 1938.

This great poet and his legacy will live on in American hearts for many more years to come.

These 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.