On this Day:
March 26, 1874, Robert Frost, the American poet (Mending Wall, Road Not Taken), was born in San Francisco, California.
Robert Lee Frost (March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963) was an American poet. His work was initially published in England before it was published in the United States. Known for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech, Frost frequently wrote about settings from rural life in New England in the early 20th century, using them to examine complex social and philosophical themes.
Frequently honored during his lifetime, Frost is the only poet to receive four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry. He became one of America’s rare “public literary figures, almost an artistic institution”. He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1960 for his poetic works. On July 22, 1961, Frost was named poet laureate of Vermont.
Robert Frost was born in San Francisco, California, to journalist William Prescott Frost, Jr., and Isabelle Moodie. His father descended from Nicholas Frost of Tiverton, Devon, England, who had sailed to New Hampshire in 1634 on the Wolfrana, and his mother was a Scottish immigrant.
Frost was a descendant of Samuel Appleton, one of the early settlers of Ipswich, Massachusetts, and Rev. George Phillips, one of the early settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts.
Frost’s father was a teacher and later an editor of the San Francisco Evening Bulletin (which later merged with The San Francisco Examiner), and an unsuccessful candidate for city tax collector. After his death on May 5, 1885, the family moved across the country to Lawrence, Massachusetts, under the patronage of Robert’s grandfather William Frost, Sr., who was an overseer at a New England mill. Frost graduated from Lawrence High School in 1892. Frost’s mother joined the Swedenborgian church and had him baptized in it, but he left it as an adult.
Although known for his later association with rural life, Frost grew up in the city, and he published his first poem in his high school’s magazine. He attended Dartmouth College for two months, long enough to be accepted into the Theta Delta Chi fraternity. Frost returned home to teach and to work at various jobs, including helping his mother teach her class of unruly boys, delivering newspapers, and working in a factory maintaining carbon arc lamps. He did not enjoy these jobs, feeling his true calling was poetry.
“The Road Not Taken” is a narrative poem by Robert Frost, first published in the August 1915 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, and later published as the first poem in the collection Mountain Interval (1916). Its central theme is the divergence of paths, both literally and figuratively, although its interpretation is noted for being complex and potentially divergent.
“The Road Not Taken” is one of Frost’s most popular works. Yet, it is a frequently misunderstood poem, often read simply as a poem that champions the idea of “following your own path”. Actually, it expresses some irony regarding such an idea. A critique in The Paris Review by David Orr described the misunderstanding this way:
The poem’s speaker tells us he “shall be telling,” at some point in the future, of how he took the road less traveled…yet he has already admitted that the two paths “equally lay / In leaves” and “the passing there / Had worn them really about the same.” So the road he will later call less traveled is actually the road equally traveled. The two roads are interchangeable.
Frost himself wrote the poem as a joke for his friend Edward Thomas, who was often indecisive about which route to take when the two went walking. A New York Times book review on Brian Hall’s 2008 biography Fall of Frost states: “Whichever way they go, they’re sure to miss something good on the other path.” Regarding the “sigh” that is mentioned in the last stanza, it may be seen as an expression of regret or of satisfaction. However, there is significance in the difference between what the speaker has just said of the two roads, and what he will say in the future. According to Lawrance Thompson, Frost’s biographer, as Frost was once about to read the poem, he commented to his audience, “You have to be careful of that one; it’s a tricky poem—very tricky,” perhaps intending to suggest the poem’s ironic possibilities.
Thompson suggests that the poem’s narrator is “one who habitually wastes energy in regretting any choice made: belatedly but wistfully he sighs over the attractive alternative rejected.” Thompson also says that when introducing the poem in readings, Frost would say that the speaker was based on his friend Edward Thomas. In Frost’s words, Thomas was “a person who, whichever road he went, would be sorry he didn’t go the other. He was hard on himself that way.” (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
I came across two talking stones while I was out hiking on the road less travelled the other day. One was a bit shy. The other was a little boulder.
Second, a Song:
“Robert Frost was an American poet who depicted realistic New England life through language and situations familiar to the common man. He won four Pulitzer Prizes for his work and spoke at John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration.
The Road Not Taken masquerades as a meditation about choice as the poet turns something as irrational as an “impulse” into a triumphant, intentional decision.
Decisions are nobler than whims, and this reframing is comforting, too, for the way it suggests that a life unfolds through conscious design. However, as the poem reveals, that design arises out of constructed narratives, not dramatic actions.” (RedFrost Motivation)
Courtesy of RedFrost Motivation and YouTube.com, here is “The Road Not Taken” read by Robert Frost, set to music by Chris Coleman. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” – Robert Frost
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Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2022 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky