Robert Frost (1874-1963), four-time Pulitzer Prize winning American poet, teacher and lecturer wrote many popular and oft-quoted poems including “After Apple-Picking”, “The Road Not Taken”, “Home Burial” and “Mending Wall”; I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
At times bittersweet, sometimes ironic, or simply marveling at his surroundings, one can also see autobiographical details in Frost’s works; he suffered devastating losses in his life including the untimely deaths of his sister, two of his children and his wife. He knew the soul’s depths of psychic despair but was also capable of delighting in birch trees ‘loaded with ice a sunny winter morning’. While memorialising the rural landscape, vernacular, culture and people of New England in his traditional verse style, his poems also transcend the boundaries of time and place with metaphysical significance and modern exploration of human nature in all her beauty and contradictions. Though not without his critics, millions of readers the world over have found comfort and profound meaning in his poetry and he has influenced numerous other authors, poets, musicians, and playwrights into the 21st Century. Robert Lee Frost (named after Southern General Robert E. Lee) was born on 26 March 1874 in San Francisco, California to Isabelle Moodie (1844-1900) teacher, and William Prescott Frost Jr. (1850-1885), teacher and journalist. San Francisco was a lively city full of citizens of Pioneering spirit, including Will who had ventured there from New Hampshire to seek his fortune as a journalist. He also started gambling and drinking, habits which left his family in dire financial straits when he died in 1885 after contracting tuberculosis. Honouring his last wishes to be buried in Lawrence, Massachusetts where he was born, Isabelle, Robert and his sister Jeanie Florence (1876-1929) made the long train journey across the country to the New England town. Isabelle took up teaching again to support her children. With both parents as teachers, young Robert was early on exposed to the world of books and reading, studying such works as those by William Shakespeare and poets Robert Burns and William Wordsworth. He also formed a life-long love of nature, the great outdoors and rural countryside. After enrolling in Lawrence High School he was soon writing his own poems including “La Noche Triste” (1890) which was published in the school’s paper. He excelled in many subjects including history, botany, Latin and Greek, and played football, graduating at the head of his class. In 1892 he entered Dartmouth, the Ivy League College in Hanover, New Hampshire, but soon became disenchanted with the atmosphere of campus life. He then took on a series of jobs including teaching and working in a mill, all the while continuing to write poetry. Frost got his first break as a poet in 1894 when the New York magazine Independent published “My Butterfly: An Elegy” for a stipend of $15. A year later a wish he had had for some time came true; on 19 December 1895 he married Elinor Miriam White (1872-1938), his co-valedictorian and sweetheart from school. They had gone separate ways upon graduation to attend college, and while Frost had left early, Elinor wanted to wait until she was finished before getting married. They would have six children together; sons...
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