He lost his dad to tuberculosis when he was 11.
He dropped out of two colleges, the last time due to an illness.
He had to commit his younger sister to a mental hospital where she died at a young age.
He delivered newspapers, worked in a factory, and taught school to make ends meet.
He was a failure as a farmer even though the New Hampshire farm was a gift from his grandfather
Four of his six children preceded him in death, one of his sons committed suicide.
He struggled with depression throughout his life.
But on the farm, in the early morning hours, he wrote.
He drew inspiration from his wife, nature, his travels, and life —even the ordinary in it.
He would go on to win accolades and honors with which few can compare.
Four times he won the Pulitzer Prize.
Dozens of honorary degrees were bestowed upon him.
His adopted home state of Vermont awarded him one of its highest honors.
President John F. Kennedy was one of his many admirers who requested a personal recitation of his work.
And in the year preceding his death, a grateful nation awarded poet Robert Frost the United States Congressional Gold Medal.
One critic observed that Robert Frost used “sympathetic humor” even in his satirical writing. Another praised his “seriousness and honesty”.
For his part, he didn’t take life, including its ups and downs, too seriously. He said to have described a poem as “a momentary stay against confusion.” At one point he observed that the then avant garde free verse form of poetry was “like playing tennis without a net.” He infused his poetry and talks with his religious and political views and principles. He was reportedly highly critical of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” fearing it would homogenize society and make people too dependent on others. The president’s “brain trust” he referred to with some measure of displeasure as “the guild of social planners.”
In a 1932 letter, Robert Frost provided some insight into his poems for which he is better known: “The objective idea is all I ever cared about. Most of my ideas occur in verse…. To be too subjective with what an artist has managed to make objective is to come on him presumptuously and render ungraceful what he in pain of his life had faith he had made graceful.” For his epitaph, he chose the last line from one of his poems, The Lesson for Today: “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”
There are over 30 published collections of the poetry of Robert Frost, so you can judge for yourself. You can even listen to him recite some of his works here, courtesy of museum.media.org.
Robert Lee Frost
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963, age 88)