10 Most Famous Poems by Robert Frost

Robert Lee Frost (1874 – 1963) was an American poet who is one of the most popular and critically acclaimed poets in history. He won four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry. He remains the only poet and one of only four persons to accomplish the feat. Frost is highly regarded for his deep understanding of human nature leading to brilliant dramatic monologues or dramatic scenes in his poetry. He is known for his realistic depictions of rural life, capturing the rhythms of actual speech and depicting the human response to nature’s processes. Robert Frost is considered by many as the greatest American poet of the twentieth century. Here are his 10 most famous poems



#10 The Gift Outright

Poetry Collection:A Witness Tree
Published:1942

Poem:-

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.

Synopsis:-

The Gift Outright talks about the relationship between the Americans and America. It begins with describing the American people’s first possession of their land merely as a plot of earth. This was overcome when the Americans realized they had to give themselves in an act of passionate surrender to earn outright the “gift” of the title. The poem summarizes the politics of formation of the country, primarily the American Revolutionary War. It stresses on the importance of getting rid of the political, cultural and spiritual allegiance to England in order to achieve perfect union with the land of America. The Gift Outright is most famous for being the poem which Robert Frost recited on January 20, 1961 at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. This was the first time a poet had honored a presidential inauguration.


#9 Acquainted with the Night

Poetry Collection:West-Running Brook
Published:1928

Poem:-

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right. 
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Synopsis:-

In this poem, the speaker tells about his relationship with loneliness. The poem begins and ends with the line, “I have been one acquainted with the night”, and in between the speaker uses imagery to convey to the reader the nature of solitude. It is most often read as the narrator’s admission of having experienced depression and a vivid description of what that experience feels like. “The night” is the depression itself. Terza rima (“third rhyme”) is rhyming verse stanza first used by the famous Italian poet Dante Alighieri. Due to the difficulty of using it in English, few writers in English have attempted the form. Robert Frost was a master of many forms and Acquainted with the Night is one of the most famous examples of an American poem written in terza rima.


#8 Home Burial

Poetry Collection:North of Boston
Published:1914

Excerpt:-

He saw her from the bottom of the stairs
Before she saw him. She was starting down,
Looking back over her shoulder at some fear.
She took a doubtful step and then undid it
To raise herself and look again. He spoke
Advancing toward her: ‘What is it you see
From up there always—for I want to know.’
She turned and sank upon her skirts at that,
And her face changed from terrified to dull.
He said to gain time: ‘What is it you see,’
Mounting until she cowered under him.
‘I will find out now—you must tell me, dear.’
She, in her place, refused him any help
With the least stiffening of her neck and silence.
She let him look, sure that he wouldn’t see,
Blind creature; and awhile he didn’t see.
But at last he murmured, ‘Oh,’ and again, ‘Oh.’

‘What is it—what?’ she said.

                                          ‘Just that I see.’

‘You don’t,’ she challenged. ‘Tell me what it is.’

‘The wonder is I didn’t see at once.
I never noticed it from here before.
I must be wonted to it—that’s the reason.
The little graveyard where my people are!
So small the window frames the whole of it.
Not so much larger than a bedroom, is it?
There are three stones of slate and one of marble,
Broad-shouldered little slabs there in the sunlight
On the sidehill. We haven’t to mind those.
But I understand: it is not the stones,
But the child’s mound—’

Read Full Poem Here

Synopsis:-

Home Burial captures a scene in the house of a man and a woman who have recently lost a child. The wife doesn’t want to move away from thoughts of her child. She believes that people only pretend to grieve while they are “making the best of their way back to life”. She doesn’t accept this kind of false grief. The husband has already grieved the death of their child in his own way and accepted it. He believes that running away from the truth is not the way forward. He wants his wife to talk and address the issue while his wife wants to be alone. Home Burial focuses on the twin tragedies of the loss of the couple’s child and the collapse of their marriage. It touches themes of death, gender inequality and communication between couples. It is unusual for being a dramatic lyric with dialogues between its characters in natural speech rhythms of a region’s people. Home Burial is one of Robert Frost’s most dark, sad and emotional poems.



#7 Out, Out

Poetry Collection:Mountain Interval
Published:1916

Poem:-

The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside him in her apron
To tell them ‘Supper.’ At the word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy’s hand, or seemed to leap—
He must have given the hand. However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
The boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh,
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all—
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart—
He saw all spoiled. ‘Don’t let him cut my hand off—
The doctor, when he comes. Don’t let him, sister!’
So. But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then—the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. They listened at his heart.
Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it.
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

Synopsis:-

The title of this poem is an allusion to the quotation: “Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow…” in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth. It is spoken by Macbeth after he hears that his wife has committed suicide and refers to how unpredictable and fragile life is. The poem tells the story of a young boy whose hand gets accidentally severed by a buzz saw leading to his death due to excessive bleeding. It ends with people’s reaction to the death and how life still goes on. Frost focuses on the innocence and passivity of the boy in the poem and Out, Out is considered by some as a critique on how war forces young boys to leave their childhood behind and be destroyed due to the circumstances created by ‘responsible’ adults. Out, Out is among Robert Frost’s most critically acclaimed and renowned poems.


#6 Fire and Ice

Poetry Collection:New Hampshire
Published:1920

Poem:-

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Synopsis:-

Fire and Ice discusses whether the world will end in fire or in ice. The force of fire is equated to the emotion of desire while that of ice is equated to hate. Frost brilliantly uses casual language in the poem which contrasts with the terror of apocalypse he talks about. The poem is considered by some to be a compression of Inferno, the first part of Dante’s epic poem Divine Comedy. In Inferno, the worst offenders of hell, are submerged, while in a fiery hell, up to their necks in ice. Prominent American astronomer Harlow Shapley, also claimed to have inspired the poem by telling Frost during a chat that the world would end either due to explosion of the sun or by slowly freezing in deep space. Fire and Ice is one of Frost’s best-known and most anthologized poems.



#5 Birches

Poetry Collection:Mountain Interval
Published:1915

Poem:-

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Synopsis:-

This poem first appeared in August 1915 issue of the Atlantic Monthly. The following year it was included in Frost’s third poetry collection Mountain Interval. Written in simple conversational language, the poem was inspired by Frost’s childhood experience of swinging on birch trees. Birches begins with the speaker wondering whether the birches he is seeing have been bent as boys have been swinging them. He realizes it is ice storms that bend the birches but prefers his initial interpretation. He remembers how he used to be a swinger of birches in his childhood and expresses his wish to do so again to get away from reality. However, he also deems it necessary to return to the rational world. The poem presents swinging on birches as an act of escaping the rationality of the adult world but the escape is only temporary as responsibilities cannot be avoided.


#4 Nothing Gold Can Stay

Poetry Collection:New Hampshire
Published:1923

Poem:-

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.

Synopsis:-

Gold in this poem refers to the color of vegetation in its first stage. The speaker says that the rich hue of gold, after a brief while, gives way to the green of life. In the second couplet, this is emphasized again, this time with the analogy of a leaf existing as a flower briefly before taking its true form. The Fall of Man is a term used to refer to the story of Adam and Eve committing the sin of disobedience by consuming the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, leading to their expulsion. Frost uses the metaphor of the Fall, of dawn transforming to day and the above mentioned analogies to comment on the necessity of the transformation of life from its rich, beautiful and even paradise like state, to that which is wholesome and complete. Nothing Gold Can Stay is Frost’s most brilliant short verse and is renowned for its rich symbolism.



#3 Mending Wall

Poetry Collection:North of Boston
Published:1914

Poem:-

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor 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 neighbors.’
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

Synopsis:-

The narrator in Mending Wall is a farmer in rural New England who contacts his neighbor to build a wall between their two farms. But he notes twice in the poem, “something there is that doesn’t love a wall”. Through the poem, the narrator questions the purpose of the wall as there is nothing that is to be prevented from crossing their boundaries. They have apples and pines planted in their regions and he reasons, “My apple trees will never get across and eat the cones under his pines”. However his neighbor always replies, “Good fences make good neighbors”. Frost uses short conversational words in the poem and folksy language. However, it is a complex poem with several themes, with the most dominant one being the role of boundaries in human society. Mending Wall is one of the most analyzed and famous poems in modern literature.


#2 Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Poetry Collection:New Hampshire
Published:1923

Poem:-

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 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 is 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.

Synopsis:-

Written in a very short time, Frost called this poem, “my best bid for remembrance”. In it, the narrator stops to behold a lovely scene of snow falling in the woods and is tempted to stay longer. However, he ultimately decides to move on as he still has a considerable distance to travel before he can rest. The poem has been interpreted in many ways revolving around the pull the narrator faces between the “lovely” woods and the “promises” he has to keep. It has been thought to imply several things including being symbolic of the choice between adventure and responsibility. Stopping by the Woods is one of the most popular poems, especially its last four lines, which are among the most often quoted lines in poetry.


#1 The Road Not Taken

Poetry Collection:Mountain Interval
Published:1916

Poem:-

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.

Synopsis:-

Robert Frost was close friends with British poet Edward Thomas and the two took many walks together. In Frost’s words, Thomas was “a person who, whichever road he went, would be sorry he didn’t go the other”. The Road Not Taken was initially meant to be a gentle mocking of indecision and Frost sent an advanced copy of the poem to Thomas. In the poem, the speaker stands in the woods pondering which of the two roads ahead should he take. Though Frost probably wrote the poem to highlight the human tendency to look back and blame minor decisions in their life, it has since been interpreted by readers as a poem on the benefit of free thinking and not following the crowd. The last lines of the poem are hugely popular and often quoted. The Road Not Taken is not only the most famous poem of Robert Frost but among the most renowned ever written.



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