Robert Frost

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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.

Robert Lee Frost (26 March 187429 January 1963) was an American poet; winner of four Pulitzer Prizes.

Quotes[edit]

General sources[edit]

It is absurd to think that the only way to tell if a poem is lasting is to wait and see if it lasts. The right reader of a good poem can tell the moment it strikes him that he has taken an immortal wound — that he will never get over it.
Most of the change we think we see in life
Is due to truths being in and out of favor.
We've looked and looked, but after all where are we?
Do we know any better where we are,
And how it stands between the night tonight
And a man with a smoky lantern chimney?
How different from the way it ever stood?
Everything written is as good as it is dramatic. It need not declare itself in form, but it is drama or nothing.
Summoning artists to participate
In the august occasions of the state
Seems something artists ought to celebrate.
Today is for my cause a day of days.
Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
A complete poem is one where an emotion finds the thought and the thought finds the words.
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.
In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life — It goes on.
The best way out is always through.
I had a lover's quarrel with the world.
Always fall in with what you're asked to accept. Take what is given, and make it over your way. My aim in life has always been to hold my own with whatever's going. Not against: with.
The world is full of willing people, some willing to work, the rest willing to let them.
To be social is to be forgiving.
If one by one we counted people out
For the least sin, it wouldn't take us long
To get so we had no one left to live with.
The Vermont mountains stretch extended straight;
New Hampshire mountains curl up in a coil.
We dance round in a ring and suppose, but the Secret sits in the middle and knows.
Say something to us that we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says "I burn."
Ends and beginnings — there are no such things. There are only middles.
There may be little or much beyond the grave,
But the strong are saying nothing until they see.
Our life runs down in sending up the clock.
The brook runs down in sending up our life.
The sun runs down in sending up the brook.
And there is something sending up the sun.
Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.
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.
We disparage reason.
But all the time it’s what we’re most concerned with.
There’s will as motor and there’s will as brakes.
Reason is, I suppose, the steering gear.
Men work together, wether they work together or apart.
One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
Poetry provides the one permissible way of saying one thing and meaning another. People say, "Why don’t you say what you mean?" We never do that, do we, being all of us too much poets. We like to talk in parables and in hints and in indirections — whether from diffidence or some other instinct.
All is an interminable chain of longing.
Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.
Dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep.
  • The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.
  • Men work together,” I told him from the heart,
    Whether they work together or apart.
  • If one by one we counted people out
    For the least sin, it wouldn't take us long
    To get so we had no one left to live with.
    For to be social is to be forgiving.
    • The Star-Splitter
  • We've looked and looked, but after all where are we?
    Do we know any better where we are,
    And how it stands between the night tonight
    And a man with a smoky lantern chimney?
    How different from the way it ever stood?
    • The Star-Splitter
  • I do not see why I should e'er turn back,
    Or those should not set forth upon my track
    To overtake me, who should miss me here
    And long to know if still I held them dear.

    They would not find me changed from him they knew —
    Only more sure of all I thought was true.

  • Ah, when to the heart of man
    Was it ever less than a treason
    To go with the drift of things,
    To yield with a grace to reason,
    And bow and accept the end
    Of a love or a season?
  • I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
    I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
    (And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
    I sha’n’t be gone long. — You come too.
  • Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
    They have to take you in.
    • "The Death of the Hired Man (1914)
  • The nearest friends can go
    With anyone to death, comes so far short
    They might as well not try to go at all.
    No, from the time when one is sick to death,
    One is alone, and he dies more alone.
    Friends make pretence of following to the grave,
    But before one is in it, their minds are turned
    And making the best of their way back to life
    And living people, and things they understand.
  • Most of the change we think we see in life
    Is due to truths being in and out of favor.
  • Pressed into service means pressed out of shape.
  • Forgive me my nonsense as I also forgive the nonsense of those who think they talk sense.
  • A poem...begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion finds the thought and the thought finds the words.
  • I own any form of humor shows fear and inferiority. Irony is simply a kind of guardedness. So is a twinkle. It keeps the reader from criticism. Whittier, when he shows any style at all is probably a greater person than Longfellow as he is lifted priestlike above consideration of the scornful. Belief is better than anything else, and it is best when rapt, above paying its respects to anybody's doubt whatsoever. At bottom the world isn't a joke. We only joke about it to avoid an issue with someone to let someone know that we know he's there with his questions: to disarm him by seeming to have heard and done justice to this side of the standing argument. Humor is the most engaging cowardice.
  • 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.
  • The Hyla breed
    That shouted in the mist a month ago,
    Like ghost of sleigh-bells in a ghost of snow.
  • We love the things we love for what they are.
    • "Hyla Brook" (1920)
  • “My dear,
    It’s who first thought the thought. You’re searching, Joe,
    For things that don’t exist; I mean beginnings.
    Ends and beginnings—there are no such things.
    There are only middles.
    • Mountain Interval (1920), 5. In the Home Stretch, Line 187-192
  • 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.
    • "Birches" (1920)
  • I shall set forth for somewhere,
    I shall make the reckless choice
    Some day when they are in voice
    And tossing so as to scare
    The white clouds over them on.
    I shall have less to say,
    But I shall be gone.
  • Do you know,
    Considering the market, there are more
    Poems produced than any other thing?
    No wonder poets sometimes have to seem
    So much more businesslike than businessmen.
    Their wares are so much harder to get rid of.
    • "New Hampshire" (1923)
  • The Vermont mountains stretch extended straight;
    New Hampshire mountains curl up in a coil.
    • "New Hampshire" (1923)
  • 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.
  • The snake stood up for evil in the Garden.
  • Why make so much of fragmentary blue
    In here and there a bird, or butterfly,
    Or flower, or wearing-stone, or open eye,
    When heaven presents in sheets the solid hue.
  • 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.
  • The way a crow
    Shook down on me
    The dust of snow
    From a hemlock tree

    Has given my heart
    A change of mood
    And saved some part
    Of a day I had rued.

  • And then we saw him bolt.
    We heard the miniature thunder where he fled,
    And we saw him, or thought we saw him, dim and gray,
    Like a shadow across instead of behind the flakes.
  • Love at the lips was touch
    As sweet as I could bear;
    And once that seemed too much;
    I lived on air
  • Now no joy but lacks salt,
    That is not dashed with pain
    And weariness and fault;
    I crave the stain

    Of tears, the aftermark
    Of almost too much love,
    The sweet of bitter bark
    And burning clove.

    • "To Earthward" (1923), st. 5,6
  • How often already you've had to be told,
    Keep cold, young orchard. Good-bye and keep cold.
    Dread fifty above more than fifty below.
    I have to be gone for a season or so.
  • It is absurd to think that the only way to tell if a poem is lasting is to wait and see if it lasts. The right reader of a good poem can tell the moment it strikes him that he has taken an immortal wound—that he will never get over it.
    • "The Poetry of Amy Lowell" in The Christian Science Monitor (16 May 1925)
  • You could not tell, and yet it looked as if
    The shore was lucky in being backed by cliff,
    The cliff in being backed by continent;
    It looked as if a night of dark intent
    Was coming, and not only a night, an age.
    Someone had better be prepared for rage.
    There would be more than ocean-water broken
    Before God's last Put out the Light was spoken.
  • Tree at my window, window tree,
    My sash is lowered when night comes on;
    But let there never be curtain drawn
    Between you and me.
  • That day she put our heads together,
    Fate had her imagination about her,
    Your head so much concerned with outer,
    Mine with inner, weather.
    • "Tree at My Window" (1928)
  • One luminary clock against the sky
    Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.

    I have been one acquainted with the night.
  • If, as they say, some dust thrown in my eyes
    Will keep my talk from getting overwise,
    I'm not the one for putting off the proof.
    Let it be overwhelming, off a roof
    And round a corner, blizzard snow for dust,
    And blind me to a standstill if it must.
  • Everything written is as good as it is dramatic. It need not declare itself in form, but it is drama or nothing.
    • A Way Out (1929), Preface
  • Poetry begins in trivial metaphors, pretty metaphors, "grace" metaphors, and goes on to the profoundest thinking that we have. Poetry provides the one permissible way of saying one thing and meaning another. People say, "Why don’t you say what you mean?" We never do that, do we, being all of us too much poets. We like to talk in parables and in hints and in indirections — whether from diffidence or some other instinct.
    • "Education by Poetry", speech delivered at Amherst College and subsequently revised for publication in the Amherst Graduates’ Quarterly (February 1931)
  • Don’t join too many gangs. Join few if any.
    Join the United States and join the family —
    But not much in between, unless a college.
    • "Build Soil" (1932)
  • Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.
    • Address at Milton Academy, Massachusetts (17 May 1935)
  • The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
    You know how it is with an April day
    When the sun is out and the wind is still,
    You´re one month on in the middle of May.
    But if you so much as dare to speak,
    A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
    A wind comes off a frozen peak,
    And you´re two months back in the middle of March.
  • But yield who will to their separation,
    My object in living is to unite
    My avocation and my vocation
    As my two eyes make one in sight.
    Only where love and need are one,
    And the work is play for mortal stakes,
    Is the deed ever really done
    For heaven and the future´s sakes.
    • "Two Tramps in Mud Time" (1936), st. 9
  • No memory of having starred
    Atones for later disregard,
    Or keeps the end from being hard.

    Better to go down dignified
    With boughten friendship at your side
    Than none at all. Provide, provide!

  • The old dog barks backward without getting up;
    I can remember when he was a pup.
  • Talking is a hydrant in the yard and writing is a faucet upstairs in the house. Opening the first takes all the pressure off the second. My mouth is sealed for the duration of my stay here. I'm not even going to write letters around to explain to collectors my not having had any Christmas card this year. I'm not going to explain anything personal any more.
    • Letter to Sydney Cox (3 January 1937), quoted in Robert Frost : The Trial By Existence (1960) by Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, p. 351, and Robert Frost and Sidney Cox: Forty Years of Friendship (1981) by William Richard Evans, p. 223
  • When I see young men doing so wonderfully well in athletics, I don’t feel angry at them. I feel jealous of them. I wish that some of my boys in writing would do the same thing. … You must have form — performance. The thing itself is indescribable, but it is felt like athletic form. To have form, feel form in sports — and by analogy feel form in verse. One works and waits for form in both. As I said, the person who spends his time criticizing the play around him will never write poetry. He will write criticism — for the New Republic.
    • Originally delivered at a poetry reading at Princeton University (26 October 1937), published in Collected Poems, Prose & Plays (1995)
  • The land was ours before we were the land's.
    She was our land more than a hundred years
    Before we were her people.
  • 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.
    • "The Gift Outright" (1941)
  • She is as in a field a silken tent
    At midday when the sunny summer breeze
    Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,
    So that in guys it gently sways at ease.
  • But strictly held by none, is loosely bound
    By countless silken ties of love and thought
    To every thing on earth the compass round,
    And only by one's going slightly taut
    In the capriciousness of summer air
    Is of the slightest bondage made aware.
    • "The Silken Tent" (1942)
  • '"Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.
    • Title of poem (1942)
  • Far in the pillared dark
    Thrush music went —
    Almost like a call to come in
    To the dark and lament.

    But no, I was out for stars;
    I would not come in.
    I meant not even if asked;
    And I hadn't been.

  • If this uncertain age in which we dwell
    Were really as dark as I hear sages tell,
    And I convinced that they were really sages,
    I should not curse myself with it to hell.
    • "The Lesson for Today" (1942)
  • And were an epitaph to be my story
    I'd have a short one ready for my own.
    I would have written of me on my stone:
    I had a lover's quarrel with the world.
    • "The Lesson for Today" (1942)
  • We dance round in a ring and suppose,
    But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.
  • Have I not walked without an upward look
    Of caution under stars that very well
    Might not have missed me when they shot and fell?
    It was a risk I had to take — and took.
    • "Bravado" (1947)
  • I stopped my song and almost heart,
    For any eye is an evil eye
    That looks in onto a mood apart.
  • All those who try to go it sole alone,
    Too proud to be beholden for relief,
    Are absolutely sure to come to grief.
    • "Haec Fabula Docet" (1947)
  • Courage is of the heart by derivation,
    And great it is. But fear is of the soul.
    • A Masque of Mercy (1947).
  • O Star (the fairest one in sight)
    We grant your loftiness the right
    To some obscurity of cloud —

    It will not do to say of night,
    Since dark is what brings out your light.
    Some mystery becomes the proud.

    But to be wholly taciturn
    In your reserve is not allowed.
    Say something to us that we can learn
    By heart and when alone repeat.
    Say something! And it says "I burn."
  • It asks a little of us here.
    It asks of us a certain height.
    So when at times the mob is swayed
    To carry praise or blame too far,
    We may take something like a star
    To stay our minds on and be staid.
    • "Take Something Like a Star" (1949)
  • Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.
    • As quoted in a review of A Swinger of Birches (1957) by Sydney Cox in Vermont History, Vol. 25 (1957), p. 355
  • Courage is in the air in bracing whiffs
    Better than all the stalemate an's and ifs.
    • For John F. Kennedy His Inauguration also known as Dedictation (1960).
  • People are inexterminable — like flies and bed-bugs. There will always be some that survive in cracks and crevices — that’s us.
    • "London Observer (29 March 1959)
  • How many times it thundered before Franklin took the hint! How many apples fell on Newton's head before he took the hint! Nature is always hinting at us. It hints over and over again. And suddenly we take the hint.
    • "Lives of the Poets : The Story of One Thousand Years of English and American Poetry (1959) by Louis Untermeyer
  • Summoning artists to participate
    In the august occasions of the state
    Seems something artists ought to celebrate.
    Today is for my cause a day of days.
    • "For John F. Kennedy His Inauguration" (1960), the poem is also known as "Dedication". Frost had planned to read "For John F. Kennedy His Inauguration" at John F. Kennedy's imauguration, but the blinding light from the sun and snow prompted him to recite "The Gift Outright" from memory. Source: Tuten, Nancy Lewis; Zubizarreta, John (2001). The Robert Frost Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 9780313294648
  • It is only a moment here and a moment there that the greatest writer has. Some cognizance of the fact must be taken in your teaching.
    • As quoted in Robert Frost : The Trial by Existence (1960) by Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, p. 174
  • Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat.
    • As quoted in Robert Frost: the Trial by Existence (1960) by Elizabeth S. Sergeant, Ch. 18
  • A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.
    • Quoted in Fire and Ice: The Art and Thought of Robert Frost (1961) by Lawrence Thompson
  • I am assured at any rate
    Man's practically inexterminate.
    Someday I must go into that.
    There's always been an Ararat
    Where someone someone else begat
    To start the world all over at.
    • "A-Wishing Well" (1962)
  • It takes all sorts of in and outdoor schooling
    To get adapted to my kind of fooling.
    • "It Takes All Sorts" (1962)
  • Unless I'm wrong
    I but obey
    The urge of a song:
    I'm—bound—away!

    And I may return
    If dissatisfied
    With what I learn
    From having died.

    • "Away!, st. 5,6 (1962)
  • Always fall in with what you're asked to accept. Take what is given, and make it over your way. My aim in life has always been to hold my own with whatever's going. Not against: with.
    • As quoted in Vogue (14 March 1963)
  • You don’t have to deserve your mother’s love. You have to deserve your father’s. He’s more particular.... The father is always a Republican towards his son, and his mother’s always a Democrat.
    • Interview in Writers at Work (1963)
  • You've often heard me say – perhaps too often – that poetry is what is lost in translation. It is also what is lost in interpretation. That little poem means just what it says and it says what it means, nothing less but nothing more.
    • Robert Frost: A Backward Look, by Louis Untermeyer (1964), p. 18
  • All out of doors looked darkly in at him
    Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars,
    That gathers on the pane in empty rooms.
  • 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.
  • "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.
    • "Out, Out —"
  • I always have felt strange when we came home
    To the dark house after so long an absence,
    And the key rattled loudly into place
    Seemed to warn someone to be getting out
    At one door as we entered at another.
  • Her crop was a miscellany
    When all was said and done,
    A little bit of everything,
    A great deal of none.
    • "A Girl's Garden
  • Take care to sell your horse before he dies.
    The art of life is passing losses on.
    • "The Ingenuities of Debt
  • She drew back; he was calm
    "It is this that had the power,"
    And he lashed his open palm
    With the tender-headed flower.
  • But he sent her Good-by,
    And said to be good,
    And wear her red hood,
    And look for skunk tracks
    In the snow with an ax —
    And do everything!
    • "The Last Word of a Blue Bird
  • There was never a sound beside the wood but one,
    And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.
  • To warm the frozen swamp as best it could
    With the slow smokeless burning of decay.
  • My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
    Toward heaven still.
    And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
    Beside it, and there may be two or three
    Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
    But I am done with apple-picking now.
  • Were he not gone,
    The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
    Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
    Or just some human sleep.
    • "After Apple Picking
  • It must be the brook
    Can trust itself to go by contraries
    The way I can with you — and you with me —
    Because we’re — we’re — I don’t know
    What we are.
    • "West-running Brook
  • Our life runs down in sending up the clock.
    The brook runs down in sending up our life.
    The sun runs down in sending up the brook.
    And there is something sending up the sun.
    • "West-running Brook
  • Something inspires the only cow of late
    To make no more of a wall than an open gate,
    And think no more of wall-builders than fools.
  • The world has room to make a bear feel free;
    The universe seems cramped to you and me.
  • The land may vary more;
    But wherever the truth may be —
    The water comes ashore,
    And the people look at the sea.
    • "Neither Out Far nor In Deep
  • Never ask of money spent
    Where the spender thinks it went.
    Nobody was ever meant
    To remember or invent
    What he did with every cent.
    • "The Hardship of Accounting
  • He would declare and could himself believe
    That the birds there in all the garden round
    From having heard the daylong voice of Eve
    Had added to their own an oversound,
    Her tone of meaning but without the words.
    • "Never Again Would Birds’ Song Be the Same
  • We disparage reason.
    But all the time it’s what we’re most concerned with.
    There’s will as motor and there’s will as brakes.
    Reason is, I suppose, the steering gear.
    • "A Masque of Reason
  • Deliver us from committees.
    • "A Masque of Reason
  • Wind goes from farm to farm in wave on wave,
    But carries no cry of what is hoped to be.
    There may be little or much beyond the grave,
    But the strong are saying nothing until they see.
    • "The Strong Are Saying Nothing
  • ‘Twas Age imposed on poems
    Their gather-roses burden
    To warn against the danger
    That overtaken lovers
    From being overflooded
    With happiness should have it
    And yet not know they have it.
    • "Carpe Diem
  • Till we came to be
    There was not a trace
    Of a thinking race
    Anywhere in space.
    • "Kitty Hawk
  • It is the future that creates his present.
    All is an interminable chain of longing.
    • "Escapist — Never
  • “Well, who begun it?”
    That’s what at the end of a war
    We always say not who won it,
    Or what it was foughten for.
    • "Lines Written in Dejection on the Eve of Great Success
  • Two such as you with such a master speed
    Cannot be parted nor be swept away
    From one another once you are agreed
    That life is only life forevermore
    Together wing to wing and oar to oar.
    • "The Master Speed"; the last line is Inscribed beneath his wife's name on the gravestone of Frost and his wife, Elinor.
  • In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life — It goes on.
    • As quoted in The Harper Book of Quotations (1993) edited by Robert I. Fitzhenry, p. 261
  • The best things and best people rise out of their separateness; I'm against a homogenized society because I want the cream to rise.
    • As quoted in The Harper Book of Quotations (1993) edited by Robert I. Fitzhenry, p. 419
  • The greatest thing in family life is to take a hint when a hint is intended — and not to take a hint when a hint isn't intended.
    • As quoted in Bartlett's Book of Love Quotations (1994)
  • The world is full of willing people; some willing to work, the rest willing to let them.
    • As quoted in The New Speaker's Treasury of Wit and Wisdom (1958) edited by Herbert Victor Prochnow
    • As quoted at page 212 in The Pocket Book of Quips and Quotes (1996) by Rajendra Pillai, Copyright 1996 The Saint Paul Society Bombay, 2nd Print 1999
  • A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.
    • As quoted by Guy Davenport (The Geography of the Imagination) at page x in A Liberal Education by Abbott Gleason (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, Tide Pool Press, 2010)

Mending Wall (1914)[edit]

  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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 offence.
    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
    That wants it down.
  • 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 neighbours.”

Home Burial (1915)[edit]

  • 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 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."
  • The little graveyard where my people are!
    So small the window frames the whole of it.
  • He said twice over before he knew himself:
    "Can't a man speak of his own child he's lost?"

    "Not you!'—'Oh, where's my hat? Oh, I don't need it!
    I must get out of here. I must get air.'—
    I don't know rightly whether any man can."

  • 'My words are nearly always an offense.
    I don't know how to speak of anything
    So as to please you. But I might be taught,
    I should suppose. I can't say I see how.
  • A man must partly give up being a man
    With womenfolk.
    We could have some arrangement
    By which I'd bind myself to keep hands off
    Anything special you're a-mind to name.
    Though I don't like such things 'twixt those that love.
    Two that don't love can't live together without them.
    But two that do can't live together with them."
    She moved the latch a little. "Don't — don't go.
    Don't carry it to someone else this time.
    Tell me about it if it's something human.
    Let me into your grief. I'm not so much
    Unlike other folks as your standing there
    Apart would make me out. Give me my chance.
  • 'I can repeat the very words you were saying:
    "Three foggy mornings and one rainy day
    Will rot the best birch fence a man can build."
    Think of it, talk like that at such a time!
    What had how long it takes a birch to rot
    To do with what was in the darkened parlor?
    You couldn't care! The nearest friends can go
    With anyone to death, comes so far short
    They might as well not try to go at all.

My November Guest (1915)[edit]

The third poem from the 1915 republished A Boy’s Will
  • My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
    Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
    Are beautiful as days can be;
    She loves the bare, the withered tree;
    She walks the sodden pasture lane.
  • Her pleasure will not let me stay.
    She talks and I am fain to list:
    She’s glad the birds are gone away,
    She’s glad her simple worsted gray
    Is silver now with clinging mist.
  • The desolate, deserted trees,
    The faded earth, the heavy sky,
    The beauties she so truly sees,
    She thinks I have no eye for these,
    And vexes me for reason why.
  • Not yesterday I learned to know
    The love of bare November days
    Before the coming of the snow,
    But it were vain to tell her so,
    And they are better for her praise.

The Oven Bird (1916)[edit]

  • There is a singer everyone has heard,
    Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
    Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
    He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
    Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
    He says the early petal-fall is past
    When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
    On sunny days a moment overcast;
    And comes that other fall we name the fall.
    He says the highway dust is over all.
    The bird would cease and be as other birds
    But that he knows in singing not to sing.
    The question that he frames in all but words
    Is what to make of a diminished thing.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (1923)[edit]

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.
  • 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.
    • St. 1
  • 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.
    • St. 2
  • 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.
    • St. 3
  • 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.
    • St. 4

For Once, Then, Something' (1923)[edit]

The water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
My myself in the summer heaven, godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.

Source: The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged. Ed. Edward Connery Lathem. Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1969.

Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
My myself in the summer heaven, godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.

Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths – and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.

Further Range (1926)[edit]

Also published as A Further Range (1936)
  • Let me be the one
    To do what is done.
    • Ten Mills : Assertive
  • I turned to speak to God
    About the world's despair
    But to make bad matters worse
    I found God wasn't there.
    God turned to speak to me
    (Don't anybody laugh)
    God found I wasn't there
    At least not over half.
    • Ten Mills : Not All There
  • And be all plunderers curst.
    'The best way to hate is the worst.
    'Tis to find what the hated need,
    Never mind of what actual worth,
    And wipe that out of the earth.
    Let them die of unsatisfied greed,
    Of unsatisfied love of display,
    Of unsatisfied love of the high,
    Unvulgar, unsoiled, and ideal.
    Let their trappings be taken away.
    Let them suffer starvation and die
    Of being brought down to the real.
    • "The Vindictives"

A Peck of Gold (1926)[edit]

Such was life in the Golden Gate:
Gold dusted all we drank and ate,
And I was one of the children told,
'We all must eat our peck of gold.
  • Dust always blowing about the town,
    Except when sea-fog laid it down,
    And I was one of the children told
    Some of the blowing dust was gold.
  • All the dust the wind blew high
    Appeared like god in the sunset sky,
    But I was one of the children told
    Some of the dust was really gold.
  • Such was life in the Golden Gate:
    Gold dusted all we drank and ate,
    And I was one of the children told,
    'We all must eat our peck of gold.'

The Figure a Poem Makes (1939)[edit]

Poetry begins in delight and ends in wisdom.
Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. A poem may be worked over once it is in being, but may not be worried into being. Its most precious quality will remain its having run itself and carried away the poet with it.
Robert Frost's 1939 Essay The Figure a Poem Makes; Preface to Collected Poems
  • It should be of the pleasure of a poem itself to tell how it can. The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom. The figure is the same for love.
  • No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.
  • Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting … Read it a hundred times; it will forever keep its freshness as a metal keeps its fragrance. It can never lose its sense of a meaning that once unfolded by surprise as it went.
  • Scholars and artists thrown together are often annoyed at the puzzle of where they differ. Both work from knowledge; but I suspect they differ most importantly in the way their knowledge is come by. Scholars get theirs with conscientious thoroughness along projected lines of logic; poets theirs cavalierly and as it happens in and out of books. They stick to nothing deliberately, but let what will stick to them like burrs where they walk in the fields.
  • It should be of the pleasure of a poem itself to tell how it can. The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom. The figure is the same as for love. No one can really hold that the ecstasy should be static and stand still in one place. It begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life-not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay against confusion. It has denouement. It has an outcome that though unforeseen was predestined from the first image of the original mood-and indeed from the very mood. It is but a trick poem and no poem at all if the best of it was thought of first and saved for the last. It finds its own name as it goes and discovers the best waiting for it in some final phrase at once wise and sad-the happy-sad blend of the drinking song.
    • The portion of "The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom." is often misquoted as: Poetry begins in delight and ends in wisdom.
  • No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. For me the initial delight is in the surprise of remembering something I didn't know I knew. I am in a place, in a situation, as if I had materialized from cloud or risen out of the ground. There is a glad recognition of the long lost and the rest follows. Step by step the wonder of unexpected supply keeps growing. The impressions most useful to my purpose seem always those I was unaware of and so made no note of at the time when taken, and the conclusion is come to that like giants we are always hurling experience ahead of us to pave the future with against the day when we may Want to strike a line of purpose across it for somewhere. The line will have the more charm for not being mechanically straight. We enjoy the straight crookedness of a good walking stick. Modern instruments of precision are being used to make things crooked as if by eye and hand in the old days.
  • Originality and initiative are what I ask for my country. For myself the originality need be no more than the freshness of a poem run in the way I have described: from delight to wisdom. The figure is the same as for love. Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. A poem may be worked over once it is in being, but may not be worried into being. Its most precious quality will remain its having run itself and carried away the poet with it. Read it a hundred times: it will forever keep its freshness as a petal keeps its fragrance. It can never lose its sense of a meaning that once unfolded by surprise as it went.

Directive (1947)[edit]

  • Back out of all this now too much for us,
    Back in a time made simple by the loss
    Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
    Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,
    There is a house that is no more a house
    Upon a farm that is no more a farm
    And in a town that is no more a town.

    The road there, if you'll let a guide direct you
    Who only has at heart your getting lost,
    May seem as if it should have been a quarry –
    Great monolithic knees the former town
    Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.
    And there's a story in a book about it…
  • As for the woods' excitement over you
    That sends light rustle rushes to their leaves,
    Charge that to upstart inexperience.

    Where were they all not twenty years ago?
    They think too much of having shaded out
    A few old pecker-fretted apple trees.

  • The height of the adventure is the height
    Of country where two village cultures faded
    Into each other. Both of them are lost.

    And if you're lost enough to find yourself
    By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
    And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.

  • First there's the children's house of make-believe,
    Some shattered dishes underneath a pine,
    The playthings in the playhouse of the children.

    Weep for what little things could make them glad.

  • This was no playhouse but a house in earnest.
    Your destination and your destiny's
    A brook that was the water of the house,
    Cold as a spring as yet so near its source,
    Too lofty and original to rage.

    (We know the valley streams that when aroused
    Will leave their tatters hung on barb and thorn.)

  • I have kept hidden in the instep arch
    Of an old cedar at the waterside
    A broken drinking goblet like the Grail
    Under a spell so the wrong ones can't find it
    ,
    So can't get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn't.
    (I stole the goblet from the children's playhouse.)
    Here are your waters and your watering place.
    Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.

Dedication (1960)[edit]

We see how seriously the races swarm
In their attempts at sovereignty and form.
They are our wards we think to some extent
For the time being and with their consent,
To teach them how Democracy is meant.
Some poor fool has been saying in his heart
Glory is out of date in life and art.
File:Courage profiles.jpg
There was the book of profile tales declaring
For the emboldened politicians daring
To break with followers when in the wrong,
A healthy independence of the throng,
A democratic form of right devine
To rule first answerable to high design.
There is a call to life a little sterner,
And braver for the earner, learner, yearner.
Come fresh from an election like the last,
The greatest vote a people ever cast,
So close yet sure to be abided by,
It is no miracle our mood is high.
The glory of a next Augustan age
Of a power leading from its strength and pride,
Of young amibition eager to be tried,
Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,
In any game the nations want to play.
A golden age of poetry and power
Of which this noonday's the beginning hour.
"For John F. Kennedy His Inauguration" (1960), the poem is also known as "Dedication". Frost had planned to read "For John F. Kennedy His Inauguration" at John F. Kennedy's imauguration, but the blinding light from the sun and snow prompted him to recite "The Gift Outright" from memory. Source: Tuten, Nancy Lewis; Zubizarreta, John (2001). The Robert Frost Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 9780313294648. Online Source: "The poem Robert Frost wanted to read at John F. Kennedy's inauguration" by Alan Wirzbicki on January 20, 2011 at www.boston.com
  • Summoning artists to participate
    In the august occasions of the state
    Seems something artists ought to celebrate.

  • Today is for my cause a day of days.
    And his be poetry's old-fashioned praise
    Who was the first to think of such a thing.
    This verse that in acknowledgement I bring
    Goes back to the beginning of the end
    Of what had been for centuries the trend;
    A turning point in modern history.

  • Colonial had been the thing to be
    As long as the great issue was to see
    What country'd be the one to dominate
    By character, by tongue, by native trait,
    The new world Christopher Columbus found.
    The French, the Spanish, and the Dutch were downed
    And counted out. Heroic deeds were done.
    Elizabeth the First and England won.
    Now came on a new order of the ages
    That in the Latin of our founding sages
    (Is it not written on the dollar bill
    We carry in our purse and pocket still?)
  • God nodded his approval of as good.
    So much those heroes knew and understood,
    I mean the great four, Washington,
    John Adams, Jefferson, and Madison
    So much they saw as consecrated seers
    They must have seen ahead what not appears,
    They would bring empires down about our ears
    And by the example of our Declaration
    Make everybody want to be a nation.

  • And this is no aristocratic joke
    At the expense of negligible folk.
    We see how seriously the races swarm
    In their attempts at sovereignty and form.
    They are our wards we think to some extent
    For the time being and with their consent,
    To teach them how Democracy is meant.

  • "New order of the ages" did they say?
    If it looks none too orderly today,
    'Tis a confusion it was ours to start
    So in it have to take courageous part.
    No one of honest feeling would approve
    A ruler who pretended not to love
    A turbulence he had the better of.

  • Everyone knows the glory of the twain
    Who gave America the aeroplane
    To ride the whirlwind and the hurricane.
    Some poor fool has been saying in his heart
    Glory is out of date in life and art.

    Our venture in revolution and outlawry
    Has justified itself in freedom's story
    Right down to now in glory upon glory.
  • Come fresh from an election like the last,
    The greatest vote a people ever cast,
    So close yet sure to be abided by,
    It is no miracle our mood is high.

  • Courage is in the air in bracing whiffs
    Better than all the stalemate an's and ifs.
  • There was the book of profile tales declaring
    For the emboldened politicians daring
    To break with followers when in the wrong,
    A healthy independence of the throng,
    A democratic form of right devine
    To rule first answerable to high design.
    There is a call to life a little sterner,
    And braver for the earner, learner, yearner.

    Less criticism of the field and court
    And more preoccupation with the sport.
  • It makes the prophet in us all presage
    The glory of a next Augustan age
    Of a power leading from its strength and pride,
    Of young amibition eager to be tried,
    Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,
    In any game the nations want to play.
    A golden age of poetry and power
    Of which this noonday's the beginning hour.


Disputed[edit]

  • In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It goes on.
    • Attributed to Robert Frost in Richard Evans' Quote Book (Publishers Press, 1973), p. 109

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