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The Long Winter of Robert Frost
On a spring day in 1874 under the looming skyline of San Francisco an iconic figure in modern poetry was born – Robert Frost. The allure of the city however would not hold him in its gravity for long as his destiny lie elsewhere. Far away in rural New England fresh with dark plowed soil and simple living Frost would find his home. In the lush landscape of New Hampshire and Vermont; in the laurel of green and gold Frost would come to discover that the motif of his own tragedy was never far way... The Pulitzer Prize winning poet whose ballads painted such a springtime masterpiece seemed to never escape his own winter.
The son of a newspaper editor Frost went from Dartmouth to Harvard searching for that elusive niche. It was finally in Derry, New Hampshire under the auspices of sleepy snow and lazy fall colors that the legend of Robert Frost was born. Yet as many great poets before him the wet streets of London drew him like a moth to a flame. There in 1912 he met Edward Thomas and Ezra Pound who forged the literary genius of the Dymock Poets. Residing near Gloucestershire in Dymock, England the synergy of these men formed an enduring pact with modern art that is clearly felt today. Like lonely ships set at sail the poet often finds himself moored to the docks of his peers reaching the rarefied heights of creativity. Alone they often flounder.
Great Britain became to Frost his own “road not taken” as he returned to his beloved New Hampshire. In Franconia he spent the next 20 years creating a stained glass of poetic prowess. The poet now teacher left his indelible mark in the annals of literature with a tenure at Amherst College, Middlebury in Vermont and the University of Michigan. Receiving a staggering 40 honorary degrees from such prestigious campuses as Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton and Harvard yet ironically Frost himself never graduated from college. Despite these giant achievements tragedy dogged his steps chilling the summers of his success with winter. After losing his father in 1885 and five fleeting years later his mother, the young frost was orphaned.
Dacades later Frost would find himself in the unforgiving shadow of an Asylum. There he commited his sister Jeanie where she would die 9 years later. Later in his life in the afterglow of greatness another loved one would see the cold halls of a mental hospital; his daughter Irma. Four of frost’s six children died in his lifetime, two at childbirth, one in suicide, another from Cholera. His beloved wife succumbed to heart failure in 1938. Haunted by his own ghosts of mental depression Robert Frost tasted the bittersweet cup of personal ahcievment in his celebrated life.
His swan song was in 1961 at the age of 86 at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. Robert Frost that historic day read his poems before presidents and kings and finally, from that bannister, glimpsed his spring. Two years later his winter finally passed on January 29, 1963 as Frost joined his famed predecessors into history and death. As the poet once penned in his magnum opus, “nothing gold can stay”, and “miles to go before I sleep”. Frost finally slept.
by Chad Taylor
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