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Visiting The Frost Place, Franconia, New Hampshire: Remembering Robert Frost and the Power of Words

Updated on April 12, 2019
State flag of New Hampshire
State flag of New Hampshire | Source
Former home of poet Robert Frost in Franconia, NH.
Former home of poet Robert Frost in Franconia, NH. | Source
U.S stamp issued for the centennial of the poet Robert Frost.
U.S stamp issued for the centennial of the poet Robert Frost. | Source

The woods are still there...

So I came to New England and New Hampshire and the former home of renowned American poet Robert Frost (1874-1963), a building known somewhat bluntly as The Frost Place (1). Situated near Franconia in Grafton County, the long, low building with a prominent porch serves as a museum and poetry centre.

When I visited, the museum was closed, but I did take the impromptu opportunity to repeat some of the well-known words of Robert Frost's 'Stopping by woods on a snowy evening':

'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.' (2)

Among Robert Frost's famous moments was his poetry reading on January 20th, 1961 at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963).

A few months before President Kennedy's own untimely death, Robert Frost died in 1963.

So was the poem from which I recited a few lines at The Frost Place, Franconia, the same poem which Robert Frost recited at President Kennedy's inauguration?

Actually, no.

In fact, it was another Kennedy family member who recited the famous lines from 'Stopping by woods on a snowy evening' at another significant event.

Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968), Attorney General from 1961 to 1964, was a keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in August 1964.

By these lines, Robert Kennedy seemed to be saying, 'I cannot spend time engrossed in the past or resting in the present. I — and by implication all who wish to fulfil President Kennedy's legacy — am burdened with responsibilities for the future.' The repetition of the last line 'And miles to go before I sleep' only served to heighten the poignancy of the words.

So what did Robert Kennedy's adopted use of Robert Frost's words have to do with the original authorial intent of the poet?

The answer is: nothing at all! The poem was written in 1922, prior to Robert Kennedy's birth. But certainly it was an effective borrowing of words on the part of RFK, who, after supporting Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) for President in 1964 (when Mr. Johnson cruised comfortably to victory substantially on a wave of Kennedy respect and popularity), himself stood for President in 1968, but was cut down by an assassin's bullet in the same year.

As for the woods, they are still there, near The Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire.

February 23, 2019

Notes

(1) See also: https://frostplace.org/ The Frost Place is situated at 158 Ridge Road, Franconia, New Hampshire 03580.

(2) https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/stopping-by-woods-on-a-snowy-evening-2/



Aaron Shikler, Posthumous official presidential portrait of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, The White Historical Association
Aaron Shikler, Posthumous official presidential portrait of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, The White Historical Association | Source
Robert F. Kennedy, Cabinet Room, White House, Washington, DC.
Robert F. Kennedy, Cabinet Room, White House, Washington, DC. | Source

Also worth seeing

In Franconia itself, the Franconia Notch State Park lies in the White Mountains; a striking, Neoclassical former Dow Academy building, now a condominium, was formerly part of Franconia College.

At Woodsville (distance: 20.6 miles / 33.1 kilometres) an historic, covered bridge has been restored in recent years.

...

How to get there:

Burlington International Airport (distance to Franconia, New Hampshire: 94.4 miles / 152 kilometres), where car rental is available from various companies, is served by a variety of airlines, including Porter, JetBlue, Delta and United, which fly to a number of North American connections. Franconia lies close to the I-93. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Visitors to the United States are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

New Hampshire counties map
New Hampshire counties map | Source

Comments

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    • MJFenn profile imageAUTHOR

      MJFenn 

      22 months ago

      Liz Westwood: While the Republican traditions of the United States are extremely deep-seated, the prominence of the Kennedy family within the United States occupies a space which in other countries with monarchical traditions would be akin to that of royalty, with its triumphs and tragedies. Robert Frost himself might be informally perceived as a court poet, even though he emphatically was not. Thank-you for your comment.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      23 months ago from UK

      It's a shame that the museum was closed. The Kennedy family history is a tragic one, which, to this day still gives rise to strong feelings.

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