"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 Road Not Taken (1916)
"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
Although he lived in Amherst from 1916 to 1938, Robert Frost was born in San Francisco on March 26, 1874, and spent much of his childhood in eastern Massachusetts. He attended Dartmouth College in the fall of 1892 but stayed less a year before he left to marry his classmate Elinor Miriam White. During this time, he worked odd jobs while writing poetry in his spare time. Frost sold his first poem, "My Butterfly: An Elegy," to the New York Independent in 1894. After living in eastern Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Great Britain, the Frost family moved to Amherst. Frost first traveled to Amherst in 1916 to lecture at Amherst College, and the family moved here shortly thereafter. He served as an English professor for Amherst College from 1926 until 1938, and the Simpson Lecturer in Literature, occasionally visiting Amherst to teach, until his death on January 29, 1963 following complications from surgery.
Frost stood at the crossroads of nineteenth-century American poetry and modernism, as his poetry incorporates nineteenth-century tendencies and traditions, and parallels the work of his twentieth-century contemporaries. Frost's poetry is difficult to categorize, as it contains elements of modernism and earlier poetic forms, incorporating pastoral imagery, introspection, and New England self-reliant ideas. The irony, ambiguity, skepticism, and honesty of Frost's work reflect his distinctly modern sensibility. Throughout his career, Frost earned four Pulitzer Prizes for literature for New Hampshire: A Poem with Notes and Grace Notes (1924), Collected Poems (1931), A Further Range (1937), and A Witness Tree (1943). Frost's poetry became increasingly dark as his family suffered a number of tragedies 1930-1940, including the death of his wife, suicide of his son, and mental disorders that led to the institutionalization of his daughter.
Besides his four Pulitzer Prizes, Robert Frost was also the consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress 1958-1959. He received honorary degrees from Harvard University, Bates College, Oxford University, Cambridge University, and Dartmouth College (which awarded him two degrees). On his seventy-fifth birthday, the United States Senate passed a resolution in Frost's honor which stated, "His poems have helped to guide American thought and humor and wisdom, setting forth to our minds a reliable representation of ourselves and of all men." Locally, the Amherst College Library was named in Frost's honor, dedicated by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, a few months after Frost passed away.
Robert Frost lived at 43 Sunset Avenue from 1931 to 1938, when his wife Elinor died and he left Amherst, only returning to lecture at Amherst College for special events. This home was originally built in 1875 for the Massachusetts Agricultural College President, Henry Goodell, and it represents the Stick Style tradition with its relatively plain layout and accented trusses on the gables and decorative shingles.
Directions to Next Stop
Walk South on Sunset Avenue for 0.1 miles, turn left onto Amity Street and walk for 0.7 miles to 219 Amity Street
To learn more about Robert Frost's life in general, visit: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/robert-frost
To do your own research on Robert Frost, check out the Jones Library's Robert Frost collection: http://www.joneslibrary.org/specialcollections/collections/frost/frost_print.html