While other poets must abide our endless questioning regarding contemporary poetry, Robert Frost stands head and shoulders above the rest--free and serene and magnificent, truly the George Washington of modern American verse. Frost was honored with the Pulitzer Prize on four occasions: in 1924 for "New Hampshire;" in 1931, for "Collected Poems;" in 1937 for "A Further Range;" and in 1943 for "A Witness Tree."
Critics love Frost. The American people love Frost. The world at large loves Frost. You will love Frost, too, if you read this book. Begin with one of his most famous--and his most beautiful, "Mending Wall,"
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,/ That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,/ And makes gaps even two can pass abreast...
Never to be forgotten, of course, is that talk with the taciturn neighbor, owner of the pines beyond Frost's apple orchard, who stubbornly says, in typical New England fashion, "Good fences make good neighbors," until one day, Frost suddenly sees him,
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 lives having thought of it so well/ He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."
"Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening," ends with words anyone of any age can relate to,
But I have promises to keep,/ And miles to go before I sleep./ And miles to go before I sleep.
"The Death of the Hired Man," with its poignancies as deep, no doubt, as the death of any salesman could ever be, inspired these beautiful lines,
Home is the place where, when you have to go there,/ They have to take you in./ I should have called it/ Something you somehow haven't to deserve.
The poems of Robert Frost possess a beauty so serene that we feel no need, no urge, to denigrate the work of other poets in order to expand Frost's praise. Despite the amazing diversity of talent that comes to mind when the names of MacLeish, Leonie Adams, Auden, Peter Viereck, Wallace Stephens, Robert Lowell, E.B. White, Karl Shapiro, Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams, Arna Bontemps, Marianne Moore, e e cummings, Allen Tate and T.S. Eliot are mentioned, Frost does, indeed, tower above them all.
Frost has been eloquently compared to every rock and rill, every tree and shrub in his New England hills, and to almost every major figure in the New England past, including George Washingtion. He has won homage so completely and deservedly that it is as easy to think of him as a member of the Concord Group as it is to imagine Thoreau writing the opening paragraphs in the New Yorker's Talk of the Town.
Frost, though, could be cheerfully topical, as when writing "U.S. 1946 King's X,"
Having invented a new Holocaust/ And been the first with it to win a war,/ How they make haste to cry with fingers crossed/ King X's--no fair to use it anymore!
Frost saw much of the world after his birth in San Francisco in 1875, and he looks over the prospects of the entire universe in, "It Bids Pretty Fair,"
The play seems out for an almost infinite run./ Don't mind a little thing like the actors fighting./ The only thing I worry about is the sun./ We'll be all right if nothing goes wrong with the lighting.
Robert Frost is truly an American original and a world genius. There will never be another.