Places and Poetry

On these pages, we will connect Frost's life to the places he lived and wrote about and we will look at those places today to see how the poet is remembered and celebrated. Click on the pictures below to visit each of the Frost places.

 

Click on the pictures for a
tour of Frost Country
 
San Francisco

Lawrence

Derry

 
England
Courtesy of Plymouth State College Library

 

Franconia

 Shaftsbury

Ripton
 

 Bennington
 
 

"I have come by the highway home
And lo it is ended."

 Robert Frost was born in San Francisco, the son of an adventurous New Englander who had gone west to seek his fortune as a journalist. William Prescott Frost, Jr. left Lawrence, Mass. against the wishes of his father, an overseer of a textile mill. He courted and married Isabelle Moodie at Lewistown Academy in Pennsylvania. Both were highly educated and qualified teachers. Will Frost went ahead to San Francisco to prepare for the arrival of his bride. The newlyweds reunited and shortly gave birth to their first son, Robert Lee Frost, who was named after the southern general, Robert E. Lee. This was the first of many Frostian contradictions: the great gray Yankee poet, the son of New England was born in California. It was March 26, 1874.

Will Frost died of tuberculosis 11 years later, leaving his wife and 2 children all but penniless. Mrs. Frost took her husband's body back to his ancestral home in Lawrence for burial and decided to stay there to raise her children. She taught school and lived frugally with her small family. Isabelle Frost was a spiritual woman, who read to her children from the Bible and Scottish legend.

Rob and his sister Jeanie grew up in Lawrence. The town is built around a pleasant town square, a short distance from the Merrimack River which supplied energy to the mills. Robbie attended Lawrence High School. He started writing poetry in his senior year and soon realized he wanted to be a poet - a great poet. He married his high school sweetheart, Elinor White, a quiet girl who also loved poetry.

Rob and Elinor were married in Lawrence in 1895. They too were both qualified school teachers and along with Mrs. Frost, taught at a small private school to earn their family living. Robert suffered exhaustion from teaching and the doctor prescribed fresh air. The family turned to farming in 1900, following the deaths of their first child and Frost's mother.

Grandfather Frost financed a small farm just over the border in Derry, New Hampshire. Rob, Elinor and a new daughter, Lesley, came to live here. Grandfather feared Rob's ability to handle a farm, so he sent along an experienced hired man to help run the place. Elinor loved the country and Rob worked the farm during the day. He stayed up late at night writing poetry. By 1906, 4 more children were born, although little Elinor Bettina died when she was only a day old. Most of Frost's early poems are connected to Derry. Although he submitted his poems for publication, little success was realized.

 
With growing family obligations, Frost returned to teaching in 1906. Then, after several years of further frustration with teaching, farming and failing to be noticed as a poet, Frost sold the farm and sailed for England in 1912 with his family. Frost was 38 years old. He remained in England for 2-1/2 years and published his first two books of poetry. He received critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the family thought it best to go home. They sailed for the U. S. in February, 1915.

When Frost arrived in New York, he found a review of his book in a prominent paper. Now an acclaimed new poet, Frost wanted a farm in the mountains of New Hampshire, where he could "live cheap and get Yankier and Yankier." He settled in the town of Franconia and within a year published a third book of poetry. Franconia remained his home for 5 years, although he traveled quite a bit lecturing and teaching.

In 1920, the Frosts moved to Shaftsbury, Vermont. Although he was now much more a poet-lecturer, Frost always kept a farm and took it seriously. He had trouble with early frosts in Franconia and required a warmer climate for his apple trees. Frost lived in Shaftsbury for about 20 years. His biographer called it "The Years of Triumph".
 
After the untimely deaths of his wife in 1938 and his son in 1940, Frost left Vermont and lived near his colleges in Boston and Amherst. However, every summer Frost attended the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in Ripton, Vermont near Middlebury College. Always a lover of farms and farm houses, Frost bought the Homer Noble Farm in Ripton for his summer residence.
 
 
Frost died in Boston in 1963, at the age of 88, and is buried in Bennington, Vermont where he had laid to rest his beloved wife and son almost 25 years before. Thousands of visitors come every year to the churchyard behind the Old First Congregational Church in Old Bennington to visit Frost's grave.
 
 
A great writer once said, "All literature begins with geography." These places are "Frost Country": San Francisco, Lawrence, Derry, England, Franconia, Shaftsbury, Ripton and Bennington. These are the literary time capsules of a great poet and will enrich your enjoyment of the poetry.
 
Each of the pictures on the left is a link to the places Frost lived and wrote about. Take some time to explore each of these places on our Web site. Even better, you can go there!
 
 
"Places and Poetry" by Carole Thompson
Copyright The Friends of Robert Frost, Inc. 2000
 
Bibliography for Places and Poetry
  • Lawrence Thompson's 3 volume biography of Robert Frost:The Early Years, The Years of Triumph and The Later Years.
  • Selected Letters of Robert Frost
  • The Poetry of Robert Frost