Few poets are as influential or as quotable as Robert Frost. Frost’s poetry is known for its rich descriptions of New England life and how he used imagery to examine social and philosophical themes. These quotes capture the man whose incredible life demonstrates he took “the road less traveled by.”
Robert Frost (1974-1963) was an acclaimed American poet who received four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry. However, his eventual success did not come until later in life. His first book of poetry, A Boy’s Will, was published in England in 1913 when he was 39 years old. He continued to write and publish poetry while teaching on and off at several northeastern universities including Amherst College in Massachusetts and Middlebury College in Vermont.
Frost spent most of his life in New England, and his poetry is often associated with the region. In 1961, he was named the official poet laureate of Vermont and was asked to read a poem at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. In his later years, Frost became the unofficial poet laureate of the United States and on his 75th birthday, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution stating:
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.
Robert Frost was one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, so it’s only natural that many of Frost’s greatest lines come from his poetry.
“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"
“These woods are lovely, dark and deep,/ But I have promises to keep,/ And miles to go before I sleep.” - "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"
“Some say the world will end in fire,/ Some say in ice./ From what I've tasted of desire,/ I hold with those who favor fire./ But if it had to perish twice/ I think I know enough of hate/ To say that for destruction ice/ Is also great/ And would suffice.” - "Fire and Ice"
“They cannot scare me with their empty spaces/ Between stars — on stars where no human race is./ I have it in me so much nearer home/ To scare myself with my own desert places.” - "Desert Places"
“Earth’s the right place for love:/ I don’t know where it's likely to go better.” - "Birches"
“So Eden sank to grief,/ So dawn goes down to day./ Nothing gold can stay.” - "Nothing Gold Can Stay"
“We love the things we love for what they are.” - "Hyla Brook"
“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” - "The Death of a Hired Man"
“The best way out is always through.” - "A Servant to Servants"
“Why make so much of fragmentary blue/ In here and there a bird, or butterfly,/ Or flower, or wearing-stone, or open eye,/ When heaven presents in sheets the solid hue.“ - "Fragmentary Blue"
“Something we were withholding made us weak/ Until we found out that it was ourselves/ We were withholding from our land of living,/ And forthwith found salvation in surrender.” - "The Gift Outright"
“A golden age of poetry and power/ Of which this noonday's the beginning hour.” - "Dedication"
Who better to wax poetic about poetry than the master himself? Robert Frost gave a number of lectures and wrote essays on the power of poetry and the writing process.
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.“ - The Figure a Poem Makes
“The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom. The figure is the same as for love.” - The Figure a Poem Makes
“Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting.” - The Figure a Poem Makes
“Read it a hundred times: it will forever keep its freshness as a metal keeps its fragrance. It can never lose its sense of a meaning that once unfolded by surprise as it went.” - The Figure a Poem Makes
“A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.” - letter to Louis Untermeyer in 1916
“I like to say, guardedly, that I could define poetry this way: it is that which gets lost out of both prose and verse in translation.” - Conversations on the Craft of Poetry
“Poetry gets its share. It’s like a very small part of a big machine.” -1952 interview on NBC
In addition to his own poetry and thoughts on poetry, Robert Frost had a great deal of wisdom that he used to express about a range of subjects.
“In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.” - quoted in The Harper Book of Quotations
“All I would keep for myself is the freedom of my material — the condition of body and mind now and then to summons aptly from the vast chaos of all I have lived through.” - The Figure a Poem Makes
“Forgive me my nonsense as I also forgive the nonsense of those who think they talk sense.” - Letter to Louis Utermeyer
“Freedom lies in being bold.” - 1952 interview on NBC
“I’m not confused. I’m only well-mixed.” - from the interview “The ‘Quietly Overwhelming’ Robert Frost”
“Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.” - quoted in Swinger of Birches: A Portrait of Robert Frost by Sidney Cox
Robert Frost is one in a long line of quotable Americans who left behind profound words.