“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
So concludes what has become Robert Frost’s most recognizable poem, “The Road Not Taken.” Though Frost was known primarily as a rural poet—he rose to fame for lyric portrayals of the New England landscape—he lived for three years in Boston’s literary center, Beacon Hill. Following the death of his wife, Elinor, whom Frost had met in high school, he purchased 88 Mount Vernon Street and briefly taught at Harvard as the Ralph Waldo Emerson Fellow in Poetry.
Frost was born in San Francisco and moved to Massachusetts only after the death of his father. He attended both Dartmouth College and Harvard, but never earned a degree from either, instead working odd jobs, including as a paperboy, a cobbler, and a factory worker. His first poem was published in 1894 in The Independent. It opened
“Thine emulous fond flowers are dead, too,
And the daft sun-assaulter, he
That frightened thee so oft, is fled or dead…”
This success gave Frost hope, and he proposed to Elinor; they were married shortly after. Failing to live successfully as farmers in New Hampshire, the Frost family—which by then included several children—moved to England in 1912. There, Frost developed a friendship with the poet Ezra Pound, who encouraged Frost in his career and helped him reach wider acclaim. By the time the family was forced to return to the states by the start of World War I, Frost’s star was rising and two of his collections had been published.
Frost moved back to New Hampshire, taught at several colleges, and released Mountain Interval, featuring “The Road Not Taken,” and shortly after, New Hampshire, which contained “Stopped by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” It concludes
“But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
Frost received four Pulitzer Prizes, dozens of honorary degrees, and the title of Poet Laurite; he was asked to read at President John F. Kenney’s inauguration and was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal. He died in 1963. A small plaque marks his house on Mount Vernon Street.