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Life Wisdom From Robert Frost, America's 'Rural Sage'

Some poets embellish the glamor and bustle of cities, the intersections of the many lives being lived in busy streets. Poet Robert Frost (1874-1963) took the opposite tack, staying simple and close to home: His poems are recognized for their sparse, straightforward tone and their depiction of everyday life against the backdrop of his beloved home in rural New England.

Frost was born in California but spent the majority of his life in New England, and the Massachusetts and New Hampshire landscapes had a deep influence on his writing. One of his most widely quoted poems is “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” which depicts a solitary winter evening in the forest: "The woods are lovely, dark and deep, / But I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep." Frost also worked as a teacher and a farmer to make ends meet, and this familiarity with the realities of country life often seeped into his poetry.

As a writer, Frost is remembered as somewhat of a maverick, in more ways than one. He shunned the popular Romantic writing style of the time, breaking away from its strict conventions and benevolent view of nature for a more honest and stark depiction of landscape he knew. He also reached success later in life than many of his contemporaries: Though he began writing in high school, his first book wasn’t published until he was nearly 40. It was 10 years after that, as Frost was entering his fifties, that his collection “New Hampshire” received the Pulitzer Prize. He went on to become the only poet to win four Pulitzers, as well as several other national honors.

Frost’s work is now a staple of the American poetic tradition, valued for its down-to-earth renderings of everyday life and honest emotions. Here are 17 quotes from the poems, public interviews, and letters of America’s “rural sage,” on everything from persistence and nature to creativity and love.

​​So dawn goes down to day. / Nothing gold can stay.

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Nature is always hinting at us. It hints over and over again. And suddenly we take the hint.

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Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.

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People … will tell you that freedom lies in being cautious. Freedom lies in being bold.

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Earth's the right place for love: / I don't know where it's likely to go better.

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The most creative thing in us is to believe in a thing.

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Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.

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My aim in life has always been to hold my own with whatever's going. Not against: with.

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Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.

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The best way out is through.

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Ah, when to the heart of man / Was it ever less than a treason / To go with the drift of things, / To yield with a grace to reason, / And bow and accept the end / Of a love or a season?

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Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.

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The way a crow / Shook down on me / The dust of snow / From a hemlock tree / Has given my heart / A change of mood / And saved some part / Of a day I had rued.

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Every poem is a momentary stay against the confusion of the world.

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What is done is done for the love of it — or not really done at all.

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Our very life depends on everything's recurring til we answer from within.

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In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It goes on.

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Featured image credit: Pictorial Press Ltd/ Alamy Stock Photo

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About the Author
Paola Bennet
Paola Bennet is a writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She writes a fortnightly newsletter that treasures the mundane, called Small Histories. Find her on Instagram @paolafbennet.
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