Born in San Francisco in 1874, Robert Frost is one of America’s most beloved poets. Frost spent his early years in California, but his family would eventually move eastward to the small town of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Time spent in Lawrence as a young person left a lasting impression on Frost, and many of his poems draw upon his experiences there. Growing up in this rural New England town at the turn of the twentieth century provided a unique context for Frost to become the acclaimed poet he is today.
When Frost was 11, his father passed away, leaving his mother to provide for the family. She and her children moved to the town of Lawrence, living with Frost’s grandparents. Frost attended Lawrence High School and graduated in 1892. While in school, Frost’s appreciation of literature was nourished by his Latin teacher, and he quickly fell in love with poetry. He became an avid reader of works by authors such as Shakespeare and Keats, both of whom would be tremendously influential to his writing.
In addition to being a hub of literary inspiration, Lawrence provided Frost with a myriad of experiences that can be seen in the backdrop of his work. Many of his poems are set in rural New England locations similar to those of his youth. During his teenage years in Lawrence, Frost experienced love and heartbreak, recreation and hard labor, success and failure—all of which permeate his poetry. Growing up in rural New England also cultivated Frost’s passionate commitment to nature and the outdoors, as can be seen in his well-known poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”
Following his graduation from High School, Frost became increasingly involved in the Lawrence community by publishing poems in the Lawrence Sentinel and working at the Lawrence Public Library. But Frost’s life in New England was not to last forever. His family eventually moved to Salem, New Hampshire, where he would eventually pursue a career in journalism. Although his life in Lawrence had concluded, his dedication to his craft and his appreciation of the outdoors flourished in New England.
After his move, Frost continued his work in journalism and eventually returned to teaching before becoming a full-time poet. Although his adult life would be spent elsewhere, Frost never forgot his childhood in Lawrence and the profound effect it had on his writing. From the settings of his poems to the rich emotions in their lyrics, the impact of his most formative years will never be forgotten.
Lawrence, the small rural town in the state of Massachusetts, was a rich melting pot of cultures that offered Frost the opportunity to stray from the norm. The ability to step away from the rigid and unchanged conventions of the time period was a true inspiration for Frost. He is known for his thought-provoking, unconventional style in his poems, and a big factor in this was the cultural dynamics of Lawrence, giving Frost the opportunity to use alternative analogies and metaphors.
Additionally, the many formal and informal settings Frost encountered in town provided the perfect platform for him to practice the art of writing and storytelling. From impromptu debates at the town pubs to spare moments reading in the streets, Frost maneuvered through these scenes and practiced his style of writing in the most organic manner.
Frost is considered an influential artist in American literature, and Lawrence was a key component of this legacy. A big source of inspiration for Frost was the middle of Lawrence called “Frog Pond”. It was here that Frost spent countless hours at a pond; this endless fascination with the nature of water and the beauty of the unknown was explored exotically in Frost’s poems. He saw nature as a reliable muse, often capturing the inexplicable interdependence of life in his art.
The people Frost met in Lawrence had a great impact on him. From the people in the street to his teachers, Frost found mentors and role models in the people he encountered in the everyday life of the town. The older citizens of Lawrence were particularly influential, as they shared their wisdom and knowledge with the young Frost.
One of Frost’s closest acquaintances was one of his teachers, Mr. Mason. It was Mr. Mason who encouraged Frost to read deeply into the works of Shakespeare, which in turn provoked Frost to write his own works and enter into the literary world. He was a person of great literary influence and wisdom, and Frost was blessed to have the opportunity to learn from him.
Fellow poets such as Silas Randall and even his mother were catalysts for Frost’s interest in writing and furthering his poetic education. His mother was a wise poet herself and instilled in Frost the love of written words. Thus, the people of Lawrence were more than just mere acquaintances to him; they were lifelong mentors who guided Robert Frost down the path of his eventual fame.
The physical town was an eclectic blend of its people. Homes, most of which were modest, were numerous throughout the town. The two churches situated in Lawrence were major gathering places in the village, where people got together to discuss politics and share stories with their neighbors. People would also gather around the squares downtown, known as the “Common.” Here, Frost would hear stories from merchants, travelers, and even sailors.
The landscape of the rural town is also a source of immense nostalgia for Frost. In some of his works, Frost paints vivid images of the nature in and around Lawrence, such as the forests, mountains, rivers, and fields. Sweeping, panoramic views of the winding roads and nooks of the town transport the reader to Frost’s world. As he writes about these scenes, he takes the reader back to rural New England and the natural beauty of Lawrence.
Aside from its characteristic culture, Frost also found great solace in the stillness of the town. Lawrence was a quiet place, and Frost often went to the small pond to contemplate his place in the world and spend time with nature. It was on the quieter aspects of the town that Frost found more of his inspiration.
The impact of Lawrence on Frost’s later works was major, and the town’s spirit and soul can be found in many of his poems. Frost made use of the cultures and events he experienced in the town throughout his writing. In one of his most famous poems, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” Frost creates an ambitious scene of nature and serenity drawn from his time in Lawrence. Half of his work features images of beauty and nature weaved around a trademark theme of responsibility.
One of the town’s most iconic structures, the Frog Pond, was used as a setting for several of Frost’s works. It has been important in recognizing Frost’s impact and legacy to Lawrence. Many of his admirers and more curious fans alike have made it a point to visit and reflect on the impact of Frost to the town’s legacy.
Frost was one of the most influential poets of his generation, and Lawrence was a great contributor to this success. He embraced the culture of the town and the people he met resonated with him to become a well-recognized poet. It was his birthplace, his hometown, and an incredible learning experience.