American writer Robert Frost (1874 –1963) is the only poet to receive four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry. Known for his great command of American colloquial speech, Frost often used realistic verses and everyday situations to analyze complicated social and philosophical themes. Most of his astonishing works circle around the rural life settings in New England during the early 20th century. During his lifetime, Frost was not only well-loved, but became one of America's rare public literary figures. For his numerous contributions to the literary arts, he was frequently honored, including being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1960. A year later, Frost was also chosen to speak at John F. Kennedy's inauguration.

Frost began his lifelong connection with Harvard University when he enrolled in 1897. Due to his relatively advanced age of 23, he was given special permission to enroll, and pursued liberal arts studies. At Harvard, the young man was also beginning to cut his teeth as a poet. To get a better understanding of the musical and vocal aspects of poetry, Frost plunged into the study of Latin and Greek poetry at Harvard. More specifically, Virgil’s eclogues, which intimated the precariousness of happy settings in nature, would have a lasting influence on Frost’s pastoral poetry. Academically, Frost excelled at Harvard and won a $200 Sewall Scholarship, which paid some of the fees for his sophomore year. Unfortunately, Frost only lasted three semesters before deciding that college was not for him. He thought most of his professors were ineffectual and arrogant. Their lack of appreciation for contemporary poetry was especially rankling. Matters weren’t helped when he showed some of his poems to his English professor, only to be told that they were no good. This sealed Frost's decision to leave Harvard before graduating. “They could not make a student of me here, but they gave it their best,” he recalled later in life.

Become a Subscriber

Please purchase a subscription to continue reading this article.

Subscribe Now

In 1916, almost 20 years after he had dropped out of Harvard, Frost was invited to deliver the Phi Beta Kappa poem at Harvard’s Commencement—a perfect emblem of his reversal of fortune, and a justification for his unconventional career. Later, as his national reputation grew, Frost would return to Harvard as the Ralph Waldo Emerson Fellow in Poetry, teaching at his alma mater for three years. According to Harvard’s 1965 alumni directory, Frost received an honorary degree at the college, cementing his life-long connection to one of America's finest educational institutions.