Robert Frost’s life and career spanned all the way from World War I to the Cold War period, yet issues of armed conflict rarely appear in his poems. Having gone to England to pursue his writing, he brought his family back to the United States after just two years in 1915, fearing the tensions in Europe that were building toward the first World War. He bought the small home and property on Ridge Road in Franconia and settled there, to farm a little, write a lot, and contemplate the view of the mountains from the front porch.
Yet in Frost’s poems, there is most often a note of melancholy, of the darkness at the edges of daily living. Professor James M. Dubinsky (Virginia Tech) writes in his article, “Robert Frost, WWI Poet” that Frost is a poet who “offer[s] insight into connections between war and the human condition,” and who “believed in the inevitability of violence.”
There is one poem, though, that seems to capture what Frost would like the reader to consider, that being the personal sense of loss that is the result of a friend dying in war. In his poem “To E. T.,” Frost speaks to and of his friend, Edward Thomas, who gave his life on the battlefield. Frost says that in a dream, he’d like to see if
I might not have the chance I missed in life
Through some delay, and call you to your face
First soldier, and then poet, and then both,
Who died a soldier-poet of your race.
And later in the poem, Frost goes on to say that
You went to meet the shell’s embrace of fire
On Vimy Ridge; and when you fell that day
The war seemed over more for you than me,
But now for me than you—the other way.
Veterans’ Day is a day of remembrance and of mourning our collective and personal losses, and to honor those who have served in the armed forces. Today, we honor those who have made the sacrifices that armed conflict requires, but we can also go forward with the hope that the need for such conflict will be lessened with a greater understanding of each other.