The Gift Outright

The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

by Robert Frost

Comments (6)

every gift comes with a price?
nice original thoughts... an ode to the land :)
i think this poem is pretty good, just like my cat turning into a poptart and flying around in space eating junk food
John Kennedy's inauguration was curious indeed. Kennedy had invited renowned but aged poet Robert Frost to read a poem during the inauguration. It was actually Jackie Kennedy's idea, the Vassar educated wife of JFK, to have Robert Frost be the bearer of a cultural votive candle. The dreams, fantasy, glamour and downright bullshit that surrounded the Kennedy Camelot mystique inspired our nation to be postive about it's bright future. The other side of John Kennedy was the calculating politician who entangled himself with the powerful Lyndon Baines Johnson. This was Texan Johnson, who, if Knighted, would have been dubbed LBJ The Crass. Inauguration Day was preceded by a heavy snowfall, thus Washington was all aglow with sunlight glaring off the white coating. Inspired for the Kennedys Frost had penned a new poem especially for the occasion. But Frost dared anger the gods. Instead of keeping his place as Erudite Poet Frost assumed to himself the role of Royal Oracle. As Robert Frost began to read his aged eyes were struck blind by the sun glaring off the fresh snow. The poem he had written was supposed to conclude in this proud way: It makes the prophet in us all presage The glory of a next Augustan age Of a power leading from its strength and pride, Of young amibition eager to be tried, Firm in our free beliefs without dismay, In any game the nations want to play. A golden age of poetry and power Of which this noonday's the beginning hour. The gods had heard Robert Frost and blinding him with white light forced him to recite from memory a DIFFERENT poem. Yes, Frost could not continue. Instead he receited his older well known poem entitled A Gift Outright. Two sets of ears were at the podium with the poet-oracle. One, the dwellers of Camelot, and the other, waiting for more power, the cowpunchers of Texas. The gods granted the poet his moment as prophet and the poem, instead of telling of a country entering A golden age of poetry and power, concluded this way: But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced, Such as she was, such as she would become.
Robert Frost recited 'The Gift Outright' at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in 1961. The right poem by the right poem at the right time.
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