This Place in History: Robert Frost in Ripton

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At ‘This Place in History’, we’re in Ripton with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“How can we talk about Vermont and especially Ripton without mentioning Robert Frost? We’re here and the marker is over our shoulder, but we thought we’d take a little hike and go check out the cabin where he did some of his writing,” began Perkins.

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.

(Excerpt from “The Gift Outright” by Robert Frost)

“The marker said an American poet by recognition and to really think of Robert Frost as owned by the United States. He was born in California to Southern parents and his childhood was spent in New Hampshire. He spent his formative years there. He went to school at Dartmouth and Harvard, but didn’t finish in either of those places. He spent time in England, so he really traveled all over.”

“Ultimately, he spent the last 24 years or so of his life here in Ripton, or at least the summers when he wasn’t traveling. And I think in some ways, he felt this was where he wanted to spend the last years of his life and called it home. So he had this cabin, this was his writing cabin. It’s part of the Homer Noble Farm,” said Perkins.

“In 1939, a couple years after his wife died – by the way, they’re buried in Bennington, so he did live down in southern Vermont, as well – he bought the Homer Noble Farm. The white farmhouse is here at the beginning of the property, but then he’s got this cabin in the back where he wrote. A lot of people in the area knew him. He became very involved with the Middlebury College Breadloaf Writers’ Conference.”

“MiddleburyCollege owns this property now. He would mentor writers. He worked with the director of that program. So you think of spending summers at the cabin writing poetry and working with students and writers from Middlebury College. In the off season, which was the winter, traveling around the world meeting with presidents and dignitaries and kings and queens and representing the United States,” explained Perkins.

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.

(Excerpt from “The Gift Outright” by Robert Frost)

“It’s interesting. You know I have some writings that were done at the time that the historical marker was placed by people who knew him. I think people took pilgrimages to come to Ripton to see this great sage, this great poet and meet with him and work with him. But the people who lived right in town, protected him because he was their guy. He lived here and he was called the ‘First Citizen of Ripton, Vermont’ and was very much a part of the community in that sense.”

‘When he died in 1963, they had these medals that were struck to commemorate his life. Of course, he was Poet Laureate of the United States. He became very famous for speaking at John F. Kennedy’s innauguration. It’s some of the most famous film we have of him,” added Perkins.

“After his death, I think he was certainly mourned by many.  And this is a pretty amazing medal that was struck to commemorate him. And this coin was struck by the state of Vermont to commemorate Robert Frost, as well. It has the Vermont state seal on one side and then this beautiful front-on view of Robert Frost on the front. Again, showing how much he meant to this state and this region. Of course, you can travel and see all these sites yourself. You can come take a walk on the Robert Frost Nature Trail and read some of his famous poems. You can have a picnic by the historical marker and you can take the hike that we just did and come see this cabin where he did his writing,” concluded Perkins.

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.

(Excerpt from “The Gift Outright” by Robert Frost)

At ‘This Place in History’!

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historical markers, click here.

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