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‘The Gift Outright’ is a poem written by Robert Frost. Written in his old age, the poem was first published in 1942 by Virginia Quarterly Review. Because of its political implications, the poem has an interesting reading history.
Frost also read it in President John F Kennedy’s inauguration day while improvising the last sentence on the stage. The poem shows how patriotic and nationalistic Frost was. Such poetry of frost has been considered as “the deepest source of national strength.”
The poem is written in Blank Verse. It has 17 lines.
Line 1 – 7
America is a country created by settlers who went there from Europe and killed the natives systematically. The country was created in such a way but here in the poem, the poet ignores all that and paints the creation story in a positive way.
The poem begins with this assertion that the land was ours before we were the land’s. The poet has a history in his mind from the very beginning. He sees the Europeans who arrived as settlers as people who had arrived on the land of America but were yet to possess it completely, belong to it completely.
The one who came from England as colonists were yet to be American in true sense. They had to abandon their early history completely and only then they could build a country so those who arrived first are described as we were England’s, still colonials.
They possessed this land but remain unpossessed because they were still celebrating their native links. The true American character was yet to surface. The poet compares the contemporary state with that state when he says that they were possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Line 8 – 11
The colonists who came to America were still ruled by the place where they came from. So, they were not truly accepting this new land as their own but something to which they just rule.
So, the poet says that the character was not strong because Something we were withholding made us weak. But they realized this weakness and gave up their colonial link and celebrated the new identity afresh.
So, finally, they surrendered themselves to the land. In a Christian tone, the poet writes that they finally found salvation in surrender.
Line 12 – 17
The poet normalizes the wars which they fought. He writes that the deed of gift was many deeds of war. It overlooks the killing of the natives. The poet is celebrating the growth of nationalism.
In the end, the poet describes the expansion of the country by saying the land vaguely realising westward. Yet, he laments the lack of civilization. He believes the land is still unstoried, artless, unenchanced.
It is a point of view of many European thinkers that America has no culture. The poem ends in a not so positive tone when it says that such as she was, such as she would become. The poet envisions a land of high culture which is so slow to come.