The Gift Outright : by Robert Frost || Analysis

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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.

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.
The Gift Outright

Summary and Analysis

Introduction:

      The Gift Outright is a great patriotic poem, and among the finest of Frost's smaller lyrics. Randall Jarrell acclaims it as the best patriotic poem ever written about our own country. This poem was first published in 1942, in the volume entitled A Witness Tree. Frost himself felt that the poem is a nice piece of blank verse, "a history of the United States in Sixteen lines". And said that "It is all my politics, my national history. Untermeyer feels that the poem is thoughtfully patriotic. The love of country is not expressed in screaming or hysterical flag waving but in a salvation of faith, in surrender to the land. The late President Kennedy recognised the worth of the poem and called upon Frost to recite this poem, at the Inaugural Ceremony at White House, when he took office.

Development of Thought:

      This poem traces, in a most simple and unassuming manner, the whole history of the American people, their resistance to foreign domination and their complete identification with their Virgin country, through selfless showering of love. Since its publication, it nas been a constant source of inspiration to the Americans.

      The poem begins with an account of the British colonists who for more than a hundred years called America, their possession, their colony. Brower comments on the pun on the world possess and says that deepest feelings of patriotism are expressed through this pun. The love of land, the feeling of patriotism was for away from their souls. They did not give love to the land where they lived. With the passage of time, they made it their own, by surrendering themselves to it selflessly. It was this surrender to noble ideal of patriotism that strengthened and inspired them, making them capable of noble achievements. It was this gift outright that enriched their souls. It was the love of their motherland that propelled them westwards to discover the virgin glory and simplicity of their land. Changes in the physical nature of their land cannot diminish or change their love for their country.

Critical Appreciation:

      Critics have lavished some of the highest praise on the poem. I have already quoted Jarrell, Untremeyer and Brower. Let us see how it is different from ordinary patriotic poems. This poem is to our great relief free from exaggerated sentiments and militant jingoistic attitude. The patriotic sentiment is different from the feeling of possession. This is of course the starting point; the feeling of patriotism stems out, grows from a feeling of possession, a sense of belonging. As Thompson points out, this love might change into the love of a miser. But we can always interpret the images of profits and dividends in terms of spiritual worth. He is not a slave: he is a lover. The Gift Outright is free from political propaganda, which is rare with most patriotic poems. Brower is very sure that Frost was 'making a poem and not a national Monument'. The poem may be described as the state of American mind - its reactions to colonialism.

      The Gift Outright is a poem in which frost expresses his feelings for his motherland, America. He speaks here of the intimate relationship between men and their native lands. It is a great patriotic poem. What the great leaders and statesmen visualised in the dictum 'Government of the people, by the people, for the people' must be realized by the citizens by means of strenuous active endeavour. The land and the people grow towards a chosen goal.

      The poem deals with the problem of how a nation achieves true nationhood. Frost traces a concise history of America and reveals the contradictions in the American mind through the centuries of the establishment and growth of the nation. The Gift Outright is better described as a poetic definition of an American state of mind, a compact psychological essay on colonialism", says Brower. Frost uses a religious metaphor in the poem - 'salvation in surrender'. The phrase; 'such as she would become', clearly suggests the process of growth present in any living thing or society. It is not the reaching of a fixed goal, but a growth towards chosen goals.

Conclusion:

      This poem is rightly adjudged one of the best and most popular poems of Frost. It will stand the lest of time and shine as a star, bright and peerless.

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