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Robert Frost gives us The Gift Outright as a representation of our earliest roots as Americans on this prized land stretching from sea to shining sea. He says that this wonderful continent is a gift that had our name on it for a long time before we claimed it. He patriotically states that it was our planned destiny to have gained freedom from British rule over the colonies. This poem which was used as the inaugural address for John F. Kennedy is essentially a national anthem that proclaims our heritage as Americans.
The very first line of the poem quotes, “The land was ours before we were the land’s”. This country was essentially stamped out as belonging to us “Americans” before we were even considered “Americans”. Before “we were the land’s” this land was already inhabited. It is difficult to come up with the appropriate word to label the indigenous people of this land. To call them “Indians” would really be incorrect because Indians live in Asia and to call the “Native Americans” would also be incorrect because America was named long, long after they had already been an ancient society to the land. For argument’s sake, we shall refer to them as Indians because this is what they have been classically labeled as by modern “Americans”. Although these Indians were here for ages before British colonists, Robert Frost is saying that this land was marked as American territory. It was our destiny to discover this land, colonize it under the control of the British, have a revolution and !
eventually become our very own free America.
The concept that Robert Frost is proclaiming in his nation anthem is quite simply the manifest destiny philosophy that was the motif behind westward expansion. The manifest destiny reveals itself clearly in the fourteenth line, “To the land vaguely realizing westward,” Still this early in the spreading of this vast and young nation, “still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,” there did not seem to be much hope as to weather or not this country would survive. Robert Frost is rejoicing the fact not only that it did, but that it was destined to happen.
To make this more effective throughout the poem Robert Frost uses a variety of different poetic devices. He uses the repetition of words with distinctive alliteration qualities in the lines, “Possessing what we still were unpossessed by / Possessed by what we now no more possessed.” These lines are referring to the soil that was essentially ours before we even had a revolution for it. The use and repetition of the word “possess” clearly stands out in the poem more than any other and it causes you to read closer. The lines get so confusing that it is best actually to paraphrase them in order to understand better what they mean. The line before says “But we were England’s still colonies” and the lines go on to say that we own (possess) this land that doesn’t yet own us and we are still owned by something that doesn’t own us any more. Now, this sounds ridiculous and is extremely difficult to word clearly but it makes sense. It means that we were still under British contro!
l but we were soon to be free and the we would soon posses all this land that already clearly belonged to us.
It may be difficult to word this, especially using the repeated vocabulary that Robert Frost uses, however it is perfectly logical. Frost uses alliteration in another sense in his poem in line eleven. The line says, “And forthwith found salvation in surrender,” and it repeats the auditory usage of the “f” and “s” sounds at the beginning and end of the line. This alliteration helps to distinguish the two ideas and make them stand out more. I see the salvation that we gain and the land we will gained with our freedom from British rule. The surrender is the giving in to the revolution which was inevitable at some point. There is no way that we could have been ruled by aristocracy forever and whether or not it occurred in 1776 or not, we would eventually have fought for our freedom. It was bound to happen sooner than later, but either way we would never have
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Poetry, American studies, Literature, MexicoUnited States relations, Alliteration, Manifest destiny, Robert Frost, Native Americans in the United States
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