By Allison Wright
January 18th, 2013
In honor of President Barack Obama’s inauguration, here is the manuscript of Robert Frost’s “The Gift Outright,” which he recited from memory at John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration, submitted to VQR in 1942.
Frost considered VQR “a favorite place of publication.” By the time he recited the poem at Kennedy’s inauguration, he had changed the last line of the VQR version, “Such as she was, such as she might become” to “Such as she was, such as she would become.” The substitution of “would” for “might” makes the poem more optimistic, more assured of America’s future glory. The version published in VQR seems to reflect a deep uncertainty about the nation’s future trajectory.
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