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The First Inaugural Poet

PUBLISHED: January 18, 2013


Robert Frost, The Gift Outright

This manuscript of “The Gift Outright” is part of the Frost correspondence and manuscripts in the VQR archives in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia

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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