The Road Less Traveled: The "Conservative" Politics and Philosophy of Robert Frost
Recorded on October 19, 2007
Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium
The most celebrated American poet of the 20th Century is Robert
Frost, who spoke at President John F. Kennedy's 1960 inaugural and
wrote such famous lines as: "Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I
took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the
While it is generally assumed that Frost was a Kennedy liberal,
he was in fact a "Madisonian-Washingtonian-Jeffersonian Democrat"
whose deep suspicion of ideology and ardent love of the individual
suffused his poetry and essays. Frost was particularly
critical of Franklin's Roosevelt New Deal with its attempted
concentration of executive and legislative power. He was even
more opposed to the totalitarian methods of the Soviet dictator
In Robert Frost: The Poet as Philosopher, Peter Stanlis
has written a brilliant book, based on a personal friendship and
correspondence of 23 years with the poet and more than five decades
of scholarship. Stanlis argues that you cannot fully
appreciate Frost's poetry unless you understand his philosophy
which rejected "monism" - the idea that reality can be explained
with a single principle like materialism - and embraced "dualism,"
the idea that reality is based on pairs of principles like good and
evil, spirit and matter. For Frost, politics is a branch of
ethics, not of science, and has to be tested by its practical
consequences for man and society.
Stanlis's landmark book, remarks the poet Timothy Steele,
supplies a fascinating account of the road less traveled by artists
and thinkers like Robert Frost, who try to harmonize the many
polarities of our lives.