An Annotation of The Gift Outright by Robert Frost
In "The Gift Outright," Robert Frost traces the development of American culture from colonial times to a more present perspective. He tells the American story of colonialism, freedom, westward expansion, and the quest to develop a specifically American culture. In doing this, he focuses on explaining ways in which Americans supported the growth and development of their country and culture. Frost suggests that Americans showed their allegiance to their developing country and culture in several ways: battlefield bravery, commitment of talents to the good of the country, and dedication to expanding the United States' land and power. His reflection on the past is also a call for action in the future. He acknowledges that American culture is still not fully developed and the continued dedication of Americans, like occurred in the past, is required for the United States to recognize her full potential.
The Gift Outright
By Robert Frost
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 that 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 she was, such as she would become.
The "belonging" discussed in line one immediately establishes that there is some type of relationship between the land and the people. Furthermore, the land is treated as something that is material and can be owned because "the land was ours." The second half of this line, "we were the lands," establishes that things happening in a certain definite order with us owning the land before "we were her people." Although, all of this can be gathered, the second half of the line leaves the reader wondering what it means that "we were the land's."
This line helps explain the second half of line one. Once Frost states, "we were England's, still colonials," the reader understands why "the land was ours before we were the lands." This is because the English colonists were not Americans when they first lived on the land. The colonists were still under English law, art, culture, tradition, and beliefs.
The word "possess" has different meanings throughout this section. In the beginning of the line "Possessing what we still were unpossessed by," the word "possessed" refers to the way the colonists lived on, worked on, and owned the New World land. But in the second half of the line, one learns that the colonists were "unpossessed" by the land. In this context "unpossessed" means that...