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The Gift Outright

The Gift Outright

Robert Frost


This poem was read by Robert Frost on January 20, 1961 at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. Frost was 86 years old, and it was a bitterly cold day.

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 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 as she was, such as she would become.
Robert Frost, The Gift Outright