Analyzing Robert Frost's 'A Peck of Gold'

This lesser-known poem is a glance at Frost's early life

Robert Frost
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Robert Frost (1874-1963) was an American poet known for his idyllic scenes of life in New England. Born in California, Frost won four Pulitzer Prizes for his writing and was the poet at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy.

The president, who died the same year as Frost, praised the poet's work as a "body of imperishable verse from which Americans will forever gain joy and understanding." 

Frost spent much of his life on his farm in New Hampshire. He taught at Amherst College for many years, spending his summers as an instructor at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference at Middlebury College in Vermont. Middlebury maintains Frost's farm as a museum called Frost's Place, now a National Historic site. 

Frost's Family and Depression

Much of Frost's work is somewhat dark and brooding, which is possibly informed by the hardships he suffered throughout his life. The death of his father when Frost was only 11 left his family in precarious financial straits.

Only two of his six children survived him, and his wife Elinor died in 1938 of heart disease. Mental illness ran in Frost's family; both his sister and his daughter Irma spent time in mental institutions. Frost himself suffered from depression. 

Robert Frost's Poetry

Although some critics early on dismissed him as a pastoral poet, Frost's work has been hailed as thoroughly modern and American in its tone and its thematic elements. His choices of simple poetic formats-- usually iambic pentameter or rhyming couplets-- belied the deeply complex psychological elements of Frost's poems.

While Frost wrote many long and medium-length poems, such as “Mowing” and “Acquainted with the Night,” his most popular works are his shorter pieces. These include "The Road Not Taken," "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening," and "Nothing Gold Can Stay."

Analyzing 'A Peck of Gold'

Frost was born and spent part of his childhood in San Francisco. He moved to New England with his mother after his father died in 1885. But he had fond memories of San Francisco, which he reflected on with " A Peck of Gold."

Written in 1928, when Frost was 54, the poem is a nostalgic look back at the impression the Golden Gate Bridge made on him as a child. The "dust" he refers to can be interpreted as the gold dust of the California Gold Rush, which happened roughly between 1848 and 1855. When Frost was a young child in San Francisco, the rush was long over, but the legend of the gold dust remained part of the city's lore.

Here is the full text of Robert Frost's "A Peck of Gold." 

Dust always blowing about the town,
Except when sea-fog laid it down,
And I was one of the children told
Some of the blowing dust was gold.
All the dust the wind blew high
Appeared like gold in the sunset sky,
But I was one of the children told
Some of the dust was really gold.
Such was life in the Golden Gate:
Gold dusted all we drank and ate,
And I was one of the children told,
'We all must eat our peck of gold.'