The Gift Outright
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 (1874–1963)
Today is the 45th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Robert Frost (who, coincidentally, also died in 1963) recited this poem at Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. He had composed a poem specifically for the occasion, "Dedication," but the sun's glare prevented him from being able to read his text, so he recited this one from memory.