The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people…
The poem narrates America’s history as a nation from the time of the early European colonists, who still considered themselves English. The early settlers understandably lacked a national identity.
The ‘gift’ of their identity was eventually gained as a result of struggle and war, leading to their freedom and embracing their new land and American identity:
‘(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)’ (line 13)
“The Gift Outright” became famous after eighty-seven-year-old Frost recited it at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, on January 20, 1961.
It is considered a triumphantly patriotic work, which Frost himself compared to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
In this poem Frost identifies ‘we’ and ‘ours’ as the white settlers from Europe, rather than the original “owners” of the land, the Native Americans.
In any case, this poem coincides with the spirit of the 4th of July which ignores the conflict between the colonists and the Native Americans, and instead focuses on the clash between the British (Old World) and the colonists (New World).
The Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776), proclaimed that the thirteen American colonies, then at war with Great Britain, as thirteen independent states forming a nation called, the United States of America, which as we all know, gradually yet unrelentingly expanded towards the west, and south-west, to become the most powerful nation in the 21st century.
Many things have happened since July 4th, 1776, but one thing is certain, this day is still celebrated as the birth of a collective sense of ‘American (USA) Nation’.
Happy 4th of July to all my American friends, followers, and readers!