‘The land was ours before we were the land’s’, writes Robert Frost (1874–1963) in ‘The Gift Outright’ (1942). He is thinking about the effort early American settlers had to make to commit themselves to a vast new country ‘vaguely realising westward’. The land itself could be appropriated by men and women of sufficient ingenuity, strength and determination. Transforming a frontier into ‘home’ took longer and required imagination. Every life lived in the new land brought home closer. Every artistic response to America acknowledged it as the artist’s field of activity, his own place; and as artists of all kinds grew in number, the land increasingly possessed them.
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