Robert Frost? Edna St. Vincent Millay? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: The acclaimed American poet Robert Frost was asked as an octogenarian what he had learned about life, and he succinctly replied: It goes on.
I have been unable to find a contemporaneous citation, and a popular quotation website says that the attribution is disputed. What do you think?
Quote Investigator: Robert Frost did utter this proverbial wisdom during his eightieth birthday celebration according to journalist and self-help writer Ray Josephs. In September 1954 the Sunday newspaper supplement “This Week Magazine” published “Robert Frost’s Secret” by Josephs which included the following exchange. Ellipses were in the original text. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
“In all your years and all your travels,” I asked, “what do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned about life?”
He paused a moment, then with the twinkle sparkling under those brambly eyebrows he replied: “In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on. In all the confusions of today, with all our troubles . . . with politicians and people slinging the word fear around, all of us become discouraged . . . tempted to say this is the end, the finish. But life — it goes on. It always has. It always will. Don’t forget that.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1954 September 5, The Cincinnati Enquirer, Section: This Week Magazine, Robert Frost’s Secret by Ray Josephs, Quote Page 2, Column 1, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Newspapers_com) ↩