Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening: An Analysis

By Robert Frost

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This poem, ‘Stopping by Woods on A Snowy Evening’ is a very descriptive poem about a travelling man who stops by a dense forest, on the darkest evening of the year. He simply can’t tear himself apart from the scenic view, which is almost sacred to him. The horse appears to be just a companion for the man, helping him through the bitter winter cold. This gives me the indication that this may be a melancholic poem. It appears to a Realistic Fiction or a Memoir.

In the first stanza, the poet writes:

Whose woods these are I think I know.   

His house is in the village though;   

He will not see me stopping here   

To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

When I read this, the simplest interpretation is that the woods he was stopping by was owned by an acquaintance who lived in the village and who would not see the poet stop to watch the snow fill up his lovely woods. It could simply be an expression of a stolen moment of wonder and joy as he watched the snow fall down.

Alternatively, the lines: “He will not see me stopping here, To watch his woods fill up with snow.” seem to represent, perhaps, a close relative, who may have passed away. Is it  possible that Robert Frost’s family member, relative or friend had passed away and he was expressing his deep tragedy through this metaphor?

In the second and third stanzas, the poet writes,

My little horse must think it queer   

To stop without a farmhouse near   

Between the woods and frozen lake   

The darkest evening of the year

He gives his harness bells a shake   

To ask if there is some mistake.   

The only other sound’s the sweep   

Of easy wind and downy flake.

These stanzas really bring out the poets beautiful descriptive style. His words paint a picture in my mind of a dark and almost gloomy atmosphere. A dark beauty comes through but the poet’s reference to the darkest evening of the year, makes the night seem most daunting, tragic evening of the year.

My favourite, though, is the last stanza, where the poet writes,

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.

As I read these lines, I felt the resoluteness coming through: when people pull themselves away from the darkness and back into the light. Sadly, though, I found another meaning in the innocent word, ‘sleep’. The first time he states: And miles to go before I sleep, I feel that he may be referring to how long he actually has till he reaches his destination. However, the second time he states this, I feel that he may be referring to how long he has before he too gives into death or if indeed, he is having an illness, he’s almost reassuring himself that everything will be alright and he will live and die peacefully. The beauty of this stanza is that there are so many different ways to interpret it. Other than my explanation above, for example, it could be that the poet wanted to remind us that we need to stop once a while in our busy lives, to embrace the beauty and nature all around us, but then continue with our duties and priorities. It could, on the other hand, also just be a literal meaning, where the poet is just taking a break from the real world for some inspiration, symbolizing the burden he feels to live in the real world.

Overall, this poem is definitely a poem that makes you think. Literally ‘stop’ and think. To me this is a great example of the miracles of literature and has been ‘Stopping’ people in their own metaphorical ‘Woods’ to think about it!