Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

BY ROBERT FROST

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.   

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.   

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.

        Summary

The speaker thinks about who owns the woods that he is passing through, and is fairly sure of knowing the landowner. However, the owner’s home is far away in the village, and thus he is physically incapable of seeing the speaker pause to watch the snowfall in the forest.
The speaker thinks his horse must find it strange to stop so far from any signs of civilization. Indeed, they are surrounded only by the forest and a frozen lake, on the longest night of the year.
The horse shakes the bells on its harness, as if asking if the speaker has made a mistake by stopping. The only other sound besides, is that of the wind and falling snowflakes.
The speaker finds the woods very alluring, drawn both to their darkness and how vast and all-encompassing they seem. However, the speaker has obligations to fulfill elsewhere. Thus, though he or she would like to stay and rest, he knows there are many more miles to go before that is possible.

       Themes

  • Nature vs. Society
    The speaker reflects on the natural world and its implicit contrast with society.The natural world it depicts is “lovely” and overwhelming. The fact that it seemingly lures the speaker to linger in the dark and cold suggests that nature is both a tempting and a threatening force, a realm that resists people’s efforts to tame it while also offering respite from the demands of civilized life. The complete lack of signs of civilization, meanwhile, further emphasizes the distance between society and nature. Far from the sights and sounds of the village, the speaker stands alone “Between the woods and frozen lake” on the “darkest evening of the year.” Together all these details present nature as a cold and foreboding space distinct from society. At the same time, however, the woods are “lovely” enough that they tempt the speaker to stay awhile, complicating the idea of nature as an entirely unwelcoming place for human beings. However raw and cold, nature also allows for the kind of quiet reflection people may struggle to find amidst the stimulation of society. 
  • Social Obligation vs. Personal Desire(Hesitation vs. Choice)

Though the speaker is drawn to the woods and would like to stay there longer to simply watch the falling snow, various responsibilities prevent any lingering. The speaker is torn between duty to others and his wish to stay in the dark and lovely woods. The poem can thus be read as reflecting a broader conflict between social obligations and individualism. He seems worn by travel and social obligation, and the woods seem to represent his or her wish to rest. But this wish cannot be realized because of the oppressive “miles to go,” which must be traveled as a result of duty to others. He is  torn between the tiresome duties of society, and the desire for individual freedom, that is manifested in the woods. This poem points to the reality of making decisions in complex situations in order to fulfill our responsibilities.

SettingAs the title makes clear, the poem is set in the “woods on a snowy evening.” It’s the “darkest evening of the year,” which suggests that this might be the winter solstice.The setting is also mostly silent, with the exception of the sound of wind and snowfall. The woods are expansive, as evidenced in the description “dark and deep.”

 

Tone

The poem conjures a tone of quiet reflection and wintry reminiscence. The last lines are not of pain or sadness, but more of a meditative appreciation and realization that there’s still much to be done that day.While most readers agree that the general tone is calm and serene, quiet and contemplative, others argue that this is dark and depressing.

Poetic Devices

Metaphor: The last line of the third stanza, “sweep of easy wind and downy flake” and the second metaphor is used in the last line with repetition, “and miles to go before I sleep.” Here, miles represent life’s journey, while sleep represents death.

Personification: Frost has personified the thinking of the horse mildly in the second stanza when it stops, and in the third stanza he gives a sign to the rider. “He gives his harness bells a shake/ to ask if there is some mistake.” It shows as if the horse is a human being who understands his owner’s needs or inquires if they have to stop.

Imagery: The poet has used the images for the sense of sights such as woods, houses, lakes, and they help readers see the woods as a source of solace and comfort to a lonely traveler.

Alliteration: “watch his woods”, “sound’s the sweep”, “His house”.

Euphony: It refers to the sound that is pleasing to the ears. While the journey through the forest is of loneliness, according to Robert Frost woods are not haunting or even scary but provide comfort and calmness. The woods also represent an uncorrupted world that the traveler wishes to stay in. 

         Structure

The whole poem follows the AABA rhyme scheme. Frost has used end rhyme in every first, second and fourth line of the poem. The third line of each stanza rhymes with the next stanza. Such as, “know”, “though” and “snow” rhymes with each other in the first stanza and” here” rhymes with “near” in the second stanza.

Repetition (Refrain): There is a repetition of the verse “and miles to go before I sleep” “and miles to go before I sleep “which has created a musical quality in the poem

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