The Poets

April 28, 2010

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

My daughter and I recently read a great poem written by Robert Frost, entitled: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. It's an exceedingly impressive work, to say the least: so much complexity contained in so simple a write. My daughter loved it too and essentially took it for a narrative poem. I felt as though the poem had a representative aspect that spoke of the beauty of life (the woods, the snow) and the inevitability of death (sleep), an aspect that Frost may have only inadvertently intended.

The structure of the poem is especially interesting- notice the rhyme scheme below:

Poetic Parameters:
Stanza: quatrain (4 total)
Meter: tetrameter
Rhyme Scheme: aaba bbcb ccdc dddd (similar to a Rubaiyat stanza)

Stopping by Wood on a Snowy Evening

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 sounds 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.

Of the Poem (One of Many Takes):

We find ourselves, as
Heidegger might suggest, thrown into an existence that's nothing less than spectacular: there are the trees, the vaulted blue sky, florescent green grass after it rains- an inexhaustible amount of beautiful things. Indeed, the very idea that one is alive- existing- is marvelous in itself. In short, we're surrounded by an incredible, incredible amount of beauty.

All too often, however, we loose ourselves in mundane worldly matters, becoming so obsorbed in sustaining existence that we tend to loose sight of its very beauty, its splendor. Aesthetic passion and attention flees- or at least seems greatly diminished- where social obligations reign. A great majority of times it seems conventional existence is structured to wage war on on the aesthetic heart- "busy, busy, busy" ... "worry, worry, worry" become its mantra, and we seem hypnotized by it to the point that we literally don't take the time out to stop and smell the roses.

On a purely superficial level it seems that Frost would at least have us aware of the conflict between our inherent desire to be one with beauty and the social constrains and obligations that tend to domesticate that desire. It's almost as if the poem has for its inner topic the conflict between freedom and necessity.

The poet's individual yields to that beauty- out of nowhere and just that moment- and takes in the "lovely, dark, and deep" which was laced with snow that was still falling. Necessity then impinged itself upon the moment and called this person's attention "back to reality" and away from beauty's transcendental sway. In the end the individual leaves that snowy encounter.

The point I derive from the poem is that, despite pressing obligations and social demands, we should step outside of our constraints occasionally and take in some of this beauty that surrounds us.


John W. May said...


Interesting fact: Frost stayed up all night witing another poem: New Hampshire. The next morning he apparently when outside when all of a sudden the idea for Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening came to his mind. He wrote this poem in the middle of June.

Nancy said...

You did it! My favorite! Thank you.... you have no idea how many times over the years I have had the refrain "my little horse must think it queer" run through my head...

John W. May said...

Thanks, Nancy.

My favorite lines are 9 & 10:

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.

I was reminded- by another blog site- of a quote that sums up the intent and point of Frost's poem ... here it is below:

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.

~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ~

Thanks, Ode to Poetry ...

Nancy said...

That is completely lovely! Truly. I need to recall that when the worldly cares are trying to smother. Thanks for sharing!

Nancy said...

I just now ran across this quote: "Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired." ~Robert Frost


John W. May said...

Ummm, Nancy … your Frost quote reminds me of the Nefertiti poem I completed shortly after this post.

Nancy said...

How right you are! I hadn't thought to make that connection. Thanks, John!

As of April 9th, 2010