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“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost is a poem that tells a tale of a rider, who stops by woods that are covered by snow to admire its beauty.
About the poet
Robert Frost is a widely acclaimed American poet and his works are easily accessible.
The poem consists of four, four-lined stanzas composed in iambic pentameter.
Analysis and summary
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.
The speaker of the poem is wandering around into the woods. As the title suggests, the speaker is “stopping by woods on a snowy evening”. The title works as the poem’s setting. As the speaker walks past these woods, he is familiar with who the owner of these woods might be. The owner’s house is far inside the village therefore he may not notice the speaker stopping by the forest that is filled up with snow, covering the woods.
The speaker, as the title proclaims, is stopping by the woods on a snowy evening to admire the beauty of nature as the snow fills up the forest and covers the woods. The speaker opens the poem reminding himself that these woods are someone else’s property, someone the speaker is familiar with.
The speaker knows that he can’t be seen by the owner of the woods since his house must be in the village and therefore he can peacefully watch the snow fill up the woods. This describes the speaker’s love for observation as the speaker is simply stopping by these woods to enjoy the beauty of it.
The speaker is also aware that the owner cannot see him. It seems that this activity ignites some thrill and peace at the same time for the speaker. To observe something without being noticed certainly adds in on the speaker’s idea of solitary existence and the satisfaction this brings to the speaker is engrossing.
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.
The speaker halt’s his horse to relish the piling snow and wonders if the speaker’s horse bewildered to cease on such a location where there is no visible habitation in the surrounding. They stand between the woods and the frozen lake on the darkest evening of the year.
The speaker is considerate towards their horse and wonders if a creature like a horse can acknowledge the beauty and calm shared by the speaker to appreciate nature’s beauty. The speaker concludes the horse must think it’s atypical to stop by a place where there is no human residence nearby.
Standing between the woods and frozen lake must be quite eccentric for the horse. The frozen lake also sketches up an image of the climate of the night of the snow. In this shivering cold, the speaker still stops by to admire the snow.
These lines are followed by “the darkest evening of the year”. This might suggest the long nights that are usually experienced in winter. In a much deeper sense, it might refer to the dark and weary day that the speaker went through. The latter reason adds up to the fact that despite the trembling cold, the speaker ceases to watch the snow pack over the woods late at night.
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 horse tries to let its rider know that there is no point to stop by the frozen lake between the woods. The horse shakes its harness bells as if it’s asking if there is some mistake or something that the horse did not notice. The night is so quiet and dark that the only other sounds apart from the bell are of the wind and the snowflakes.
The speaker vocalises the thoughts of their horse as the horse speaks through its action of shaking the bells on its harness. The horse wants the speaker to know that there is nothing around that’ll be of use to them. There are no houses or people who will help them for the night.
The speaker is certainly aware of it all. This also tells the relationship the speaker shares with the horse. He does not treat the horse as his mere ride or vehicle, but an animal with its own thoughts and reasons like a human. And the horse also looks out of its rider, therefore alarming the rider through the bells that there is nothing to wait for here.
The night is dark and windy, snowflakes are falling from the sky and the horse jingles its bell to indicate its time to leave. The night is lonesome and hushed by the sound of the wind. This creates a gloomy image and reflects the desolate land.
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.
The speaker is captivated by the lovely dark and deep woods. But though he wants to stay and praise its charm, the speaker recalls the promises of the past and how they must travel miles across the forest to reach home, where he can sleep in peace.
In the last stanza, the speaker recalls the responsibilities that one has. He understands that he cannot dwell around these woods as there are certain promises he made and he cannot walk away from those. If he was free from any obligations, he would have chosen to stay by the woods, despite the freezing atmosphere.
The last two lines emphasise on his state of being a traveller and the miles he will have to ride his horse to finally nestle and sleep peacefully. The poem also focuses on how peace is temporary in one’s life and that simplistic things like watching a snow fall brings immense peace to the speaker.
This stanza also tells how the woods are getting dark and deep. If the speaker does not move forward, it will be darker and the path will be harder to follow. But even after reaching his desired destination, he won’t find peace again. The speaker will be able to sleep but it won’t bring him as much peace as this solitary travelling brings him.
Wandering alone into the woods works as an escape for the speaker. Although it’s temporary, this escape brings him peace and solace and the last stanza emphasises that he does not want to return to his responsibilities, but he is obliged to do so. The speaker seems burdened by responsibilities. In a much deeper sense, the speaker might prefer getting lost instead of facing his promises.
Therefore, the last two lines, although repeated, can have two entirely different meanings. One can suggest the superficial meaning of the long journey the rider will have to go through to reach home. And the other one can refer to the long life before his final sleep, that is death. The speaker can be waiting for their death to be freed from these promises.