Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Robert Frost is on the 2015 HSC poetry list.
My eldest stepson is studying 6 of his poems (rather reluctantly) with his class.
The major theme they're exploring is discovery or self-discovery.


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.

                                                                                       (1923) 


While I love nature poems for their visual simplicity and their links to human nature, I usually prefer metaphysical poets. Therefore Robert Frost is a journey of self-discovery for me as well!

I'm planning to explore the 6 HSC poems over the next few weeks to act as a resource for anyone studying Frost.

I started with this poem because I had heard of this one before.
We are fans of the cult TV series from a decade ago, called Roswell. When one of the main characters dies mysteriously, one of the clues left behind is the last three lines of this poem.


I found a lovely quote by Epictetus about self-discovery & obligation that seems to sum up Frost's intentions with this poem,

Stopping by the Woods is a poem about choices & responsibility. 
The stopping man is faced with the choice of staying quietly in the woods (a romantic, easy, dream-like experience) or moving on (facing up to reality) to his "promises to keep". 

I know this poem is a favourite of many North American bloggers. I thought I would throw this post out there for you to offer up your opinions on this poem. Any thoughts on how it relates to discovery or self-discovery would be greatly appreciated :-)

7 comments:

  1. Great post Brona.

    This is indeed one of my favorites.

    I think that one reason that it is such a great work is that there are so many angles to it and so many seemingly valid interpretations.

    I never really thought that staying by the wood was a realistic choice for the narrator. I think that there is allusion here tofolks who do actually stop from time to time to actually think about life and what it is all about. Many people "must think it queer" that some people actually do this.

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    1. I'm also curious about 'the darkest evening' reference, which I assume is the winter solstice, which would be Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere (or close to). Is it St Nicholas/Santa with miles to go before he sleeps??

      Or is there religious significance in the 'whose woods'? The 'house in the village' could be the church? Is the 'dark evening' a religious crisis like the dark night of the soul?

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  2. The first thing that comes into my mind is the place, the woods.
    The narrator leaves the busy village to travel through the woods, stops and comtemplates his future.
    Time is the same in the village or the woods.....but it feels different in the snow filled quiet.
    It is as if I go to the Frisian islands off the north coast of The Netherlands for a weekend.
    The time there feels different and I come back refreshed!

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    Replies
    1. I love the idea about time being different in the woods, in the snow.

      That's the idea within the poem that they used to great effect in the Roswell show.

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  3. I love this poem. To me it seems so sad, resolved, plodding ever forward. I always saw the poem as a chouice between death and living -- the snow representing death.

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    Replies
    1. I hadn't thought about the death/living idea, but maybe that's why this poem gives me a shivery, slightly spooky thrill every time I get to the words 'and miles to go before I sleep.'

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  4. "The woods are lovely, dark, and deep"

    I love this. Mysterious, promising, slightly chilling, and not because of the winter. To be lost in the woods, to roam without thinking of going somewhere in particular, I find that very liberating. Perhaps a yearning for more freedom? Or the temptation of the unknown?
    I very much like the other two quotes as well, they are new to me but I find them very true and inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

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