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Analysis and comments on Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

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Comment 229 of 1139, added on February 20th, 2008 at 9:51 PM.


Was beautiful out feeding tonight. There was a snow squall that dropped
about half an inch in 5-10 minutes. Covered the cattle, the calves, the
corral, the countryside, and my coat. Then the clouds scattered and raced
each other across the sky. They caused a natural strobe-light effect
alternately illuminating and hiding the livestock, the snowcovered fields,
woods and branches, as they passed in front of the nearing-full-moon. I
leaned against a round bale and listened to the concert of a dozen
contented cows agresssively munching hay. They were accompanied by the
faint humming of a far-off airplane and the soft, low, bass-drumming of the
natural gas compressor engines at the McWhorter and the Lightburn Stations,
a few miles distant. The four new calves, with bellies full of warm milk,
danced through the hay I had spread along the fence, limboed under the
'lectric fence into the lane, then do-sah-doed among the round bales stored
under the hemlock tree. The huge ancient double-trunked hemlock that had
sheltered multiple generations and species of birds, livestock, wildlife,
and my ancestors just as it sheltered me and the calves now by bowing its
boughs under a burden of snow like a hen bowing her wings to shelter a
cluster of chicks.

No sirens, no horns, no stereos blasting as there were no cars on the
roads. No dirt bikes, weedeaters, lawnmowers nor chainsaws. A soothing
sound far different than a live band at a local gig who think music must be
loud to be good. They turn the volume up so much that you can’t hear the
music or the words. No drunks yelling obscenities. Not a human voice to
be heard. I didn't want to go back in just to face the eleven o’clock news.

I thought of Robert Frost who said, in Stopping by Woods on a Winter
Evening, “But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and
miles to go before I sleep.” I thought of the travelers in that far off
airplane and the miles they had made the commitment to go, to go to keep
the various promises they had made. They chose freely to go but were now
prisoners in that plane; prisoners self-sentenced to their cell for the
duration of the flight to their destination with no escape but through
their thoughts and the comforts within the confines of the cabin. If they
only knew what I had they might want to trade. Perhaps they were asleep
already. I thought of those who failed to keep their promises because
their journeys came to an untimely end.

Frost considered the owner of the wood and if he would object to him
stopping there. These woods and cows and meadow and moment are mine and no
one sees me here or knows where I am. Not even one of the many millions in
this world. Its just as well for they might think something wrong to see a
man, outstanding in his field, in such weather.

Nor is anyone here with whom to share it. It seems so selfish to have it
all to myself but were there a crowd it would not be the same. The essence
of solitude cannot be shared. To share even a smidgen of it, I must write
it, edit it, and refine it, let it grow cold and re-visit it. Simply
telling it would not suffice. I just stood and listened and watched until
the melting snow chilled my shoulders and told me it was time to go in.
Time to go in and enjoy the fireside and peck out a momento of the occasion
for future enlightment, and to reflect on what I had experienced. And time
to get a good nights sleep to be rested for the challenges of the miles to
go and promises to be kept tomorrow. I know the respite and rejuvenenation
Frost enjoyed stopping by the wood that evening. The respite and
rejuvenation we all surely need from time to time as we, as did he, face
our immediate responsibilities as well as the miles to go and promises to
be kept on all of the tomorrows before we sleep that final sleep to which
Frost must have been alluding when he repeated the last stanza, “and miles
to go before I sleep.”

TerryWashburn from United States
Comment 228 of 1139, added on February 15th, 2008 at 4:47 PM.

I first met this poem when I heard a short extract on a television
programme. The extract did not identify the poem nor the writer. It stayed
with me a long time and eventually I had to look up the source of the
quotation. Since then, many years ago, it has stayed with me and inspiped
me. Thank you Robert Frost.

Roy Morris from United Kingdom
Comment 227 of 1139, added on February 5th, 2008 at 6:23 AM.

i just love this poem 'cos it is extensively inspirational. whenever i m
tired with the odds of life or whenever i feel that my vision is diverting
from my dreams, i just read last lines of the poem and it can easily
revitalize me to go back onto the track and work hard for achieving the
goals.because there are lots of dreams of mine to be fulfilled before my
life gets over .....

stuti from India
Comment 226 of 1139, added on January 26th, 2008 at 3:08 AM.

I love the work of Robert Frost, because it reminds us to continue
struggling inspite of the hindrances that we encounter.It gives us strength
and determines clearly our objective in life. Though we stumble along our
way, but still continuing to struggle and not forgetting the obligations in

cathy from Philippines
Comment 225 of 1139, added on January 5th, 2008 at 5:52 PM.

I believe some of the major themes in this poem include isolation, and the
indifference of nature. In my opinion the key to understanding this poem
lies in one's interpretation of the line "But I have promises to keep." The
speaker seems content to lie in the snow and welcome the peacefulness of
death, until his horse (who, unlike the speaker, is keenly aware that they
are trespassing on the darkest night of the year) brings him back into the
world of the living with a shake of his harness bells. For me, "promises to
keep" refers to the obligations the speaker has in the world of the living
(to his friends, family, his horse at the current moment). He will only
continue to live for the sake of others; in reality, he prefers the calming
solitude of an indifferent natural world to the world of the living. Even
though Frost insisted that the repetition of "and miles to go before i
sleep" was NOT supposed to invoke death, his opinion is simply that, one
person's opinion of a work. Furthermore, I think this poem can be
convincingly interpreted as dealing with suicide, however, the way Frost
describes it in the poem, suicide is a submission to the natural world
rather than one forcibily ending their life.

Steve from Canada
Comment 224 of 1139, added on December 10th, 2007 at 12:21 AM.

I love this poem,even as a child in the ghettos of Chicago,I understood
what it was about.God is great.This is his universe.Next to 'Trees",it's my
favorite poem.Sorry I can't dissect it,don't have A college education about

gladys from United States
Comment 223 of 1139, added on December 7th, 2007 at 9:48 PM.

I have enjoyed this poem ever since Frost read it to us and discussed it
with us on one of his frequent visits to Middlebury College while I was a
student there. I call this poem a “Sonnet with a Bonnet.” Fourteen lines
plus a couplet to top it off. Of course the bonnet appears to be at the
foot of the poem on paper, but tops off the poem when recited aloud. Kind
of like Frost’s inversions of everyday reality in so many of his poems.

The rhyme scheme is:

The octave: aaba, bbcb;
The sestet: ccdcdd,
The “bonnet:” dd.

Try reading the poem as a sonnet ending with “But I have promises to keep.”
The speaker wants to spend time in reverie as he contemplates the snowy
woods. However several gentle but powerful forces prevent him from
dreaming and force him to get moving. The first force is the very meter of
the poem itself, a hurried iambic tetrameter rather than the more leisurely
pentameter found in most sonnets. The second force to get moving is the
horse shaking his harness bells. I imagine the rhythm of the bells in
“Sleigh Ride.” I wouldn’t have made that connection if the poem had been
in pentameter. The third force is the almost inaudible sweeping wind
blowing the snow around.

The “volta” or turn comes at the beginning of the sestet, when the speaker
hears the harness bells and the wind, wakes up and realizes that “The woods
are lovely dark and deep. But I have promises to keep.” The sonnet ends
with this awakening to the reality of the present moment.

In the “bonnet” the speaker becomes meditative and contemplates his
longer-term future commitments: “And miles to go before I sleep.” And he
resigns himself to his future as he wistfully repeats: “And miles to go
before I sleep.”

Note: to further your enjoyment of this poem, I highly recommend listening
to Elisabeth von Trapp singing her exquisite musical setting of it on her
CD “Poetic License.”

Roger Newton from United States
Comment 222 of 1139, added on December 5th, 2007 at 3:18 PM.

To me this poem by Robert Frost means a lot of things...
He is talking about how he can die right now if he wanted to because he is
satisfies with the beauty of his life (the woods) yet it is still ''dark
and deep'' and he still has a lot of things to do before he dies ''miles to
go before I sleep'' by sleep he means death, and he is talking about how he
can die right now if he wanted to and how beautiful the place is, but then
the bells from the horse wakes him back up and tells him to basically, snap
out of it, you have still got a lot of things to do before you die and that
you have a lot of promises in life to keep.

I think it is a very good poem and it had definitely touched me personally
and i think it is a good metaphor of death and satisfaction with your life,
and whether you are allowed to die as soon as you are satisfied or do you
have to keep all your promises?

That is of course only my opinion and other people might view this poem in
a different way.


Sara Rieds from United Kingdom
Comment 221 of 1139, added on October 27th, 2007 at 7:23 PM.

When Robert Frost refers to the village and woods as "his",i think he is
refering to death.He is passing through deaths territory, not ready to
die("but I have promises to keep And miles before I sleep")He looks at how
easy and peaceful it looks,but he isnt done with his mission and refuses to

Shafiah from United States
Comment 220 of 1139, added on October 11th, 2007 at 4:24 PM.

i definately do not believe that Frost was considering suicide.he was
engraved in deep thoughts of life and considering how short it is.
Therefore it is impotrant that we fulfil the pronises me make to ourselves
and others. "And miles to go before i sleep" suggest that the speaker is
determine to accomplish these aims before he dies. however, there are
certain pleasures of life that may distract us from concentrating on these
promises.during this time though, there are people in life that may help us
get back on track and keep our focus, frost uses the horse to state the
usefulnes of animals to the choices we make i life inspite trheir innocense
to understand human nature.

carla miller from Jamaica

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Information about Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Poet: Robert Frost
Poem: 24. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Volume: New Hampshire
Year: 1923
Added: Feb 1 2004
Viewed: 3905 times
Poem of the Day: Jun 26 2000

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