Always the same, when on a fated night
At last the gathered snow lets down as white
As may be in dark woods, and with a song
It shall not make again all winter long
Of hissing on the yet uncovered ground,
I almost stumble looking up and round,
As one who overtaken by the end
Gives up his errand, and lets death descend
Upon him where he is, with nothing done
To evil, no important triumph won,
More than if life had never been begun.

Yet all the precedent is on my side:
I know that winter death has never tried
The earth but it has failed: the snow may heap
In long storms an undrifted four feet deep
As measured again maple, birch, and oak,
It cannot check the peeper’s silver croak;
And I shall see the snow all go down hill
In water of a slender April rill
That flashes tail through last year’s withered brake
And dead weeds, like a disappearing snake.
Nothing will be left white but here a birch,
And there a clump of houses with a church.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Robert Frost's poem The Onset


  1. Vijay says:

    There is a sense in Onset of something incomplete in Stopping by woods (with its implication of sleep meaning death )being more clearly defined,coming to completion.Death is clearly looming at large and the snow laden winter is typically a metaphor for the blanketed nature of life,for the oblivion that is inherent in consciousness.
    This is a poem of subtle cadence.It reads like Beethoven’s Moonlight sonata.

  2. Morris Hall says:

    I have studied Frost for years and have visited his grave and gone to services in the Church where he once read his poetry. I find in this poem a resignation about life and just how much we can affect change, even in our own lives. Yet, the theme of change, the eternal hope for change remains, but the truth remains also:the resignation of,”no important triumpth won.”

  3. george kiberd says:

    i have worked outside almost everyday for 35 years.each year when the first snow falls and ”hisses on the yet uncovered ground”we stop for a moment and listen and reflect upon the coming winter. to have frost give it context hasmeant much to me…..a poet can only use an opening line once….growing up as i did in new england, the words”always the same”were a common saying usually spoken with a certain urgency,a sense of foreboding tinged with resignation. it interests me greatly that frost burned up those words to start this poem, my favorite of all his works.

  4. Mike says:

    Almost my favourite. Hear it read aloud and you’ll see why.

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