Stopping by Woods 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 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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Robert Frost's poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

257 Comments

  1. zhxyforever says:

    Frankly speaking, I do’nt know what feelings the writer want to express.I even don’t know who he is,because i come from china. But i know that this is a very beautiful poem, and i consider that the writer understands life better than most of the other people.

  2. Jules says:

    im 13 studing this poem in school for all u people thank u very much and im sure all your comments will help me in my examination

    i find the poem unique as well as true in heart
    it is how this man suffers and finally dies in peace

    and oh yah im Indian stayin in the United Arab Emirates

  3. wilma says:

    as i read this poem i think this is an interpretation of R. Frost’s strong belief in God. The word “He” in the poem is referring to God. and the line “he will not see me stopping here, to watch his woods fill up with snow” means that as a human being the trials that come into his way will not be a cause for him to stop living and believing. “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” means that life is so beautiful, full of trials and hindrances that may test our belief in Him. but i have promises to keep–to live and survive the trials that he may give me… because these trials are the things that will teach me to be strong and be humane.

  4. TerryWashburn says:

    FEEDING BY WOODS ON A WINTRY EVENING

    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.”
    Tarryleas
    2-18-08

  5. Roy Morris says:

    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.

  6. stuti says:

    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 …..

  7. cathy says:

    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 life..

  8. Steve says:

    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.

  9. gladys says:

    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 poetry.

  10. Roger Newton says:

    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.”

  11. Sara Rieds says:

    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.

    Thanx

  12. Shafiah says:

    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 rest.

  13. carla miller says:

    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.

  14. AdS says:

    Stopping by the woods is about suicide… that is the deep meaning… On a literal level, obviously it is either about cows in woods, waiting for some hay, or about santa claus, on a sleigh, sleepy, but knowing that he still has many more miles to go.

  15. Timmy ethilbert says:

    This poem is so good,I can’t Belive it. It had a great twist turn in the middle.Have a nice day.

    Eat Coco pops

  16. David Crouch says:

    Solitude,isolation,contemplation,reflections on life and the reality of ownership of tangible items.
    An immediate reference to the dark woods,and a more distant reference to the primeval lay deep with in the physche of all.
    The reference to the animal which cannot sense the forboding or symbolic rationalisation of humanity.
    To some the woods may be frightening,to others,shelter of a kind.
    These are but a few thoughts on why these relatively few lines, well structured as they are, create so many different meanings to the reader.
    The true magic lays in the resonant chord it strikes with the individual.
    It will endear itself to generations to come.

  17. reny says:

    The beauty of the poem lies in the last few lines.Something everyman thinks at some point of time in life, inspiring to move on even if things are cold and freeze in life.

  18. Amit Haldhar says:

    I love this poem from my childhood. When the poet write words, it meanes different to him from rest of the world till he tells anybody. It depends on person to person that how they take the meaning.

    But for me, this poem is an energiser, it always keep me awake and walking when i feel tired and depressed.

    I have many promises to keep
    And Miles to go before i sleep
    And Miles to go before i sleep.

  19. Justin VanderVeen says:

    Poetry is a whole and an individual. It can mean a whole other thing for each individual. A person does not have to know a poet’s life to appreciate something that he is bringing up or even moreso for someone to appreciate what he’s not. By all means, make a comment on the literature and not on how you can understand it better than most.

  20. Nancy says:

    hey does anyone know what type of poem this is??
    I m guessing it’s lyric , but im not sure

Leave a Reply to reny Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Robert Frost better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.