“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” Robert Frost
1. Queer (line 5) – adj- questionable or strange
2. Sweep (line 11) – verb- to touch in passing with a swift continuous movement
3. Downy (line 12) – adj- soft, soothing
#1- Theme of nature and farms – Many of Frost’s poems focus on the themes of nature and farms. Even though he grew up in the city, he lived on a farm in Derry, New Hampshire for 9 years after marrying. After farming proved to be an unsuccessful venture, he sold the farm but purchased another in New Hampshire in 1915. Frost preferred the rural life and many of his greatest works were written when he lived on his farm. It is easy to see the effect this had on his poems as much of them focus on attraction to nature, its beauty, and the allure of country life. This poem was written on his farm in Derry, after staying up all night on his collection of poems New Hampshire.
#2- The darkest evening of the year – The darkest night of the year would be the night before the Winter Solstice – December 21. The fact that the setting of the poem is on this night adds a very profound effect to the poem. It is snowing, the speaker is in the middle of the woods, and it is the darkest night of the year but he is still stopping to admire the quiet, the fall of snow, the darkness of the woods, and the beauty of nature in general. This speaks volumes of the beauty of nature and the man’s love for it.
Along with “Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood’, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is perhaps Robert Frost’s most famous work. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” has been analyzed and studied in Literature classes of all levels. It is written in iambic tetrameter with a rhyme scheme of AABA BBCB CCDC DDDD. Even though the words used are simple, the smooth flow of the chain rhyme from one stanza to the next gives the poem a very memorable sound and makes it very simple to understand. As with many of Frost’s poem, it addresses the common theme of the beauty of nature. In the poem, the speaker is in the middle of a journey when he decides in the middle of the woods to admire the snowfall and contemplate nature’s beauty. After an unknown period of time, he remembers his journey and obligations that need to be fulfilled and continues moving.
In the first stanza, the speaker stops in the middle of foreign woods to admire the snowfall. The image painted throughout the poem is that of a working man in the middle of a journey who is drawn by the allure of nature in the middle of these woods. He wonders whose woods he is stopping in, as if he fears reprimand or reproach for trespassing. Perhaps he is also thinking about how strange it would seem to the owner of these woods that he is stopping without permission merely to watch it snow. Author Frank Bernard of The Explicator suggests in his explication of Frost’s poem that perhaps the speaker fears reprimand for stopping while he has a journey to continue and that society would frown on this “unmanly” introspection in the middle of someone else’s woods in the middle of winter when there is work to do (Bernard 43).
In the second and third stanzas, the speaker continues to ponder his hesitation in the middle of these woods. He wonders what his horse might think of their stop without any visible reason for doing so. They are “between the woods and frozen lake”, a place where stopping is dangerous on a cold winter night. There is no farmhouse close by, so they aren’t stopping for shelter or supplies. It is as if he is projecting his own feelings onto the horse. He knows there is no logical reason to stop and merely watch the snow but he is drawn to do so nonetheless and the horse represents his conscience, reminding him that there is work to be done and no time for this meaningless stop, especially at this time and place. Frank Bernard suggests that had the horse not been present, the speaker would have probably projected these feelings of guilt and reprimand onto some other passing animal, suggesting that it is actually the speaker’s conscience, and not the horse wondering why he is stopping (Bernard 43).This contemplation all happens in the third stanza as the shake of the horse’s bells interrupts the quiet sounds of the wind sweeping the snow and the soft flakes accumulating on the ground. It is as if the speaker’s conscience, represented by the horse and his bells, interrupts the idle admiration of the falling snow with reminders of completing the journey and fulfilling obligations.
In the fourth and final stanza, the speaker realizes that he cannot stay to admire the snowfall any longer and must continue on his journey. The appeal of the woods is very strong but the reminder of his obligations pulls him away and demands that he fulfills his duties. Much debate has focused on the meanings of these last lines specifically. Some are of the opinion that the poem carries only a literal meaning; a man on a journey stopping to admire the snowfall and the beauty of the dark woods only to remember his obligations and duties then continue on his journey. Others believe it is more figurative and the speaker is contemplating death, represented by the dark woods and frozen lake, far from civilization. There is beauty in death, where one can finally relax from the toil and hardships of this life, but the reminder of obligations to fulfill before that step is once again what calls the speaker to keep on moving. At first glance, the poem appears quite literal, but the repetition of “And miles to go before I sleep” in the last stanza makes it seem as if there is a deeper meaning to the speaker’s hesitation in his journey and as if the contemplation was about more than just snow falling on quiet woods. With either interpretation, however, the poem has a profound meaning that is enhanced by its use of simple words and its flowing chain rhyme.
Bernard, Frank. “Frost’s STOPPING BY WOODS ON A
SNOWY EVENING..” Explicator. 40.4 (1982): 43.
Greiner, Donald First. “Robert Frost’s Dark Woods and
the Function of Metaphor.” Frost Centennial
Essays Jackson: University of Mississippi Press.
1974: 373–88. Print.
Henry, Nat. “Frost’s STOPPING BY WOODS ON A
SNOWY EVENING.” Explicator. 37.1 (1978):
Moore, Richard. “Frost’s STOPPING BY WOODS ON
A SNOWY EVENING and OUT, OUT–, and
Swift’s GULLIVER’S TRAVELS.” Explicator.
59.2 (2000): 95-97. Print.
 Greiner 373–88