Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost
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
Questions for Review
1. What's the possible theme of the poem?
2. What are the rhythm and the rhyme scheme?
3. What's the tone of the poem and how is it established?
4. What's the function of the repetition in the last two lines?
With very few words, Frost here creates a sense of brooding mystery as the speaker stops his horse in a desolate landscape between woods and frozen lake. The attraction of the woods is their darkness, the intimation they offer of losing oneself in them. The speaker gazes into them with a kind of wishfulness, while his horse shakes his bells, reminder to get on with the business of living. The repetition in the last two lines denotes a literal recognition that the speaker must move on and connotes that there is much to be done before life ends. His experience of gazing into the woods is just "a momentary stay against confusion" (Frost's words) that sends the speaker back to life with a sense of renewal.
The rhythm of the poem is rigidly regular (iambic tetrameter), and its rhyme scheme is a complex pattern of interlocking stanzas (aaba/bbcb/ccdc/dddd). Each stanza is a complete sentence, and each sentence follows the structure of colloquial English (with the possible exception of the inversion of subject and object in the first line).
The winter bleakness of the setting (the "Frozen lake", "the gently falling", the "lovely, dark and deep" woods) establishes a lonely tone and the symbolic weight of this brief moment when the speaker is drawn to what the woods represent- death, perhaps, or at least a temporary release from life's wearying round of duties and obligations. The speaker's weariness is wonderfully underscored by "downy flake", a phrase that sets vividly before us the image of snowflake wafting downward.