Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

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.

About the Poem:

Robert Frost wrote the poem in June 1922 at his house in Shaftsbury, Vermont. He had been up the entire night writing the long poem “New Hampshire” and had finally finished when he realized morning had come. He went out to view the sunrise and suddenly got the idea for “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” He wrote the new poem “about the snowy evening and the little horse as if I’d had a hallucination” in just “a few minutes without strain.”

Readers often find the poem somewhat dark, albeit beautiful, and many assume it has something to do with death (or at least fatigue with life). When asked if the poem had anything to do with death or suicide, Frost denied it, preferring to keep everyone guessing by merely saying “No.” However, many scholars still think that the poem could be construed as a dream-like tale of someone passing away or saying a final goodbye and has often been used as such. 

In the early morning of November 23, 1963, Sid Davis of Westinghouse Broadcasting reported the arrival of President John F. Kennedy’s casket at the White House. Since Frost was one of the President’s favorite poets, Davis concluded his report with a passage from this poem but was overcome with emotion as he signed off. Also, at the funeral of former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau, on October 3, 2000, his eldest son, current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, rephrased the last stanza of this poem in his eulogy: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. He has kept his promises and earned his sleep.”

In many ways, it’s a poem that trusts the reader. The words, sounds, and images appeal to all—from those who regard it as no more than a serene winter scene featuring snowy woods, a horse, and a rider to those who feel a morose shudder when they read the final two lines. This ambiguity makes the poem a classic and keeps it relevant so many years after its publication. The narrative sets up a subtle tension between the timeless attraction of the lovely woods and the pressing obligations of the present moment.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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