Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
By Robert Frost – 1874-1963
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.
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” s one of Robert Frost’s most known poems. It was written in 1922, and published in 1923 in his New Hampshire volume. In a letter to the poet Louis Untermeyer, Frost called it “my best bid for remembrance.”
The poem is simple and straightforward and reflects the thoughts of a lone wagon driver (the narrator), pausing at night in his travel to watch snow falling in the woods. It ends with some of the most memorable lines of any Frost poem, that of the narrator reminding himself that, despite the loveliness of the view, “I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep.”
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.”
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.
At the funeral of former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau, on October 3, 2000, his eldest son Justin, who is the current Prime Minister of Canada, 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.”