Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening
By Robert Frost
The poem opens with the speaker describing how he has stopped by some woods on a property which belongs to someone he thinks he knows. The speaker’s horse is irritated by the pause to their journey, and makes its frustration known by shaking its bells.
The only other sound that can be heard comes from the wind and the trees. The speaker expresses his desire to stay longer, and is saddened that he cannot, for he must continue his journey and leave this moment of quiet behind, because he has places to be and promises that must be kept.
Themes and techniques
Though straightforward on its surface, the true meaning of the poem is the different tensions we encounter in the human experience: the aesthetic qualities of the woods represent our desires and passions, while the man’s promises symbolises the forces in our lives that restrain us from more fully indulging in those desires. The powerful allure of those passions are reflected by the imagery “The woods are lovely, dark and deep” – the setting has an almost intoxicating effect. When contrasted with the bluntness of his acknowledgement of his duties then, we see how quickly the appeal of the sedative effect of quietness and relaxation is muted by the demands of our daily lives.
‘And miles to go before I sleep, / And miles to go before I sleep’
underscores the importance of promises and duties
‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep, / But I have promises to keep,’
visual imagery, juxtaposition
contrast of the promise of the forest to the realities of the persona
‘The only other sound’s the sweep / Of easy wind and downy flake.’
emphasis on solitary figure
‘Between the woods and frozen lake / The darkest evening of the year.’
seasonal imagery, colour imagery
deep pull of desires despite their chilling representation
‘He will not see me stopping here / To watch his woods fill up with snow.’
representative of passions