A Second Analytical Interpretation
Very often with poetry, the title of the poem is meant to be a grand, all-encompassing, thought-provoking idea that inspires with its grandiose and power. Other times, the title is nothing more than exactly what the poem is about — enter Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, which is about — seriously, not a trick statement — stopping by woods on a snowy evening. What follows here is my own analysis of the poem, drawing on my own opinions and preferences based on Frost’s words.
Stopping byWoods on a Snowy Evening Analysis
The poem starts off with a very literal description of the events surrounding the narrator. Technically, he is trespassing on another person’s property — a forest on land that does not belong to him — but knowing that the man won’t be around for a while, he can’t stop himself from taking a few moments to watch the peaceful descent of winter through this forest.
If you’ve never had the chance to just stop and watch the snow fall, I woulds strongly recommend taking some time off during the next snowfall in your area. It’s a very peaceful way to take a break from life, a sort of wintry version of “stop and smell the roses,” except I believe snowfalls are infinitely more satisfying to watch. Robert Frost captures the essence of this peacefulness well — notice how every rhyming word ends with the euphonic “oh” sound, how every word in the stanza is either monosyllabic or disyllabic, making for a simple flow, an easy read, and a simple sense of peace throughout.
The second verse of Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, which you can read the whole poem here, draws attention to the human aspect of peacefulness. It’s interesting for Frost to note that the horse accompanying him on his journey isn’t able to fathom why his human has simply stopped to stare at a bunch of trees. From “the darkest evening of the year,” it makes sense to think that the setting for this poem is the night of the winter solstice, but this can also be interpreted to refer to the more difficult times in a person’s life. “The darkest evening of the year” could be literal, or it could mean that the speaker is having a really, really hard day. If so, it’s all the more reason to stop and take a breather from the stresses and difficulties demanded by life, while your horse looks on without a care in the world.
The second verse also solidifies the rhyming structure of the poem; the poem is written in A / A / B / A style, with the first line of each stanza rhyming with the third line of the one previous — in this case, “here” and “queer.” This is a simple structure that flows very nicely and makes the read easier and more pleasant.
During the third verse, as the now-personified horse continues to exist in a state of confusion, and as the narrator continues to appreciate the silence, the reader of the poem will continue to feel the sense of simple peace that Robert Frost is trying to covey. There is a noticeable consonance here with the “s” sound; “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.” It’s very easy to read, and flows extremely well. The continuation of the simple A / A / B / A structure of the poem further enhances the need Frost has for his reader to understand the natural flow that accompanies a walk in the woods on a snowy evening.
During the fourth verse, unfortunately, peace doesn’t last forever. Whatever long, dark, difficult day prompted this stop in the woods hasn’t gone away while it was being stared at. Distractions are wonderful things, and anything that can keep your mind off your troubles is a welcome addition to any day — but the real world still exists. In this verse, “sleep” is the metaphor used for true rest; the rest of a fulfilled promise, of a fulfilled day, or even a fulfilled life.
In fact, this poem could be looked at as a simple commentary on life — a statement saying that if you stand around and watch your life for too long, it’ll get away from you. At the end of the story, the narrator returns to his journey, looking forward to the conclusion of the darkest evening of the year, and the sleep he can earn at the end of his journey. It can be run with even deeper — to say one has “miles to go” before they “sleep” can be looked at as a more poetic way to say there’s a long way to go before the grave.
This is the only stanza of Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening that consists of four rhyming lines, due to the repetition of “and miles to go before I sleep,” likely because there is no next verse to continue the verse-to-verse rhyming pattern. I also like to imagine the narrator saying this line out loud, and repeating it to himself to reinforce the idea. I know I’ve done that myself, stopped in the middle of a long walk, and reinforced to myself the fact that I had to keep walking (ironically also during the winter, though it was a river I’d stopped to admire).
Exhaustion, Depression, and Fatigue – Historical Perspective
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening was written by Robert Frost in 1922, shortly after he finished writing Hew Hampshire. For those unfamiliar, New Hampshire is a very long poem, one that took Frost many hours to write. He wrote deep into the night, so intensely focused on his work that the next morning came almost entirely without his notice. When he finished the poem and realized he’d written throughout the night, he took a few minutes to watch the sunrise and, in the few moments during which his brain was “turned off,” wrote Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.
The story of Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is based on true events, however. Robert Frost experienced a similar moment to the narrator in the poem when he took a trip down to his local market and was largely unsuccessful in making enough money to see his children through Christmas with the presents he wanted to buy them. Overwhelmed, he experienced a difficult journey home, during which he stopped partway through to cry. After a few minutes, the ringing of bells on his horse helped him to regain his composure, and he continued his journey home.
Ultimately, Frost was able to get past his tough time, but the nature of his struggle is clearly expressed in this simple poem, filled with yearning for peace; even if the narrator in question isn’t weeping, or even openly upset, he is a personification of an emotion that is so difficult to put into words; feeling out of place, and out of time, feeling completely alone in the world, and feeling a small sense of the tranquility and isolation that only nature can bring.
And, as well, the reminder that life doesn’t stop no matter how isolated from it you are.