Robert Frost is one of the most famous poets of all time. He is the name that defines American poetry. ‘Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening’ is a poem that justifies Frost’s fame and popularity.
‘Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening’ seems like a very simple and normal poem about a person just looking at the beauty of snowflakes and a frozen lake.
But as you read and understand the inner turmoil that the speaker is going through and notice the storm brewing under these calming lines, the meaning of the poem changes completely.
Let’s take a look at the poem first and then at the summary to explain everything you need to know.
Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening
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.
The poem starts with a very bizarre tone and you can sense the sadness and disinterested nature of the speaker. As he is passing by the woods, he notices it and stops.
The speaker knows the person who owns the land. He says that the owner would not mind if he stopped here for a second and watched the snow. Of course, the owner would not mind if he just saw the woods.
Metaphor meaning: Seeing is something that no one would mind. But the speaker says this because he is not just intending to see the woods, but do something else as well.
The speaker is not alone. He is with his horse and he knows that the horse can sense the oddness of them standing still in this dark place, near the frozen lake and the woods.
They must be rushing back home on this cold and dark evening. The speaker knows that the horse will show its protest.
Metaphor meaning: The speaker is not alone. While he is considering ending his life in the woods, he does not want to do it because the horse in some way pulls him back from that thought.
The horse, as expected by the speaker, makes a gesture to ask if there has been any mistake. The horse wants to know why they stopped in the middle of nowhere.
Metaphor: In a symbolic way, the horse making the sound in an almost noiseless environment pulls the speaker back to reality. The horse lets him know that there is a journey they need to take and a destination to reach.
Although the sound of the wind makes the speaker lost in his thoughts, the horse’s harness bell makes him snap out of his thoughts.
Finally, thanks to the horse, the speaker realizes that he does have promises to keep. Even though the thought of ending his life in the woods is enticing, he still has a lot of things to do and achieve.
Perhaps the speaker is going through some difficult times and wants to end it all. But it is the horse, the speaker’s partner, that reminds him of his duties.
The poem ends with the speaker repeating that he has miles to go before I sleep two times, further implying the significance of his journey. Although he wants to end his life’s journey, there are many things left to do.
The suicidal tendencies of the speaker are very apparent from the way he thinks. His getting enticed by the dark and lonely woods shows the darkness taking over his mind.
But he changes his thoughts and reminds himself twice that he has miles to go before his life ends.
Read the in-depth analysis of the poem Stopping by the Woods On A Snowy Evening